Keys to Success

The months of planning and preparation were instrumental in the Canadian successes on the first two days of the battle, but there were other important factors as well.

Protected by the innovative use of the creeping barrage, in which artillery bombardment advanced across the battlefield just ahead of the troops, the Canadian soldiers moved across No-Man’s Land towards the German lines. Marshall Barton of Creston was with the 4th Battery of the Canadian Field Artillery, supporting the movements of the 1st Canadian Division with the creeping barrage.
Officers, advancing with their troops, were in constant communication with the rear and with other divisions, and therefore more able to react quickly and correctly in any situation. In June 1917, the Creston Review reported that Lieutenant Frank Burn-Callander of Creston had been awarded the Military Cross for his actions at Vimy Ridge, The citation in the newspaper read: “When acting as brigade FOO [Forward Observation Officer], the post was heavily shelled, but he succeeded in sending back timely and valuable information. During operations it was due to his great daring and knowledge of the situation that communications were maintained with the rear.”
At Vimy Ridge, troops exited the trenches using a looser formation than the massed formations that had been used previously. The greater space between the men made them somewhat less vulnerable to enemy machine-gun fire. Nevertheless, many of the Canadian casualties occurred during the moments of leaving the trenches. Finlay Beautlich-Millar of Creston, serving with the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry in the 3rd Canadian Division, was one such: he was struck in the back by a piece of an enemy shell just after leaving the craters on the morning of 9 April. Stretcher bearers took him to an advanced dressing station, where he died of his wounds.
In the months leading up to the battle, planning was not restricted to senior officers; junior officers were involved as well. by making more of the army’s leaders aware of the battle plans, the attack could go ahead as planned even if senior officers were killed. Local men, such as Lieuts. F.J. Oatts, Robert SInclair-Smith, and Tom Taylor were probably among those junior officers.