Brigadier-General Alexander Ross who was commander of the 28th Battalion at Vimy Ridge says the following quote when he reflects on his experience at Vimy Ridge. “It was Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific on parade. I thought then, and I think today, that in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation.” World War 1 featured many battles some were important some were insignificant. There were battles that achieved great victories and others that led to humiliating defeats. So what makes Vimy Ridge different? Why do we still talk about Vimy Ridge but not about other battles that resulted in far less deaths. In this paper I will try to answer these questions and explain why Vimy Ridge is the most well known World War 1 battle today and why we must not forget what this battle brought to Canada. For the Canadians at war and at home the battle of Vimy Ridge would prove to be significant then and today.
Before I continue let me give you a brief historical context about what Vimy Ridge entailed and what was going on in the world at the time. The British had tried, the French had tried, but all had failed. These failures led to the Canadians getting tasked with the assignment of taking Vimy Ridge. The Canadians took months planning and looking at what had gone wrong for the British and French, they learned from the mistakes and took these into consideration. On Easter Monday April 9, 1917 at 5:30 am the battle of Vimy Ridge in France began with all four Canadian divisions fighting together for the first time about 100, 000 strong. All at once the Canadians launched a heavy barrage and you could hear the whole earth shake at once. The main challenge that the Canadians would face during the attack on Vimy Ridge would be Hill 145. This hill had been the German stronghold and was reinforced with… After fierce fighting the Canadians emerged as the victors and had done what neither the British or the French could do, they had defeated the German stronghold and had captured Hill 145. However, the victory had come at a cost with… In … the Vimy Memorial was built as a way to remember those brave souls that had lost their lives fighting for our freedom.
The Canadians had learned from the mistakes of the failed attempts that had occurred previously. Their ability to adapt and learn from the experience of failure allowed them to succeed at Vimy. “All soldiers knew the tactics and the plan to take Vimy.” Arthur Currie made sure that all of his soldiers would be completely ready. He created a replica of the battlefield for the soldiers to train so that they would not be caught off guard when it was actually time to fight. He went through different tactics trying to see which ones worked and what did not work. He created the Vimy Glide which was a tactic where all of the soldiers would move 100 yards every 3 minutes. These tactics allowed Canada to end up being victorious and taking Vimy Ridge in only four days. “We have shown that even in trench warfare it is possible to mystify and mislead the enemy.” After the French and British had failed to take Vimy Ridge the Canadians had done what many thought was impossible. “This was the first time the Canadians had an influence on World War 1.” The preparation and tactics that were put into use showed the whole world how successful Canada was and led to them being put forth for more opportunities.
The men that made up the Canadian Corps were everyday ordinary people. “The men at Vimy were from factories in Central Canada, prairie farms, and east and west coast fishing boats. The fact that the Canadians were able to succeed was extraordinary because without any previous battle experience the men had to endure terrible conditions such as rats, lice, and more. “Borden realized how many soldiers were needed in order to win Vimy Ridge, and so forth came conscription.” The conscription law required that any man that was able to fight had to enlist. Despite not have the experience compared to the Germans the Canadians were able to persevere, when facing adversity did not back down.
Arthur Currie had a plan to inform all of his soldiers of what the plan was instead of only telling the field general the plan. “Take time to train everyone,” was his plan. He informed the soldiers of everything where the bombs were expected to be, where the enemy soldiers would, and what the terrain would be like. They created a large underground tunnel that was built by ordinary men showing that the battle of Vimy Ridge had captivated all of Canada and everybody was trying to do their part.
The victory at Vimy served as focal point for national pride and helped create a sense of unity and Canadian sentiment. “The taking of this ridge, the success of this battle, was something that no other country was able to do. So there was really a pride attached to this victory,” said Jeremy Diamond, the executive director of the Vimy Foundation. This battle gave Canada the recognition and led to them emerging out of Britain’s shadow and start walking on their own feet. It showed the world that they did not need Britain’s help and that they handle what adversities that they may face. The world recognized this and (THEY WERE ALLOWED TO SIGN THE TREATY) This battle led to Canada being treated as an equal and would also motivate Walter Alward to create the Vimy Memorial.
When one looks up and sees the Vimy Memorial they can see that Walter Alward put his whole heart into the project they can tell that Vimy Ridge was something that he was passionate about and wants to be remembered. “Whenever I visit the monument, I feel a sense of pride.” It is inscribed with the names of the 11, 285 Canadians who lost their lives on French soil. The Vimy Memorial symbolizes us mourning and paying our respects to the men who fought so hard so that we could have our freedom that we have today. The Vimy Memorial has two pillars that represent Canada and France and it stands a top of Hill 145. The 11 years that it took to build and the 1.5 million that it cost truly shows how significant Vimy Ridge is to Canadians and the effect that it had on Canadians then and now.
At the conclusion of the battle of Vimy Ridge, Canada had impressed the world and had become an independent nation. The battle saw Arthur Currie rise up the ranks and shortly after he was put in charge of the Canadian army. The preparation and tactics used by the Canadian forces allowed them to do what many had once thought was impossible. It is clear to see that the battle of Vimy Ridge was significant as it marked the day that Canada emerged out of Britain’s shadow and became an independent nation.