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Students gear up to mark 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge

February 27, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Michelle Janzen

 

Local student Eden Galbraith is looking forward to her once in a lifetime, school trip this April to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a military engagement fought primarily as part of the Battle of Arras, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, during the First World War and is seen as a definitive moment in the Canadian identity.

The Centenary will be marked in April with students from across Canada making the trek to France in memory of the fallen – and Shelburne will be well represented by students like Eden.

Eden tells us the cost of the trip was pretty high, and in order to raise all the funds needed to go she held multiple fundraisers such as selling chocolate covered almonds, selling homemade butter tarts, as well as holding a paint night and a Spaghetti Western.

Each student on the trip is to pick one veteran and research them, to which Eden tells us she is in the process of doing. When asked why she wanted to go on this trip Eden replied, “I thought it would be an awesome experience to learn about our history and be a part of this year’s ceremonies.”

We can’t wait for Eden to go on this adventure of a life time and report back to us just how incredible it was.

 

WHY COMMEMORATE VIMY RIDGE?

The main combatants were the Canadian Corps, of four divisions, against three divisions of the German Sixth Army. The battle, which took place from the 9th to the 12th of April 1917, was part of the opening phase of the British-led Battle of Arras, a diversionary attack for the French Nivelle Offensive.

The objective of the Canadian Corps was to take control of the German-held high ground along an escarpment at the northernmost end of the Arras Offensive. This would ensure that the southern flank could advance without suffering German fire.

The Canadian Corps captured most of the ridge during the first day of the attack. The town of Thélus fell during the second day of the attack, as did the crest of the ridge once the Canadian Corps overcame a salient against considerable German resistance.

The final objective, a fortified knoll located outside the village of Givenchy-en-Gohelle, fell to the Canadian Corps on April 12, 1917. The German forces then retreated to the Oppy–Méricourt line.

By nightfall, the Canadian Corps was in firm control of the ridge. The corps suffered 10,602 casualties: 3,598 killed and 7,004 wounded. The German Sixth Army suffered an unknown number of casualties with approximately 4,000 men becoming prisoners of war. Four members of the Canadian Corps received Victoria Crosses, the highest military decoration awarded to British and Commonwealth forces for valour, for their actions during the battle.

Historians attribute the success of the Canadian Corps in capturing the ridge to a mixture of technical and tactical innovation, meticulous planning, powerful artillery support and extensive training, as well as the failure of the German Sixth Army to properly apply the new German defensive doctrine.

The battle was the first occasion when all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force participated in a battle together and it was made a symbol of Canadian national achievement and sacrifice. Recent historical research has called this patriotic narrative into question, showing that it developed in the latter part of the twentieth century. The nation-building story only emerged fully formed after most of those who experienced the Great War directly or indirectly had passed from the scene. A 100-hectare (250-acre) portion of the former battleground serves as a memorial park and site of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.

The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is Canada’s largest and principal overseas war memorial. Located on the highest point of the Vimy Ridge, the memorial is dedicated to the commemoration of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and Canadian Expeditionary Force members killed during the First World War. It serves as the place of commemoration for Canadian soldiers killed in France during the First World War with no known grave. France granted Canada perpetual use of a section of land at Vimy Ridge in 1922 for the purpose of a battlefield park and memorial. This 100-hectare (250-acre) portion of the former battlefield is preserved as part of the memorial park that surrounds the monument. The grounds of the site are still honeycombed with wartime tunnels, trenches, craters and unexploded munitions, and are largely closed off for public safety. A section of preserved trenches and a portion of a tunnel have been made accessible to site visitors.

Designed by Toronto architect and sculptor Walter Allward, who described his masterwork as a “sermon against the futility of war”, the memorial took eleven years and $1.5 million ($20.90 million in present terms) to build and was unveiled on July 26, 1936 by King Edward VIII, in the presence of President Albert Lebrun of France and 50,000 or more Canadian and French veterans and their families. Starting in 2004, the monument underwent a major multi-year restoration project, which included general cleaning and the recarving of many inscribed names.

The Queen rededicated the restored monument on April 9, 2007 during a ceremony commemorating the 90th anniversary of the battle. Veterans Affairs Canada maintains the memorial site.

         

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