Canadian machine gun teams at Vimy Ridge, 1917
The remains of a VC winner and those of more than 40 of his comrades may have been discovered close to the Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge in France.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge took place in April 1917 and witnessed Canadian troops take strategic heights in a series of bloody attacks they saw fierce hand-to-hand fighting.
Buried where they fell
Historian Norm Christie believes he has located the last resting place of a group of 44 Canadian soldiers who were buried close to where they fell in 1917.
Among them, he suggests, may be private William Johnstone Milne VC of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
Milne was born in 1892 in Lanarkshire, Scotland before moving to Canada in 1910. A farm labourer, he joined the army in September 1915.
On 9 April 1917 he was serving with the 16th (The Canadian Scottish) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
His VC citation reads: ‘On approaching the first objective, private Milne observed an enemy machine gun firing on our advancing troops. Crawling on hands and knees, he succeeded in reaching the gun, killing the crew with bombs, and capturing the gun.
‘On the line re-forming, he again located a machine gun in the support line, and stalking this second gun as he had done the first, he succeeded in putting the crew out of action and capturing the gun. His wonderful bravery and resource on these two occasions undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his comrades. Private Milne was killed shortly after capturing the second gun.’
Canadian troops and German prisoners, Vimy Ridge 1917
Secrets of crater CA40
Christie is convinced Milne and many of his comrades were hastily buried in shell craters close to where they fell. His researches suggest their remains may lie in a former crater known as CA40.
In the years following the First World War, the crater was supposed to have been dug up and the bodies exhumed, but this did not happen and the men’s names remain on the Memorial to the Missing at Vimy.
Christie has now set up a fundraising effort with a goal raising enough to explore the site and discover its secrets. To find out more about the project go to https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/4zeCb
Canadian troops on the march near Vimy, 1917