Today is the National Day of Remembrance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. One of the defining moments for Canada, Lethbridge played an important part. Soldiers from the 20th and 39th batteries of the Royal Canadian Artillery fought in this battle. A monument to those soldiers stands at the 18th Air Defence Regiment Armoury, which since has been renamed the Vimy Ridge Armoury.
“On a chill Easter Monday in 1917, with a blizzard blowing in their faces, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps in France did what neither the British, nor the French armies had been able to do in more than two years of fighting.
They seized and held the best-defended German bastion on the Western Front – a muddy scarp known as the Vimy Ridge. The French, who had lost 150,000 men trying to take the ridge, didn’t believe it could be done. Nor did the Germans; even the British were sceptical. But the Canadians triumphed!
They went over the top at dawn. By lunchtime, most of the ridge was in their hands – at a cost of ten thousand casualties.
How could an army of civilians from a Nation without a military tradition secure the first enduring Imperial victory in thirty-two months of warfare? The answer was precisely that these men were civilians, with flexible minds unfettered by military rules.
The events leading up to the battle show how the offspring of a frontier Nation used daring and common sense to solve problems that had eluded professionals.
Vimy has become an enduring Canadian legacy marking, in most minds, a turning point in Canada’s relations with the world and in the image Canadians have of themselves. It has become the historic milestone in our emergence from the colonial shadows as an independent Nation.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was more than a Nation finding its manhood. It is equally the story of individual soldiers, trapped in the horrors of a silly and senseless war and enduring almost indescribable conditions.
Some were no older than sixteen when, in one dreadful morning, they clawed their way up those sodden, shell-torn slopes as their part in a struggle they innocently believed would make war obsolete.” – Pierre Burton
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