premeditated as one of the extravagant battles in Canadian history, Vimy Ridge commenced on the 9th of April 1917 and ceased on the 12th of April 1917. The marvellous courageousness and valour of Canadians conducted to a tremendous triumph for the entire Allied Force- A force which was made up of troops from the French and the British Common Wealth Countries' of that time -Canadian, British, French, - etcâ€¦you will have to do the research to finish this sentence, and was as well debated as the major turning point in World War One. A formidable stronghold to breach is essentially what Vimy Ridge was. Vimy Ridge, a high hill or 'ridge' in the Nord-Pas-De-Calais region of France, are approximately 7 km in length, with an natural elevation of 145 meters at its peak (hill 145-as it was called) and allowed a clean-cut viewpoint for miles and miles around for the Germans, who in October 1914 in another combat named 'Race to the Sea' won this vantage point and tactical gem. The Germans heavily fortified the 'Hindenburg' (it would be helpful to explain the Hindenburg line here) line, and met with their main trench lines leading north. The German fortifications consisted of three layers of trenches, deep tunnels, and barbed wire. The hill had a natural slope which, of course, provided very little protection when attacking allied troops. Throughout 1915-1917 the French attempted unsuccessfully to wrest control of the ridge. These attempts led to 150,000 French casualties. The British army had taken over the French's attempts at taking the ridge in March 1916, but they were driven back before they could plan or attempt a major attack. Breaking through the impenetrable German lines. That was the crucial goal of the battle for Vimy Ridge.
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For the 1st time in World War One, all four Canadian divisions fought on the same battleground. Sir Arthur William Currie, who was the first Canadian-appointed commander of the Canadian corps, he led the Canadians. Arthur kept the Canadian divisions together instead of having them mixed in with various British units. It was the first time Canadians fought together, and achieved a magnificent victory, sweeping the Germans off the ridge.
Apirl 9th 1917 early morning, 20,00 soldiers attacked in the first wave of fighting. By that afternoon, the two front lines had been taken by the Canadian Corps. By 12 April, the entire ridge was under Allied control. When Hill 145, the highest feature on the ridge, fell, the operation was considered to be a resounding success. The ridge remained in Allied hands for the duration of the war.
Though the victory at Vimy came swiftly, it did not come without cost. There were 3,598 dead out of 10,602 Canadian. Battalions in the first waves of the assault suffered grievously. No level of casualties could ever be called acceptable, but those at Vimy were lower than the terrible norm of many major assaults on the Western Front. They were also far lighter than those of any previous offensive at the Ridge. Earlier French, British and German struggles there had cost at least 200,000 casualties. Care in planning by the Corps Commander, Sir Julian Byng, and his right-hand man, Arthur Currie, kept Canadian casualties down.
The Canadian success at Vimy marked a profound turning-point for the Allies. A year-and-a-half later, the Great War was over. The Canadian record, crowned by the achievements at Vimy, won for Canada a separate signature on the Versailles Peace Treaty ending the war. Back home, the victory at Vimy, won by troops from every part of the country, helped unite many Canadians in pride at the courage of their citizen-soldiers, and established a feeling of real nationhood.
Britain's declaration of war on 4 August 1914 meant that Canada, as a member of the British
Empire, was automatically at war with Germany. Prior to the commencement of hostilities,
Canada had a small standing army of slightly more than 3,000 regulars, supplemented by 74,000
part-time militia. By the end of the war, the country had over 600,000 men and women in
uniform. Its most notable contribution to the war effort came through the Canada Corps, a force
of some 100,000 soldiers sent to fight along the Western Front, and whose courage and
innovative methods earned it a high reputation. The battle for Vimy Ridge in April 1917 was one
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of several significant Canadian military engagements in the Great War, but has assumed a
special place in the country's history. It marked the first time all four Canadians divisions
launched a simultaneous attack on a single front under Canadian command. At the end of the
four-day battle, Canada's force had suffered 10,602 casualties, including 3,598 deaths.
Notwithstanding its high cost in human life, the successful outcome of the attack boosted the
country's military confidence. It also served to reinforce Canada's awakening sense of
independence and nationhood.
The memorial that now dominates Vimy Ridge in the Pas de Calais region of northern France is
Canada's national memorial to the contribution and sacrifice of all who took part in the First World
War. It also marks the capture of the ridge by the Canadian Corps on April 9-1912-1917.
It honours the memory of the 65,000 Canadians who lost their lives in that war, and it records the
names of 11,285 Canadians whose bodies were never found and who have no known grave.
The Vimy monument was designed in 1921 by the Canadian sculptor Walter Allward, who
watched over its construction between 1925 and 1936, overseeing its realization to the very last
detail. Scaled to stand as a powerful presence in the sweeping landscape of northern France,
the huge structure is built in reinforced concrete and faced in white limestone. Two walls, one
behind the other, define the front of the monument. Each is anchored deep in the ground
this base rise two tall pylons. This simple architectural design provides the backdrop for the
enactment of a mis en scène involving 20 larger-than-life figures. These depict
interrelated allegorical themes, evoking the myth of sacrifice, death and resurrection. The drama
of the sculptured figures unfolds above an empty tomb, or sarcophagus, which stands on the
former battlefield at the base of the monument's principal wall and symbolizes Canada's 65,000
war dead. Standing over it is the tall, shrouded figure of "Canada Bereft." Deep in contemplation,
she mourns forever her fallen sons. Between the pylons, two figures represent their heroic
sacrifice and spiritual rebirth. The first resembles a crucified Christ, the second, holding the torch
of peace, strains upwards towards six column-figures representing the virtues of Truth, Faith,
Justice, Charity, Knowledge and, at the summit of the monument, the figure of Peace. At either
end of the main wall two figure groups represent Canada's ideals for which the young men had
given their lives; ideals the living must strive to protect. On the opposite side of the monument
are two more figures. Isolated by their grief, they represent those who lost loved ones to the war.
Ironically, barely three years after the monument was completed, Vimy Ridge was again under
German military control. The monument survived the Second World War relatively unscathed,
but in the 1950s, its walls began to deteriorate. A failure of the drainage system was diagnosed
as the principal cause of the deterioration. Despite attempts to resolve the problem, the
monument continued to decay and by the mid-1990s, its walls were scarred by patchwork repairs
of different stone types, calcite deposits, discolouration, spalling and cracking. Especially
troubling was the deteriorated state of the names of the missing Canadian servicemen inscribed
across its walls. Aware of growing public concern for the fragile and irreplaceable
names, the Canadian government resolved to repair or replace the damaged names, correct the
technical problems, and recapture the monument's aesthetic quality. A conservation program
began in 2004 and was completed in April 2007, in time for the rededication ceremony on the 90th
anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Preparatory analysis undertaken for the conservation project in the late-1990s revealed a paucity
of documentation, suggesting that the monument had not been the focus of earlier scholarly
examination. At the historic site, interpretation had focused almost exclusively on military history,
and very limited information on the monument was available to visitors. The monument's official
commemorative message was well known, but the significance of the actual structure was not.
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To be fair to the Canadian government, which is responsible for the care and upkeep of the
monument, in the 1990s few First World War monuments had been deemed worthy of academic
investigation. Rather, they tended to be catalogued collectively as state-sponsored memorials,
conservative in their design and sentiment, and falling squarely into 19th century monument
traditions, with ideas derived from classical, romantic and Christian sources. This view of the
First World War memorials only began to change when the cultural impact of the Great War
became a subject of growing academic interest.
Fussell and Hynes provided insights into how contemporaries understood the Great War and
emphasized the war's significance in the cultural history of the 20th century. Each examined the
responses of writers, poets and painters who had lived through the war. They found that many
had experienced an acute sense of a rupture in history that, in their work, took the form of irony,
fragmentation and ruin. Fussell and Hynes demonstrated that, if the war did not actually create
the modern world, it fueled its development and shaped its character. Their work inspired a
number of subsequent studies on war memorials, at the local and national levels. A dissentient
view was espoused by Jay Winter, a leading English-speaking scholar, who noted that most postwar
memorials were "framed in traditional language of shared ideas." This, he argued, was
because only this shared language had the power to.
An initial assessment of the Vimy Monument would seem to confirm Winter's thesis. Its adoption
of a classical figure style with a message of death and spiritual resurrection was traditional and
well-used commemorative response. Moreover, its principal figure, "Canada Bereft" was the
embodiment of a 2,000-year tradition of the mourning female figure. However, the monument's
figures revealed a new psychological depth that marked a departure from the visual realism and
patriotic optimism that had characterized earlier memorials, including those by Allward.6 These
figures dwelled in a somber world whose melancholy state was heightened by the presence of
the carefully inscribed names of the 11,285 missing Canadians.
Writing in the 1990s, the American historian Thomas Laqueur pointed out that the inscription of
many thousands of names on First World War memorials spoke to the modern fear of erasure.
He took issue with Winter's thesis, observing that, while the First World War monuments made
use of the classical language, this was a remade classicism expressing the modern sensibilities
of loss and obligation, which demanded that somehow the past be kept present.7 Among the
examples that Laqueur used to demonstrate his point were the Menin Gate in Ypres and the
Monument To The Missing of the Somme at Thiepval.
The Victoria Cross is the realm's highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy. It has precedence over any other of the Sovereign's awards. The Victoria Cross was founded by Royal Warrant on January 29, 1856 to recognize the bravery of those who were then fighting the Crimean War. The Victoria Cross was available to soldiers of all ranks and "neither rank, nor long service, nor wounds, nor any other circumstance or condition whatsoever, save the merit of conspicuous bravery" could make one eligible.
The Cross itself is cast from the bronze of cannons captured at Sevastopol during the Crimean War. The design, chosen by Queen Victoria, consists of a cross patee ensigned with the Royal Crest, resting upon a scroll bearing the words "For Valour". The reverse of the suspender bar is engraved with the recipient's name, rank, and unit. The reverse of the Cross itself, bears the date of the deed for which the recipient was honoured.
Since its inception, the Victoria Cross has been awarded 1,351 times. The youngest recipient was 15 years old, and the eldest was 69 years in age. Three cases exist where both father and son have won the Victoria Cross: four pairs of brothers have also been recipients. One Victoria Cross was awarded for action in Canada - that to Private T. O'Hea of the Rifle Brigade (Irish) for extinguishing a fire in the ammunition car of a train. Four Victoria Crosses have been awarded to civilians, and while no woman has been awarded the Victoria Cross, a gold representation of the decoration was awarded to Mrs. W. Harris for her efforts in nursing cholera victims. Three men have been awarded the Victoria Cross twice.
Thain Wendell Macdowell, John George Pattison, William Johnstone Milne, Ellis Welwood Sifton are the four recipient of the Victoria Cross after the tremendous battle of Vimy Ridge
Thain Wendell Macdowell:
On April 9 1917, Captain MacDowell, of Brockville, Ont., accompanied by two
runners (Ptes. Kebus and Hay) reached a German position ahead of his
company. After destroying one machine-gun nest and chasing the crew from a
second, MacDowell spotted a German going into a tunnel. Following the
fleeing German into the tunnel he found a full company of Prussian Guards,
and was able bluff the Germans into thinking he was accompanied by a much
larger force. Two German officers and 75 German soldiers surrendered to him
and he sent the prisoners up out the tunnel in small groups so that Kebus
and Hay could take them back to the Canadian line. Although wounded in the
hand, MacDowell continued to hold the position he had gained for five days,
despite heavy shellfire, until he was relieved. The 26-year-old was promoted
to the rank of Major following his actions at Vimy Ridge.
After the war, he served as an executive of several mining and chemical
companies, and from 1923-1928 he acted as private secretary to the Minister
of National Defence. He died in Nassau, the Bahamas, on March 28, 1960. His
Victoria Cross is on display at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario.
There is a plaque in his honour on Corner of Highway 2 and Church Street in
John George Pattison:
On April 10 1917 when the advance of his battalion was held up by an enemy
machine-gun which was inflicting severe casualties, Private Pattiso, 41, of
the 50th (Calgary) Battalion, "with utter disregard of his own safety"
according to the citation for his Victoria Cross sprang forward. Jumping
from shell-hole to shell-hole, he eventually reached cover within 30 yards
of the enemy gun. From this point, in the face of heavy fire, he hurled
several grenades into the German strong point, killing and wounding most of
the machine-gun crew. He then rushed forward to overcome and bayoneting the
surviving five gunners. His initiative and valour undoubtedly saved the
situation. He was killed in action a month after the battle of Vimy Ridge,
near Lens, France, on 3 June 1917. He is buried at La Chaudiere Military
Cemetery, just north of Arras.
William Johnstone Milne:
During the attack on Vimy Ridge, Private Milne, 24, of the 16th Battalion
Manitoba Regiment (Canadian Scottish), was approaching his battalion's first
objective when he saw a German machine-gun firing on his comrades. Pte.
Milne, born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, but who had emigrated to Canada in
1910 and farmed near Moose Jaw, Sask., crawled on hands and knees until he
reached the heavily fortified machine-gun nest, killed the crew with
grenades and capturing the machine-gun. When his company reformed to
continue the attack, Pte. Milne located another German machine gun and crept
up on this second gun in the same way, succeeding in putting the crew out of
action and capturing the gun. According to the citation for his Victoria
Cross: "His wonderful bravery and resource on these two occasions
undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his comrades." Pte. Milne was killed
shortly after capturing the second gun. His body was never found and his
name is one of the thousands commemorated on the Vimy Memorial.
Ellis Welwood Sifton:
During an attack on enemy trenches in the first day of the battle, Lance
Sergeant Sifton, 25, of the 18th (Western Ontario) Battalion, saw that his
company was being held up by machine-gun fire which had inflicted many
casualties. Sgt. Sifton located the gun and charged it alone, killing all
the crew. A group of Germans then charged down the trench towards him but he
managed to hold them off with his bayonet and using his rifle as a club
until his comrades arrived. In carrying out what the citation for his
Victoria Cross called "this gallant act" he was killed but his citation
noted: ""His conspicuous valour undoubtedly saved many lives and contributed
largely to the success of the operation." Sgt. Sifton's Victoria Cross is on
display at Calgary's Glenbow Museum.