This post is an email from my father. When I visited Vimy Ridge I had no idea our relative John (Jock) MacGregor commonly known as Uncle Mac fought at Vimy Ridge I knew of his service since high school but never knew he fought in this historic Canadian battle until I returned from my trip abroad.
This weekend marks the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The ridge had long been held by Germany with the Allies trying unsuccessfully to capture the ridge several times. This was the first battle where Canada’s troops were together under Canadian command.
We have a relative who played a key role in winning the battle. He was John (Jock) MacGregor who later married Granny Newman’s (nee Louisa Amelia Nelmes) niece, Ethel Flowers. To the family they were Uncle Mac and Aunt Ethel and lived in Powell River, B. C. Their oldest son, Jim, wrote a book about Uncle Mac’s life titled MacGregor VC.
Sergeant MacGregor was in charge of “C” Company and at 5:30 am on April 9th, 1917 he led them through light snow flurries to the attack. Their objective was an enemy trench line 700 yards away through heavily defended terrain as shown in the pictures. Part way through, they were pinned down by machine gun fire. Sergeant MacGregor told his men to take cover as he went on ahead and singlehandedly took out the machine gun nest, killed the crew and captured the gun. He then led “C” Company to their enemy trench objective. Sergeant MacGregor then fired three white flares that signified their success. They had secured their objective in 30 minutes, a few minutes ahead of time. The opening battle was won – soon followed by Canada taking the ridge.
We visited Vimy last June and I have included some pictures of what it looks like now. It is peaceful, green and eerily beautiful. How they could advance against the well entrenched enemy is beyond me. I checked with an historian there and he confirmed that “C” Company was the first to reach their objective.
Uncle Mac went on to more heroic deeds. He ended up being Canada’s most decorated WW1 foot soldier. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the Military Cross with Bar, and the Victoria Cross (our nation’s highest award).
I have a hard time relating the quiet, soft spoken man I knew with the man revealed in his war record. In fact, I didn’t know much of his war history until I started doing Family History.
Canada’s success at Vimy is often credited with our country coming of age and taking its place as an independent nation. Uncle Mac played an important role in it.
There is much more about him and the battle on the internet and I have a file on him.
The pictures are of the battlefield (seen below), the modern concrete version of one of the trenches, and one of the allies tunnels. Since the ridge battle lines were stable for a couple of years, both sides built tunnels. The tunnel was right where “C” Division prepared to go out and over the top of the trenches.
While I will be watching the ceremonies on TV. I really enjoyed walking around the imposing monument alone in the rain. I was awestruck by it’s beauty in quite contemplation.