The 14th Battalion (Royal Montreal Regiment), CEF was authorized on 1 September 1914 and embarked for Great Britain on 27 and 29 September 1914. It disembarked in France on 15 February 1915, where it fought as part of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division in France and Flanders until the end of the war. The battalion disbanded on 15 September 1920.
At Vimy Ridge, the 3rd Brigade was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Gault McCombe, and the 14th Battalion, Royal Montreal Regiment, was commanded by Brigadier-General George Tuxford. Private Cyril Lowe whose name is on the Strathroy cenotaph, was part of the 14th Royal Montreal Regiment when he was killed in action on Easter Sunday, April 9, 2017.
The map above indicates how the four Canadian Divisions were aligned, with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th placed from south to north. The 1st Division was commanded by Major-General Arthur Currie from Strathroy. The 3rd Brigade, 14th Battalion was farthest north within the 1st Division, with the 14th Battalion in the middle between the 15th and 16th Battalions.
This close-up helps focus where Private Cyril Lowe was on that day.
The operation plan was as follows. “On the right flank of the divisional frontage was Brigadier-General Frederick Loomis’s 2nd Infantry Brigade, with the 5th, 7th and 10th battalions in the first wave and 8th battalion in reserve. To the left was the 3rd Brigade, under Brigadier-General George Tuxford, with 15th, 14th and 16th battalions in line and 13th in reserve. These two brigades were responsible for capturing the Black and Red lines. The 1st Brigade, under Brigadier-General William Griesbach, would then follow through and advance as far as the Blue and Brown lines.”
[Source: “Vimy Ridge A Canadian Reassessment, pages 157-8]
Looking at the top map you can see that the Canadian 1st Division had the farthest to push forward to achieve its goals, about 3,560 metres. However, the terrain was gradual, relatively level and open. Farther north, the terrain was much steeper.
Among Currie’s three infantry Brigades, their battle experiences varied. “On 3rd Brigade’s front Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Bent’s 15th Battalion (48th Highlanders of Canada) launched its assault on time at 0530 hours and immediately captured the enemy’s front line and support trenches. The battalion reached its first major objective, Wolfer Weg (Black Line) in 40 minutes. Within several hours, the troops overran Zwischen Steeling (Red Line) and proceeded to consolidate the gains. Casualties that morning amounted to three officers killed and six wounded, while at least sixty other ranks were killed and more than 100 wounded, about twenty-five percent of the battalion’s combat strength.
These losses were by no means light, but Lieutenant-Colonel Gault McCombe’s 14th Battalion (Royal Montreal Regiment) met greater difficulty as it advanced up the centre of the 3rd Brigade front. The Bavarian riflemen and machine gunners reportedly “fought to the last, showing no inclination to surrender.” They were overcome largely by small groups of men armed with hand grenades. Indirect fire from Lewis gun crews also helped, but accurate artillery fire eased the battalion’s difficult advance by destroying most of the enemy wire and damaging a good portion of the entrenchments. . . . of McCombe’s 701 officers and men, 287 became casualties on 9 April, almost double the number suffered by the 15th Battalion on adjacent frontage.” (Cyril Lowe was one of those killed.)
[Source: “Vimy Ridge A Canadian Reassessment, pages 158-9]
The assault on Vimy Ridge had been carefully planned and rehearsed for weeks prior to the attack. Each Battalion had received maps of the terrain ahead of them so as to know what to expect regarding hills, mortar holes, wet areas, enemy trenches, barbed wire lines, etc. They had been taken, in rotation turns, from the front lines and had practised their forward movements, carefully timed so that they stayed behind the rolling barrage of artillery fire that they would be dropping on the German trenches and wire lines. Timing was essential. If they moved too quickly they would be hit by their own artillery fire. If they moved too slowly the enemy ahead of them would have time to regroup before their lines of infantry got to the enemy trenches.
At Vimy new technology and innovative tactics (compared to earlier months) were implemented, but the infantry soldiers still depended upon mortars, machine guns and rifle grenades. However, when face-to-face with the enemy they relied on the rifle and bayonet. No amount of planning and careful placement of armaments could save men and horses from stray shells, an untouched enemy machine gun nest, or even the mud and miserable weather they slogged through. A wounded casualty was likely to become a fatality because he drowned before help could arrive.
The following URL links are to YouTube videos that will provide perspective for those remembering the sacrifices of our veterans and their experiences at Vimy Ridge.
WWI: The Battle of Vimy Ridge (22:27)
The Battle of Vimy Ridge (5:39)
Vimy Ridge Heaven to Hell – Full Documentary (1:09:48)
The Battle of Vimy Ridge (2:19)
Vimy Ridge Footage (2:43)
In the list below, battle honours in capitals were awarded for participation in large operations and campaigns, while those in lowercase indicate honours granted for more specific battles. Those battle honours followed by a “+” are emblazoned on the regimental colour.
The Great War
- YPRES, 1915, ’17+
- Gravenstafel 22–23 April 1915
- St. Julien+
- FESTUBERT, 1915+
- MOUNT SORREL, 2–13 June 1916+
- SOMME, 1916, 1 July–18 November 1916+
- Ancre Heights, 1 October–11 November 1916
- ARRAS, 1917, ’18
- Vimy, 1917, 9–14 April 1917+
- Scarpe, 1917, ’18
- HILL 70, 15–25 August 1917
- Passchendaele, 12 October 1917 or 26 October–10 November 1917+
- Amiens, 8–11 August 1918+
- Hindenburg Line, 12 September–9 October 1918
- Canal du Nord, 27 September–2 October 1918+
- Pursuit to Mons, 11 November 1918
- France and Flanders, 1915–18