Widely considered by many historians as the event that led to the birth of a nation, the Battle of Vimy Ridge was not only a significant milestone in Canadian military history but also was a major milestone in shaping Canada as an independent country.
More than 650,000 Canadians served from 1914-1918 in the First World War. Although Canadians fought in various locations at the Western Front, their most significant victory would come at Vimy Ridge in France.
Leading up to April 2017, both sides found themselves in a stalemate, largely employing trench warfare. To break through this stalemate, the Allies planned a major offensive attack for April 2017 in Arras, France. The Canadians were tasked with taking Vimy Ridge.
Vimy Ridge, located in northern France, is a long high hill that was taken early by the Germans and was considered a strong defensive position. Previous Allied assaults to take Vimy Ridge had proven unsuccessful.
After months of planning and preparation, including digging a series of tunnels, the Canadians begin their assault on Vimy Ridge on Easter Monday April 9, 2017. Within a matter of days, the Germans were forced to retreat and the Canadians claimed a major victory. The victory was made possible not only through bravery but also ingenuity with the use of technical and tactical innovations, powerful artillery bombardments and meticulous planning and preparation.
This major victory, however, came at a high cost. Canadian soldiers suffered more than 10,600 casualties, with nearly 3,600 fatalities. During the course of the First World War, 66,000 Canadians lost their lives, and more than 170,000 were wounded.
Because of the brave sacrifices of these soldiers, Canada had achieved a major victory for the Allies that was a catalyst for major victories to come. The contributions of Canadians in the war effort led to them having a separate signature on the Versailles Peace Treaty, despite being a British Commonwealth country.
To commemorate the legacy of this historic battle, events are being held across Canada and France. The signature Government of Canada event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge, will begin on the evening of Saturday April 8 with a vigil, candlelight tribute and musical performance at the National War Memorial. At the base of the Memorial, 3,598 candles will be lit to represent the lives lost during the battle. Then on Sunday April 9, an official ceremony will take place at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
For a more in-depth look at the Battle of Vimy Ridge and its role in shaping Canada checkout our Spring 2017 edition, out soon.