Battle Honours and Honorary Distinctions

HILL 70

Date

15-25 August 1917

Geographical Parameters

The river Souchez from Lens to Angres: thence a line to Grenay – Vermelles Station – Vendin-le-Vieil

Context

A battle honour formally entitled “Battle of Hill 70” and itself forming part of the “flanking operations” “towards Lens (3rd June-26th August)” 1917 1.

Description

The Honour “Hill 70” was awarded to units that participated in the successful capture and defence of this prominent feature near Lens, France between 15 and 25 August 1917. At the beginning of July the Canadian Corps (Lieutenant-General Sir A.W. Currie) received orders to capture the city of Lens. Currie, the newly appointed Corps Commander, planned first to take the high feature of Hill 70 that dominated Lens from the north. The attack, originally planned for the end of July, was postponed due to weather until mid-August. This allowed the Canadian Corps to increase its preparations for the coming operation. As part of its preparations raids were conducted against German outposts and German artillery positions were destroyed as the Canadian gunners undertook a programme of wire-cutting, counter-battery and gas shelling. Engineers also prepared special drums of oil to be used on the morning of the attack to create a smoke screen. The infantry rehearsed their attack over similar terrain, but unlike previous attacks there was no large preparatory barrage which would have given the enemy warning of an impending operation. Surprise was achieved when the attack started at 4:25 on the morning of 15 August under cover of an immense artillery barrage. A simulated attack by the 4th Division (Major-General Sir D. Watson) in front of Lens served as a diversion for the 1st (Major-General Sir A.C. Macdonell) and 2nd (Major-General Sir H.E. Burstall) Divisions who successfully captured Hill 70. Having planned for the inevitable German counter-attacks these formations consolidated their gains rapidly and the artillery began its programme of shelling the known areas where the Germans would assemble for their counter-attacks. Over the next several days the Germans mounted at least 21 counterattacks against the Canadian defenders of Hill 70.

On 18 August, General Currie planned to improve the position in front of Lens on the southern edge of Hill 70. An attack by the 2nd and 4th Divisions supported by the grouping of the artillery from three Divisions plus the Corps Heavy artillery and guns of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery was launched on 21 August. However, the Germans had anticipated the attack and even under the heavy barrage made the Canadian advance difficult. The attacks continued for the following days with little success and operations came to an end on 25 August. Even if the Canadians had not taken Lens, they had secured Hill 70 which dominated that city and it remained in Allied hands until the end of the war.



Map of Hill 70 and Lens.
Credit: Map from G.W.L. Nicholson, in C.E.F. 1914-1919 p.296.

Awarded to:

Currently Serving Units

Units on the Supplementary Order of Battle

Disbanded Units