Vimy-Ridge-Canadian war memorials
One hundred years ago this April, Canadian soldiers fought and won a pivotal World War I battle at Vimy Ridge in France. On April 9, 2017, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial will be the site of special 100th anniversary ceremonies.
Vimy Ridge has become a seminal moment, in part because it was the first time all four Canadian Regiments fought side by side. It is also significant for its staggering loss of life. Over 10 decades, it has come to signify a key moment when Canada became a country. Unified in the war effort, battling together, suffering together, and ultimately victorious together.
The Vimy Memorial
Vimy is possibly the most well-known war memorial for its spectacular 110m limestone sculptures. Situated at the highest point of Vimy Ridge, on 100 hectares of land France donated to Canada in perpetuity in 1922. It was in gratitude for sacrifices made by Canadian troops in capturing Vimy Ridge in April 1917.
The memorial was designed by Walter Seymour Allward and completed in 1936. It includes 20 sculptures carved in place over eleven years. Looking from the stone terrace, one can see some of the 30 war cemeteries within a 16-kilometre radius. It is where more than 7,000 Canadian soldiers are buried.
The price of freedom won is recognized at Vimy, at the new Hill 70 memorial, as well as in nearly every town and city in Canada, where the names of 19,660 casualties are engraved on Canadian World War I memorials.
Honouring the 100th Anniversary of Vimy
On Saturday, April 9, 2017, a very special memorial will be held at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, and at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. It is expected the Vimy event will be attended by delegation from Canada and France including the Prime Minister, along with thousands of Canadians. They will to participate in the commemorative ceremony, including the opening of a new Visitor Education Centre.
From April 6 to 9, 2017, Vimy memorial events will be held at the Citadel in Halifax, Fort York in Toronto, and Fort Rodd Hill on Vancouver Island. Canadians can visit Veterans Affairs to find out if you have a Vimy memorial event in your community.
War memorials and storytelling help us remember all
An update to our post on Hill 70 from last November: the new obelisk monument to honour the 8,700 Canadians who lost their lives there is being unveiled on April 8, 2017, one day before the Vimy Ridge ceremony.
Hill 70 is mostly a forgotten battle fought by Canadians in WW1 at heavy cost. It was the first time Canadian Corps. were under full Canadian command. Lieutenant-General Arthur Currie, lead the 10-day battle in August, 1917, after playing a key role at Vimy.
The recent Globe & Mail feature by Roy MacGregor tells the significant story of Hill 70, how the new obelisk war memorial can be seen for miles. A short video is well worth watching.
Canada’s fallen are honoured every November 11 at Remembrance Day ceremonies where we gather to remember their sacrifice. As there are no remaining WWI veterans still living, it falls to us to remember those who gave their lives 100 years ago. We must continue to follow the final line from John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields