The Emergence of a Nation
Brigadier-General Alexander Ross who was commander of the 28th Battalion at Vimy Ridge says the following quote when he reflects on his experience at Vimy Ridge. “It was Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific on parade. I thought then, and I think today, that in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation.” World War 1 featured many battles some were important some were insignificant. There were battles that achieved great victories and others that led to humiliating defeats. So what makes Vimy Ridge different? Why do we still talk about Vimy Ridge but not about other battles that resulted in far less deaths. In this paper I will try to answer these questions and explain why Vimy Ridge is the most well known World War 1 battle today and why we must not forget what this battle brought to Canada. For the Canadians at war and at home the battle of Vimy Ridge would prove to be significant then and today.
Before I continue let me give you a brief historical context about what Vimy Ridge entailed and what was going on in the world at the time. The British had tried, the French had tried, but all had failed. These failures led to the Canadians getting tasked with the assignment of taking Vimy Ridge. The Canadians took months planning and looking at what had gone wrong for the British and French, they learned from the mistakes and took these into consideration. On Easter Monday April 9, 1917 at 5:30 am the battle of Vimy Ridge in France began with all four Canadian divisions fighting together for the first time about 100, 000 strong. All at once the Canadians launched a heavy barrage and you could hear the whole earth shake at once. The main challenge that the Canadians would face during the attack on Vimy Ridge would be Hill 145. This hill had been the German stronghold and was reinforced with… After fierce fighting the Canadians emerged as the victors and had done what neither the British or the French could do, they had defeated the German stronghold and had captured Hill 145. However, the victory had come at a cost with… In … the Vimy Memorial was built as a way to remember those brave souls that had lost their lives fighting for our freedom.
The Canadians had learned from the mistakes of the failed attempts that had occurred previously. Their ability to adapt and learn from the experience of failure allowed them to succeed at Vimy. “All soldiers knew the tactics and the plan to take Vimy.” Arthur Currie made sure that all of his soldiers would be completely ready. He created a replica of the battlefield for the soldiers to train so that they would not be caught off guard when it was actually time to fight. He went through different tactics trying to see which ones worked and what did not work. He created the Vimy Glide which was a tactic where all of the soldiers would move 100 yards every 3 minutes. These tactics allowed Canada to end up being victorious and taking Vimy Ridge in only four days. “We have shown that even in trench warfare it is possible to mystify and mislead the enemy.” After the French and British had failed to take Vimy Ridge the Canadians had done what many thought was impossible. “This was the first time the Canadians had an influence on World War 1.” The preparation and tactics that were put into use showed the whole world how successful Canada was and led to them being put forth for more opportunities.
The men that made up the Canadian Corps were everyday ordinary people. “The men at Vimy were from factories in Central Canada, prairie farms, and east and west coast fishing boats. The fact that the Canadians were able to succeed was extraordinary because without any previous battle experience the men had to endure terrible conditions such as rats, lice, and more. “Borden realized how many soldiers were needed in order to win Vimy Ridge, and so forth came conscription.” The conscription law required that any man that was able to fight had to enlist. Despite not have the experience compared to the Germans the Canadians were able to persevere, when facing adversity did not back down.
Arthur Currie had a plan to inform all of his soldiers of what the plan was instead of only telling the field general the plan. “Take time to train everyone,” was his plan. He informed the soldiers of everything where the bombs were expected to be, where the enemy soldiers would, and what the terrain would be like. They created a large underground tunnel that was built by ordinary men showing that the battle of Vimy Ridge had captivated all of Canada and everybody was trying to do their part.
The victory at Vimy served as focal point for national pride and helped create a sense of unity and Canadian sentiment.