'Canada Bereft' at Vimy: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the monument was symbolic of Canada's enduring commitment to peace (Photo: Centenary News)

Canada marks 'pivotal' Battle of Vimy Ridge

Posted on centenarynews.com on 12 April 2017
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Thousands of Canadians gathered at Vimy Ridge on 9 April 2017, the centenary of a First World War victory seen as a defining moment in Canada's birth as an independent nation.  

The Canadian National Vimy Memorial, soaring high over the former battlefields of Artois, was the setting for the commemorations to the Fallen led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,  French President François Hollande, Prince Charles and his sons Princes William and Harry.

Canadian troops captured Vimy Ridge on the opening day of the Battle of Arras in April 1917, suffering more than 10,000 casualties, including almost 3,600 dead.

All four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together for the first time as one in a 'pivotal battle', Mr Trudeau stated.

Speaking at Vimy, he said: "It is by their sacrifice that Canada became an independent signatory to the Treaty of Versailles. In that sense, Canada was born here."

Prince Charles, who was representing Queen Elizabeth, said: "This was, and remains, the single bloodiest day in Canadian military history. Yet Canadians displayed a strength of character and commitment to one another that is still evident today. They did not waver."

Contrast

Sunday's ceremony was bathed in brilliant sunshine, in dazzling contrast to the bitter cold accompanying the Easter offensive a century ago.

Reporting for The Daily Telegraph in April 1917, war correspondent Philip Gibbs wrote that the Battle of Arras was being 'fought on spring days heavy with snow, as grim as sternest winter'.

The seizure of Vimy Ridge overlooking the Douai Plain was a notable success for the Canadians at the start of a renewed Allied offensive on the Western Front. British-led forces also made some significant advances elsewhere, but the attacks later stalled as the Germans brought up reinforcements.

The Canadian Vimy National Memorial stands on land ceded by France in perpetuity in recognition of Canada's sacrifice. Inaugurated in 1936, the monument is dedicated to all Canadians who fell in battle during the Great War.

For the Centenary, a new visitor education centre has been opened at Vimy Ridge. See the Vimy Foundation website for details.

The commemorations at Vimy Ridge on April 9 were part of events in and around the city of Arras paying tribute to the soldiers of all the countries who fought at the Battle of Arras in April/May 1917.

Centenary News reported directly from the unveiling of a new memorial, 'The Earth Remembers', to New Zealand's tunnellers at Carrière Wellington Museum and Scotland's commemorations at Faubourg d'Amiens Commonwealth Cemetery, Arras.

Also in Centenary News:

Read a Battle of Arras summary.

Eyes of the Battle of Arras - photo displays line Arras city centre streets

Fields of Battle Through Canadian Eyes - Canadian First World War touring art exhibition in Arras.

Canadians in the Great War - exhibitions in the Béthune-Bruay region, Artois.

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Visit the official Arras 14-18 website for information about  the Arras Centenary programme.

Sources: Office of the Canadian Prime Minister/Clarence House (extracts from statement & speech by Justin Trudeau,  and speech by Prince Charles); Daily Telegraph Archive

Images: Centenary News

Posted by: CN Editorial Team

 

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