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Remembering the Battle of Hill 70

Yesterday, August 15, marked a century since Canadian soldiers valiantly fought at the Battle of Hill 70 and solidified their role as a formidable fighting formation within the First World War.

One of the major victories of 1917 for the Canadians, the Battle of Hill 70 was also the first major Battle fought by the Canadian Corps under a Canadian commander.

To honour this battle, which took place from Aug. 15, 1917, to Aug. 25, Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan and Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence Kent Hehr issued the following statement:

“To divert German forces from Passchendaele in Belgium, Lieutenant-General Arthur Currie was ordered to attack the city of Lens, France. The city, at that point mostly rubble, had been heavily fortified and would be difficult to fight through. Lieutenant-General Currie determined that a dominating hill overlooking the city should be taken first.

“The Canadians attacked on August 15th and captured many of their objectives, including the high ground. Over the next few days, they held their positions against a remarkable series of 21 German counterattacks. In the 10 days of battle, approximately 2100 Canadians would give their lives; over 1300 of these have no known grave. An additional 7000 were wounded or taken prisoner.

“Losses were heavy, but six Canadians would earn the Victoria Cross as a result of their courageous actions, and the strategic high point of Hill 70 would remain in Allied hands until the end of the war. Those brave Canadians who gave their lives for this country, at Hill 70 and on the other battlefields of the First World War, will always be honoured by a grateful nation.”

To honour the heroic contributions Canadians made one hundred years ago, the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa is hosting a special display highlighting the six Canadian soldiers who received the Victoria Cross.

“Sir Arthur Currie described the Battle of Hill 70 in August 1917 as ‘altogether the hardest battle in which the Corps has participated. It’s remarkable that this 11-day battle, fought four months after Vimy Ridge, resulted in six Canadian soldiers of varying backgrounds and ranks being awarded the highest honour for military valour in the British Empire,” said Stephen Quick, Director General of the Canadian War Museum.

This display will commemorate the legacy of Sgt. Frederick Hobson, Cpl. Filip Konowal, Pte. Harry Brown, Pte. Michael James O’Rourke, Acting Maj. Okill Massey Learmonth and SMaj. Robert Hill Hanna.

This six Canadians are among only 96 Canadian recipients of the Victoria Cross since its introduction during the Crimean War in 1856.

The Battle of Hill 70 display includes portraits of the recipients and some of their medals and will be on display from Aug. 15 until Remembrance Day.

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