Vimy Ridge:Canadians Remember
In France, there is a little piece sacred ground of Canada, a 250 acre site on at Vimy given to Canada by France for a memorial for the battle for Vimy Ridge successfully fought by Canadian troops. It was 90 years ago, April 9-12, 1917, during the Great War, WWI, ("the war to end all wars") . Canadian soldiers, four divisions, fighting for the first time ever as a unit (until then Canadians had been part of the British military), accomplished what the French and British had failed to do (loosing 200,000 troops trying). With careful planning and some innovative strategy by a creative leadership and the training of young and determined soldiers, the Canadians assaulted the ridge defended by dug in German troops loosing 3500 soldiers and 7000 injured while the Germans lost 20,000. While these figures are astonishing they were not unsual for battles in WWI, a very dirty war where soldiers died in the millions. If fact, the casualties were quite acceptable in such a successful campaign. Still, for a country of only 8 million people it was a great loss.
The victory at Vimy Ridge would just have been another dreadful battle in a terrible war (Passchendaele was worse) if it had not taken on mythic meaning to Canada. It is viewed as a defining moment in Canada's developing identify as a country. So Canada, remembers!
The memorial is for all the 60,000 Canadian soldiers who died in WWI. There is an large cemetary there as one of many in Europe for Canadian soldiers (Until recently it has been the Canadian tradition to bury their soldiers, where they died.) Of these 11,000 were never identified, or even located, as they often just disappeared into the mud of the battle field. Vimy Ridge was planted with Canadian trees, one for every soldier. It is a peice of land still dangerous with unexploded ordinance (after 90 years). Some of the trenchworks and extensive tunnels under the battle field have be preserved . The landscape is pasture and forest over the pockmarked battle field. in this lovely spot of French countryside.
This weekend, 5000 students as well as the Prime Minister and the Queen among other dignitaries, are at the Vimy Ridge Memorial to commemorate the occasion. Sadly, there are no longer veterans alive to be there and bear witness to that fateful historic battle.
I encourage readers to take a moment and read an article on this memorable battle. As one who was taught more American history in school, the full story and significance of Vimy Ridge was not make clear to me until I could read of it as an adult. Here are a few web sites worth reading.
WarMuseum.ca - The Battle of Vimy Ridge April 9-12, 1917 - The First World War
Vimy Memorial - Veterans Affairs Canada
Canada in the First World War and the Road to Vimy - Veterans Affairs Canada
Canadian National Vimy Memorial - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia