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Anniversary of the WWI Battle of Vimy Ridge

April 9, 2013
Concerning the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Tim Cook, on the Canadian War Museaum | Musée canadien de la guerre, writes:

Many historians and writers consider the Canadian victory at Vimy a defining moment for Canada, when the country emerged from under the shadow of Britain and felt capable of greatness. Canadian troops also earned a reputation as formidable, effective troops because of the stunning success. But it was a victory at a terrible cost, with more than 10,000 killed and wounded.

That, in a nutshell, was what I learned as a child, and it has been repeated, every year, near as I can recall. So, over breakfast, reading through The Province newspaper, I expected to see a small mention of this anniversary, but no. When did we stop marking this anniversary? Was it a boo-boo on the part of The Province? A symptom of British Columbia’s disdain for all things  Canadian East of the Rocky Mountains, or what? In other parts of Canada, the 96th anniversary was comemorated, just not so much in B.C. We should all know and remember this bit of history, lest George Santayana be right; we certainly do not want to repeat it.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge, running from April 9-12, 1917, was part of the larger British-led Battle of Arras, along with the French Nivelle Offensive; all together one huge effort to break through the entrenched German positions along the Western Front in France. Trench warfare, stymied military tactics of the day, which taught battles of movement and flanking. Faced with unmoving German positions fortified with barbed-wire and machine-guns, the tendency was to throw waves of soldiers at the machine-guns, and hope for the best. The huge military effort of April 9-12, employed new tactics and technology, but it still came down to four divisions of Canadian soldiers who captured the Ridge. The victory was hailed as a signal Canadian achievement, but ultimately the entire effort was for naught as the Allied advances were lost and the area reverted to stalemate.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge is one of the things which can be brought to mind whenever I see a blood-red Canadian flag.

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