The Nova Scotia Highlanders 85th Battalion

On April 9, the primary task of the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) was to follow up the initial assault troops from 11th Canadian Brigade to reinforce their newly captured positions and bring up fresh ammunition and supplies. The task was to capture Hill 145, the highest and most heavily defended part of Vimy Ridge.

The initial 11th Brigade attack was stopped by some of the heaviest German machine gun fire encountered anywhere on April 9, 1917. The powerful German defenses and strongpoint on Hill 145 had survived the bombardment and jeopardized the Canadian foothold on the rest of the ridge.

Not originally part of the attack plan, 85th battalion is not listed on the official map but it was brought into the line in the 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade zone. Map used with permission of the Directorate of History and Heritage.

85th Battalion was the only immediate reserve available. Two companies under the command of Captain Percival Anderson, from Baddeck, NS, were called forward to capture Hill 145.

Late in the afternoon on the 9th, Anderson’s force launched their attack without a supporting barrage which had been called off at the last minute.

The battalion after action report (P1P2P3) describes what happens next.

“In spite of Machine Gun and rifle fire from the enemy, which immediately opened, the attack was pressed home, the Companies providing their own covering fire by Lewis Guns firing from hip and riflemen fire on the move. Many of the Germans finding themselves unable to stop the advance turned and ran but were soon put out of action by our fire. About 20 prisoners, including 3 Officers, were taken. Two Hun Officers and about 70 other ranks were killed. At least 3 machine guns were captured.”

In their daring attack, the 85th Battalion achieved the ultimate prize of taking Hill 145 where the Vimy monument now stands. Their achievement came with a price. Casualties amounted to 47 killed, 122 wounded, and 3 missing.