The Monumental and the Incidental History
Today is an interesting historical anniverary for two quite different events. Today is Vimy Ridge Day, the 93 anniversary of the capture of Vimy Ridge by Canadian troops in WW I and the anniversary of the first time in American history that a white woman touched a black man on a TV show in 1968. The first will never be forgotten by Canadians for it was a defining moment for our country. The latter will no doubt be a trivial question on some game show largely lost to history. It probably should not have even been noted but it was very controversal at the time. The reaction to the touch was more noteworthy than the actual touch. During a duet Petula Clark reach out and placed her hand on the arm of Harry Belafonte to the consternation of the sponsor Chrystler Corperation. If it had not been for the fact that Petula Clark owned the rights to the show it may not have aired. Here is part of the story on BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/p006zj9f
Today in Ottawa at the war memorial a ceremony was held to commemorate Vimy Ridge Day and all the Canadian soldiers who died in WWI. This year the last Canadian soldier from that war died so this was the first year Canada has no living military connection to that war.
At Vimy Ridge, part of the Battle of Arras in the Nord Pas-de-Calais region of France, next to the Belgium border, the French and the British has tried several times to dislodge the German troops dug in along the ridge. The Canadian Expeditionary Force, (part of the British Army, as Canada was a colony) under the leadership of a Canadian Maj. General, Arthur Currie, and Lt. General Julien Byng , with their innovative tactics, (Canadian Strategy) and much courage and sacrifice by Canadian soldiers representing all regions of Canada, got the job done. For Canada, this is perhaps the most significant battle ever fought as it shaped our image, to ourselves and others that Canada was more than a colony, it had won itself the recognition that it was a sovereign country. Canada was so recognized as it was a signer of the treaty that ended the war and went on to become a member country of the League of Nations. For more information of Canadians at Vimy Ridge read: http://pages.interlog.com/~fatjack/vimybattle.htm
(click on photo to enlarge)
This is the monumental war memorial at Vimy Ridge. This May when I am in Belgium I will cross into France and visit this memorial and the cemetaries of Canadian soldiers who died in the area in WWI.
This is a very interesting memorial. It was commissioned in 1920 from a design by Walter Allward from Toronto. It took French craftsmen 10 years to build it. It has on it several interesting pieces of statuary and the names of 11,285 Canadian soldier whose remains were never recovered carved in the stone base. It is also a memorial to the 66,655 Canadian soldiers who died fighting for the liberation of France. It was officially opened to the public in 1936. I believe I read that Hitler visited it and liked it so it was not destroyed in WWII.
This statute carved out of a single 20 ton block of stone represents Canada.
The view from the war memorial overlooking the plain. In the distance on the left you can see piles of coal. It was to protect the coal fields that Vimy Ridge was so important.
I look forward to visiting this region of France and the Flanders region of Belgium with all its history of great significance to Canada.
I wonder if American Television will show Petula Clark's spontaneous touching of Harry Belafonte. It would be a bitter/sweet thing to see: it should not have been worthy of comment but perhaps it was a small step of maturing as a society for Americans.
Sadly, both wars and racism continue to involve our lives far too often.