Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Vimy Ridge 95th Anniversary

With visitors for the purposes of scale.

Canada's most impressive tribute overseas to those Canadians who fought and gave their lives in the First World War is the majestic and inspiring Canadian National Vimy Memorial which overlooks the Douai Plain from the highest point of Vimy Ridge, about ten kilometres north of Arras. The Memorial does more than mark the site of the engagement that Canadians were to remember with more pride than any other operation of the First World War. It stands as a tribute to all who served their country in battle in that four-year struggle and particularly to those who gave their lives. 

I visited a few years ago on a bleak October day when the magnitude of the sacrifice of the Canadian people struck home. Carved on the walls of the monument are the names of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who were killed in France and whose final resting place was then unknown. Standing on the monument’s wide stone terrace overlooking the broad fields and rolling hills of Northern France, one can see other places where Canadians fought and died. More than 7,000 are buried in 30 war cemeteries within a 20-kilometre radius of the Vimy Memorial. Altogether, more than 66,000 Canadian service personnel died in the First World War.

      Trenchlines in the landscape at Vimy Ridge                                Preserved trenches at Vimy 

The ground in the memorial park has been left undisturbed, and there are trenches and shellholes clearly visible in the grass. In one area, the trench outlines have been made more permanent by the addition of concrete "sandbags", and you can walk along these trenches.

       CO's quarters in Grange Tunnel                              Branch leading off Grange Tunnel

One of the most interesting things to see at Vimy is Grange Tunnel. This is a network of underground passages, around which there are guided tours. These are only some of the tunnel networks that riddled this small part of the Western Front. They are astonishing. However, although the tour sticks to the main tunnel, you can see running off it many other branches, and the sheer scale of this really impressed me. It also seems that the tunnelling skills of  Welsh coal miners were used to construct part of this network.

God Bless