90th anniversary of Vimy Ridge.

With yesterdays loss of 6 Canadian troops, a Canadian article to mark the 90th anniversary of Vimy Ridge.

From Vimy to Afghanistan
National Post
April 09, 2007

Canada may have been born on July 1, 1867, but it came of age on April 9, 1917, on a non-descript crest of land in northern France known as Vimy Ridge. That day -- 90 years ago today -- Canada escaped Great Britain's shadow and came to be seen by the world as a distinct nation. For the first time ever Canadian soldiers fought together, not as disparate units in British armies, but as a unified Canadian corps. And not only did they fight together, they won.

Vimy was one of the most costly Canadian assaults of the entire war. In just four days of fighting, 3,600 of our soldiers were killed in action and 7,000 wounded. Only during the final three months of the war, in the summer and fall of 1918 -- also known as "Canada's Hundred Days, when our corps spearheaded the allied march that finally ended the conflict -- were our casualties greater.

Still, with just 40,000 troops, Canada succeeded in taking Vimy Ridge where much larger British and French forces had failed the previous year. Canada's success was further highlighted by enormous French losses at the same time as our Vimy attack. A brutally unsuccessful French assault further to the south, using old-style tactics and resulting in 200,000 causalities, sparked a wave of desertions and mutinies that rendered France's army ineffective for months. Canada's new style of assault at Vimy, though, showed that with preparation, practice and innovation, it might be possible to overcome a dug-in enemy.

Since the beginning of the war, there had been a perceptible shift in the Canadian forces sent overseas, a change that was mirroring a similar transformation back home. Whereas the first wave of recruits had been mostly immigrant Englishmen returning to defend the home country, by the war's third year, the Canadians streaming into England and France were native born Canadians. These fishermen, mill workers and farm boys weren't prepared to die in a fruitless rush over the top of their trenches just because some earl or baron ordered them to.

The Canadian Corps was still being commanded by a British general at the time, but Julius Byng was not some stuffy nobleman in uniform. A pragmatic career officer, Gen. Byng didn't always demand to be saluted, but he did always insist his troops practice their battlefield roles for weeks before attacking.

He also recognized the need for Canadian soldiers to be commanded by Canadians as far as possible, so he relied heavily on a Victoria businessman who had risen from a private in the militia to the rank of major-general, Arthur Currie. Currie recommended, and Byng accepted, the idea of rushing the heavily fortified German positions in small groups that would be harder to hit with artillery; rather than the massive troop waves that had been customary. He recommended having aerial reconnaissance identify as many German guns as possible before the battle, and providing frontline troops with maps and photos showing the guns' locations.

Byng, for his part, had mockups of key Vimy positions constructed behind Canadian lines, where our soldiers could rehearse their charges. He also insisted on an artillery barrage of several days to weaken enemy defences in advance, rather than one of just a few hours. Later, Byng's and Currie's innovations would be copied by most of the allied armies.

The battle at Vimy was as much the culmination of changes that had already begun in Canada as it was their cause. But few historians dispute that thereafter Canada was a nation unto itself, rather than just another outpost of the British Empire.

Tragically, just as Canadians are celebrating the 90th anniversary of Vimy, we find ourselves mourning a fresh tragedy: Yesterday, a roadside bomb killed six Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan.



It is important to remember that the battle of Vimy Ridge was part of the Battle of Arras. Remembering all those allied troops who gave their lives 90 years ago today on the anniversary of the offensive. In terms of First War offensives it was a short one, but in terms of daily casualties the most costly. RIP lads, never forgotten.

A poignant time of year. My great uncle (2nd Lt, 8th Black Watch) was killed during the advance to Arras, 10 April 1917. He was 21. Not forgotten, RIP.
A commemorative service was held last Saturday at Neuville St. Vaast. Click below for info and for further upcoming events (in French).

Battles of the Marne


excellent post hansvonhealing it was compelling reading thankyou
...and the ceremony..
The Guardian
Britain, France, Canada Mark WWI Battle
Monday April 9, 2007

VIMY, France (AP) - Queen Elizabeth II of Britain and the prime ministers of Canada and France presided over a ceremony Monday marking the 90th anniversary of a breakthrough victory by Canadian soldiers in World War I.

The Queen and French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, paid homage to the memory of the men who fought at Vimy Ridge in northern France, where a recently renovated memorial honors Canadians who gave their lives in France.

Thousands of people attended, including 360 Canadian soldiers representing the country's 37 regiments that took part in the battle against German troops.

The Queen saluted the ``bravery, courage and sacrifice'' of the Canadian soldiers ``who inspired a young country to become a proud nation.''

Villepin said simply - and in English - ``Thank you, Canada.''

The assault by Canadian troops on April 9, 1917, allowed the Allies to capture a key German defense position after earlier attempts by French and British forces failed.

Canadian troops prepared carefully, learning from the mistakes of past attempts. To protect soldiers from shelling, they built miles of tunnels - one of the war's great engineering feats - allowing troops to pop up quickly into their positions.

The Canadians seized the ridge quickly, but the success came at a heavy price, with 11,000 casualties, including about 3,600 deaths.

The battle proved a pivotal moment in Canada's history, contributing to the building of a Canadian national identity in a land still part of the British Empire. Largely because of its military achievements, Canada was a separate signatory to the treaty that ended World War I.

``No place in the world makes us feel more Canadian,'' Harper said at the commemoration. ``Here we feel, all around us, the presence of our ancestors.''



If you visit Vimy, chat to the Canadian guides in the Visitor Centre and ask to see the photograph albumn they were given by the German squaddie who served there. (Most of the photos are not on display). This shows the conditions faced by soldiers in the trenches there really well.
Indeed Lest We Forget.

Europe in WW1 owes a great deal of gratitude to The Canadians indeed all the servicemen of all the Commonwealth armies.
Took a detour on my way home from France v Scotland last month, just to show my passengers why Vimy Ridge was sooo important. Unfortunately the weather broke and the full majesty of that vista was lost - you can see as far north and east as any early twentieth century ISTAR asset would want to from there!

If you have time, or indeed can make the time, take the tunnel tour...amazing piece of history.

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