Our association took part in the ceremony commemorating the 107th anniversary of the capture of Hill 140 by the Moroccan Division (the hill is better known now in the region as Vimy Ridge) ; the ceremony was organized by the 162nd section of the Military Medal recipients, located in Arras and surroundings. The ceremony took place on Monday 9, 2022, at 11.15. The monument, financed by donations, was inaugurated in 1925 (the works to erect the Canadian Monument began the same year).
Here is the story of the battle :
It was 11.15 am, Hill 140 was being reached by the first elements of the 7th Algerian Fusiliers.
The Berthonval farm lies 4,5 kilometers away from here, at the foot of the towers of Mont St-Eloi.
It was from this farm and the adjoining trenches that the troops of the Moroccan Division rushed forward at 10.00 am on May 9, 1915, 107 years ago.
This Division, created in Morocco in 1914, when the country was in the process of pacification, was made up of Algerian fusiliers, zouaves and a regiment of the Foreign Legion that was mainly composed of volunteers who had joined the service of France.
Arrived a few days beforehand in Artois, the division was designated by General Pétain as the spearhead of the 33rd Army Corps.
Its first objective was to take the road to Béthune, which had been transformed into a defensive position reinforced by several small forts, at the very place where the Czech Cemetery and the Polish Monument can be seen today.
At 10.30 am this road was conquered ; almost half of the officers were either killed or wounded. But the advance resumed in order to reach the main objective.
The various trenches defending the hill were conquered by the successive lines of attack that had to sustain the raking fire from machine guns positioned in a still occupied Neuville-Saint-Vaast. But the high spirits and dedication of these « Moroccans », the nickname given to them, was beyond belief.
11.15 am, the hill was conquered.
The French artillery extended its fire to defend this captured position, but the enemy troops quickly pushed themselves together and pushed back these units who at present were forming an uncoordinated mass, led by the few officers who were still valid.
The retreat was unevitable to avoid encirclement. It took place below, towards the sunken road of Hill 123. It was from this line that our Canadian allies renewed their assault in April 1917, this time in order to conquer definitively this hill, better known as Vimy Ridge today.
The blood shed by the men of our two nations will forever be immortalized by the two pylons of the Canadian Monument behind us, representing Canada and France.
The units of the Moroccan division remained engaged until May 11, without ever being able to recapture that bloody hill.
Here is the human cost of those 3 days of combat :
901 killed, 4335 wounded, 1325 missing.
We also can use the words our Canadian friends say during the Commitment to Remember :
We will remember them.
Our president, Mr Philippe Martin layed a wreath, accompanied by Mrs Véronique Paltani.
Photos : Jérémy Bourdon
Translated by Jacques Paltani