THE GREAT WAR. 359
German Re- On the Western front there was continutreat in the ous fighting amid great hardships through-west• out the winter of igi6-17. The result was that France regained a thousand square miles of her territory, which had been reduced to utter desolation. The Germans tried to make a stand on the Hindenburg line, but the Allies were determined to press them further back.
Vi In their first onward rush in 1914, the
Ger- mans had captured Vimy Ridge, a long strip of slightly elevated land commanding the manufacturing city of Lens and its coal-fields, the wide plain of Cambrai and the approaches to Arras. On the morning of Easter Monday, April 9th, 1917, Sir Douglas Haig began an offensive on a front of about twelve miles, and to the Canadians was assigned the task of taking Vimy Ridge. "Zero hour "—as the time for commencing an attack is called—was at 5.30 on a bitterly cold morning. Suddenly, " at the appointed moment the British guns broke into such a fire as had yet been seen on no battle-ground on earth." " As our men went over the parapets ... the heaven above them was one canopy of shrieking steel." It obliterated the enemy's front trenches and cut up his wire entanglements. The Canadians did splendidly, reaching the crest of the Ridge with a bound, then fighting their way doggedly " over a mile of plateau," from shell-hole to shell-hole, under a terrible fire. In a week's fighting they captured 4,000 prisoners and a vast quantity of guns and war stores
In the same district, near Lens, at " Hill
H'~i 70' 70," which is a mere "hummock" in a
level country, the Canadian troops did excellent service during the terrible battle that on August 15th began at dawn with an awful artillery barrage. In six minutes this