Today is the 103 anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a battle which is celebrated as Canada's greatest military victory. It took place at Vimy, in the north of France and lasted four long, arduous days, from April 9-12 in 1917, three years into the first world war.
It is now a national memorial site but on this day in 1917, it was a battleground.
One of the reasons the victory is so important is that it marked the first time that all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought alongside one another, and did so with great success. The battle was won through extensive planning and new innovative combat strategies that had not yet been executed before, such as the discreet construction of 11 underground tunnels, almost 6km in length that were fully equipped with electric lighting, first aid stations and water supplies. These tunnels or 'subways' as they were called were used to get the first assaulting troops back safely without having to cross no man's land while the battle was happening.
One of the reasons the battle was so significant, not just to Canada but to the entire Allied forces, was that it was the largest territorial advance up to that point in the war. The immense gain in territory certainly came with its price as over 10,600 Canadians were killed and wounded in the battle.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement on Thursday to commemorate the 103rd anniversary writing, “The capture of Vimy Ridge was more than just a military victory – it was a turning point for our country. During the battle, soldiers from all four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together for the first time. They came from coast to coast to coast – Francophones, Anglophones, new Canadians, and Indigenous peoples.
“On Easter Monday in 1917 – after carefully planning and preparing their attack – these Canadian soldiers battled uphill through sleet, mud, and machine gun fire to achieve one of the First World War’s most decisive victories. The innovative fighting techniques used by our soldiers at Vimy Ridge would also contribute to the final Allied victory a year and a half later," the statement continued.
“The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a defining moment for Canada, but it came at a great cost. Nearly 3,600 Canadians lost their lives, and over 7,000 more were wounded. It remains one of the bloodiest battles in our country’s military history.
“On this day, we honour the courage and sacrifice of those who fought at Vimy Ridge. Canadians remember who they were, what they stood for, and the history they defined. We also pay tribute to all our brave Canadians in uniform, past and present, for their unwavering dedication and service. Every day, they protect the fundamental values that define this country.
“Lest we forget.”