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Battle of Vimy Ridge

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was part of the Battle of Arras, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, during the First World War. The main combatants were the four divisions of the Canadian Corps in the First Army, against three divisions of the German 6th Army; the battle took place from 9 to 12 April 1917 at the beginning of the Battle of Arras, the first attack of the Nivelle Offensive, intended to attract German reserves from the French, before their attempt at a decisive offensive on the Aisne and the Chemin des Dames ridge further south. The Canadian Corps was to capture the German-held high ground of Vimy Ridge, an escarpment on the northern flank of the Arras front; this would protect the Third Army farther south from German enfilade fire. Supported by a creeping barrage, the Canadian Corps captured most of the ridge during the first day of the attack; the village of Thélus fell during the second day, as did the crest of the ridge, once the Canadian Corps overran a salient against considerable German resistance.

The final objective, a fortified knoll located outside the village of Givenchy-en-Gohelle, fell to the Canadians on 12 April. The 6th Army retreated to the Oppy–Méricourt line. Historians attribute the success of the Canadian Corps to technical and tactical innovation, meticulous planning, powerful artillery support and extensive training, as well as the inability of the 6th Army to properly apply the new German defensive doctrine; the battle was the first occasion when the four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought together and it was made a symbol of Canadian national achievement and sacrifice. A 100-hectare portion of the former battleground serves as a memorial park and site of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Vimy Ridge is an escarpment 8 km northeast of Arras on the western edge of the Douai Plain; the ridge rises on its western side and drops more on the eastern side. At 7 km in length and culminating at an elevation of 145 m or 60 m above the Douai Plains, the ridge provides a natural unobstructed view for tens of kilometres in all directions.

The ridge fell under German control in October 1914 during the Race to the Sea as the Franco-British and German forces continually attempted to outflank each other through northeastern France. The French Tenth Army attempted to dislodge the Germans from the region during the Second Battle of Artois in May 1915 by attacking their positions at Vimy Ridge and Notre Dame de Lorette; the French 1st Moroccan Division managed to capture the height of the ridge but was unable to hold it owing to a lack of reinforcements. The French made another attempt during the Third Battle of Artois in September 1915 but only captured the village of Souchez at the western base of the ridge; the Vimy sector calmed following the offensive with both sides taking a live and let live approach. In all, the French suffered 150,000 casualties in their attempts to gain control of Vimy Ridge and surrounding territory; the British XVII Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Julian Byng, relieved the French Tenth Army in the sector in February 1916, permitting the French to expand their operations at Verdun.

The British soon discovered that German tunnelling companies had taken advantage of the relative calm on the surface to build an extensive network of tunnels and deep mines from which they would attack French positions by setting off explosive charges underneath their trenches. The Royal Engineers deployed specialist tunnelling companies along the front to combat the German mining operations. In response to increased British mining aggression, German artillery and trench mortar fire intensified in early May 1916. On 21 May 1916, after shelling both forward trenches and divisional artillery positions from eighty hidden batteries on the reverse slope of the ridge, the German infantry began Unternehmen Schleswig Holstein, an attack on the British lines along a 2,000 yd front to eject them from positions along the ridge; the Germans captured several British-controlled tunnels and mine craters before halting their advance and entrenching their positions. Small counter-attacks by units of the 140th and 141st British Brigades took place on 22 May but did not manage to change the situation.

The Canadian Corps relieved the British IV Corps stationed along the western slopes of Vimy Ridge in October 1916. On 28 May 1916, Byng took command of the Canadian Corps from Lieutenant-General Sir Edwin Alderson. Formal discussions for a spring offensive near Arras began, following a conference of corps commanders held at the First Army Headquarters on 21 November 1916. In March 1917, the First Army headquarters formally presented Byng with orders outlining Vimy Ridge as the Canadian Corps objective for the Arras Offensive. A formal assault plan, adopted in early March 1917, drew on the briefings of staff officers sent to learn from the experiences of the French Army during the Battle of Verdun. For the first time the four Canadian divisions would fight together; the nature and size of the attack needed more resources than the Canadian Corps possessed. In January 1917, three Canadian Corps officers accompanied other British and Dominion officers attending a series of lectures hosted by the French Army regarding their experiences during the Battle of Verdun.

The French counter offensive devised by General Robert Nivelle had been one of a number of Allied successes of 1916. Following extensive rehearsal, eight French divisions had assaulted German positions in two waves along a 6 mi

John de Havilland (officer of arms)

John von Sonntag de Havilland, FSA was an officer of arms at the College of Arms in London during the 19th century. He is notable for being one of only two English officers of arms to have been born in the United States of America. John de Havilland was born on 17 October 1826 near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, his father, John Haviland, was born in Somerset and practiced as an architect and an engineer. John de Havilland's mother, was the daughter of Captain W. L. von Sonntag of the French army and the sister and heiress of General Sir George von Sonntag, Governor of South Russia. John de Havilland served as an adjutant lieutenant in the 3rd Regiment of United States Dragoons in the army of General William J. Worth during the Mexican War, he became a barrister at the Inner Temple in London as well as a Professed Knight of Justice of the Order of Malta. See images below... John de Havilland’s interest in heraldry and armorial bearings is shown in 1865 when he updated Thomas Fiott de Havilland’s 1852 book “A Chronicle of the Ancient and Noble Norman Family of de Havilland”.

John de Havilland’s updated edition gives considerable detail to the lives of his own parents and grandparents with their heraldic coats of arms displayed in the margins. John de Havilland explains that his maternal grandfather, William Ludwig von Sonntag, was born in Pforzheim in 1745. Captain William Ludwig von Sonntag was one of the 10,000 troops of King Louis XVI of France that were sent under the Count de Rochambeau to America to aid the Americans in their Revolutionary War against Great Britain. Captain von Sonntag was present with his regiment at the siege of York-Town, in Virginia, where Lord Cornwallis surrendered, which closed the war. John de Havilland gives a swashbuckling account of his paternal grandfather, James Haviland, as being remembered in Somersetshire for his wonderful strength and cool courage. An example of this cool courage is given whereby James Haviland is captured by the French during a yachting excursion and held as a prisoner at Brest. During James Haviland’s imprisonment he defeats a French Officer, the best swordsman in the garrison.

The unarmed James’ death seemed likely – after an argument over a card game and after he had floored the Frenchman - as the Frenchman returned with his sword. James parried the sword of the lunging Frenchman and replied with a red hot poker - taken from the bars of a fire grate - into the Frenchman’s mouth passing through his cheek thus ending the contest. In 1872, John de Havilland was made a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, he is remembered as a soldier of fortune who served in Spain under Don Carlos where he became a General in the Spanish Army. According to a College of Arms Monograph, he was of uncommon physical strength and one of the most picturesque characters in the history of the College of Arms. In 1880, John de Havilland used the rank of General in his correspondences. At this time, John de Havilland took an active part in politics and was a member of the Liberal Reform Club. Correspondence between the Political Committee of the Reform Club and General John de Havilland from April 1880 until June that year indicate that he could be a colourful and controversial character.

The General'conspicuously canvassed' against the Liberal candidate - Mr. C. Acland - for the Western Division of Somerset. In statements by a Mr. C. Lamport sent to the Liberal Reform Club in Pall Mall London, General John de Havilland was said to have "voted for the Conservative candidates for the election for this division for the county, he drove into Wellington in a carriage displaying the Tory colours, himself wore such evidence of partisanship. I met him at the door of the polling booth, on expostulating with him as being a member of the Club, he justified his vote by stating that'half the members of the Club, if polled, would vote for the Conservatives.'" It was resolved. The copy of the resolution states that: "There can be no doubt that the action of the Committee was prompted by the Radical members of the Reform Club, who for a long time have made war upon those who still maintain the politics of its founders; these Radicals, worshippers of Mr. Gladstone, expelled Mr. Charles Liddell at the same time with General de Havilland.

They never miss an opportunity of showing their political liberty towards a "Reformer" showing any independence of character. And General de Havilland having in January 1877 dedicated to Lord Beaconsfield a pamphlet entitled "England herself at Constantinople, the best solution of the Eastern Question," these Radicals of the Reform seized upon the fact of General de Havilland's having expressed his dissent from the foreign policy Mr. Gladstone advocated before the last general election, his opposition to Home Rule, as a pretext for his expulsion from the Reform Club." John von Sonntag de Havilland died on 18 September 1886 and was buried at Langford Budville, in Somerset, England. John de Havilland began his career as an officer of arms in 1866 when he was appointed Rouge Croix Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary. On 26 March 1872, he was promoted to the position of York Herald of Arms in Ordinary, it is notable that de Havilland helped in the publication of the 1878 edition of Burke's General Armory, which remains a standard reference work for those inte

Amy Eliza Castles

Amy Eliza Castles, was an Australian soprano. Castles was born on 25 July 1880, in Melbourne, Australia, to Mary Ellen Fallon, she was educated at St Mary's College. On 26 March 1910 she sang the title role in the Australian premiere of Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly, at the Theatre Royal in Sydney, she made her United States début at Carnegie Hall in 1917. Castles never married, she lived with Dolly Castles, in Camberwell. She died at a hospital in Fitzroy, Victoria, on 19 November 1951, she was buried in Box Hill Cemetery. A New Melba?: The Tragedy of Amy Castles, Crossing Press Media related to Amy Eliza Castles at Wikimedia Commons