100 Years Ago
100 years ago today, a group of Canadians in Northern France proved themselves as a formidable force, showing greatness in their own right, and not as a subset of Great Britain.
Vimy Ridge is 7 kilometres long. It was heavily fortified by German forces. Previous attempts to recapture the Ridge had been unsuccessful, leading to the death of over 100,000 French and British soldiers. But the Canadians were determined.
The 4 Canadian divisions, more than 15,000 infantry, attacked together at 5:30 am on April 9, 1917. Faced with heavy fire, the Canadians showed incredible bravery - even with the deaths of their officers, the soldiers continued moving forward. Countless Canadians single-handedly charged machine guns and German dugouts. The highest point on the Ridge, at the time protected with machine guns, was captured with a bayonet charge. The battle continued for three days, ending on April 12, 1917. By then, 3,598 Canadians had given up their lives. Another 7,000 had been wounded.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was so much more than just a victory for the Allied forces. It was the first time that all 4 Canadian divisions attacked together - men from all regions of Canada fighting side-by-side. Vimy Ridge became a symbol of the sacrifice of the young nation. In 1922, the government of France ceded the Ridge and the land surrounding it to Canada in perpetuity. The Vimy Memorial now stands on the Ridge as a reminder of the Canadians with no known graves who were killed in France.
Following the war, Brigadier-General A.E. Ross famously declared, “in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation.”