Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Vimy Ridge, a Canadian Baptism by Fire - May 22, 2012

On a cold and extremely windy Tuesday, having stocked Penny Pilote for the road and completed our other chores, we visited the Canadian WWI Vimy Ridge Memorial, a few miles from Arras. The Battle of Vimy Ridge in fact, was part of the First World War Battle of Arras in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France. In essence it pitched four divisions of Canadian Corps against three divisions of the German Sixth Army and the engagement raged from April 9 to April 12 1917.
Supported by a creeping barrage, the Canadian Corps captured most of the ridge during the first day of the attack, the town of Thélus on the second day before the final objective, a fortified knoll located outside the town of Givenchy-en-Gohelle, fell to them on April 12. By nightfall the Canadian Corps was in firm control of the ridge which had fallen under German control in October 1914 during the "Race to the Sea" across northeastern France.
There were approximately 97,000 Canadians in the Corps which suffered 10,602 casualties during the battle: 3,598 deaths and 7,004 wounded. The German Sixth Army suffered an unknown number of casualties with approximately 4,000 men becoming prisoners of war. At the time, the Vimy Ridge force was the largest assembly of Canadian Corps to be engaged in a single action and is regarded by some as one of the defining events in the forging of the Canadian armed services.
In the weeks leading up to the battle, the British discovered that German tunneling companies had built an extensive network of tunnels and deep mines from which they would attack French positions, setting off explosive charges beneath their trenches. The Royal Engineers quickly deployed their own specialist tunneling companies to combat the German mining operations. The grounds of the memorial  site are still honeycombed with wartime tunnels, trenches, craters and unexploded munitions, and are largely closed off for public safety.
The Canadian National Vimy Memorial itself is Canada's largest and principal overseas war memorial. Located on the highest point of the Vimy Ridge, the memorial is dedicated to the commemoration of the battle and to Canadian Expeditionary Force members killed during the First World War. France granted Canada perpetual use of a section of land at Vimy Ridge in 1922 for the purpose of a battlefield park and memorial and the 250-acre portion of the former battlefield is preserved as part of the memorial park that surrounds the monument.
The memorial took eleven years to build and was finally unveiled on 26 July 1936 by King Edward VIII of England, in the presence of President Albert Lebrun of France and 50,000 plus Canadian and French veterans and their families. By this time of course, inept and crooked politicians on three continents were within three years of steering the world toward the disaster that was WWII. Sure makes one wish that politicians had to take their turn in being shot at. Pictures here.

1 comment:

Bean said...

very sobering, thank you for posting.