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Posted on Oct 24, 2007 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features

COMBAT! Battle of Vimy Ridge

By Alexander Wilson

Lead a squad of Canadian soldiers as they attempt to capture a German trench during the Battle of Vimy Ridge!

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DATE/TIME: 9:30 a.m., May 9, 1917.

LOCATION: Near Hill 420, about 1 mile northeast of Ecurie.

MISSION: Capture German trench; kill or capture defenders.

UNIT: Canadian rifle squad (12 men)

ENEMY: Approximately 14 German infantrymen and 3 machine guns.

You are Sergeant Major Jean Leclerc, commander of a small squad of Canadian infantrymen.  Just this morning British and Canadian forces, as part of the Battle of Arras, launched an offensive against German troops occupying positions in the Vimy Ridge area.  This offensive, which was preceded by a week-long artillery bombardment of the German positions, has been going well so far for your squad, which has managed to make good progress in the last two hours.

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After going “over the top” early this morning, you and your men assaulted German positions just northeast of the town of Ecurie.  Now, after nearly two hours of hard fighting, your troops have managed to kill and capture many German soldiers and have penetrated about one half mile into the enemy’s defenses.  Your squad’s rapid success, however, has been halted in the vicinity of Hill 420, a 150-foot rise which overlooks an abandoned farmhouse to the north and marshy ground to the northeast, by yet another trench which the week-long preparatory artillery bombardment by your comrades didn’t affect much.  Though the British and Canadian artillerymen expended around 1,000,000 shells, you have doubts as to how much effect those rounds had upon the Germans in their trenches.

Though the task at hand may seem simple — assault the trench, kill or capture its defenders, and then continue your advance — in reality it will prove to be a challenge.  Not only do the German infantrymen outnumber your own squad, which, due to the past two hours of combat, has shrunk from sixteen men to twelve, but they also possess three machine guns.  To make matters worse, as you were arriving you witnessed the destruction of another Canadian squad, who tried to assault the trench from the marshes off to your right.  The entire squad was wiped out by the Germans’ machine guns.  Moreover, due to this victory, you suspect that the Germans’ morale and élan are probably very high right now, making them even tougher, if possibly more unsuspecting, opponents.  Thankfully, though, the German trench is not very long or big, and, besides this sector, the rest of it seems to be undefended.

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You tell yourself that your men, unlike those of the other, now non-existent, Canadian squad, will not die so easily. All twelve of your men carry bolt-action Enfield rifles, and most of them also have one or two grenades.  Perhaps most importantly, they all carry bayonets, which have already come in handy during the course of the morning’s fighting.  In addition to your men’s weapons, you also have at your disposal an artillery battery of four guns, which has been attached to your battalion for the course of the fighting; however, due to the recent week-long bombardment, they have a highly limited number of available shells, and any supporting barrage which they can offer you will be short in duration.  Though your force is small, you have no doubts about your soldier’s fighting abilities, and trust that, with sound tactics, they can take the trench.

As you ponder the situation facing you, a single soldier whom you sent to reconnoiter finally returns, and reports that the Germans are elated and cocksure after their recent triumph over the other Canadian squad.  The machine gun crews are still alert, but most of the riflemen are already celebrating with a little schnapps and some food.  The soldier does say, however, that the reports which your squad received a little while ago from some other soldiers about the trench were accurate: there are no more than fourteen German riflemen and three machine guns, two of which are situated towards the eastern end of the trench.

Though you are relieved to discover that the enemy does not have any extra troops at hand, you are still faced with the problem of how to successfully take the trench.

What is your plan, Sergeant Major Leclerc?

Go to the next page to listen in as Leclerc briefs his squad.

[continued on next page]

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