On this day, April 11, 100 years ago, Canadian troops were advancing up Vimy Ridge in the third of a four day battle which saw all 4 Canadian divisions defeat German forces and claim the top of the hill.
Today, two pillars stand high above the battlefield as part of Canada’s memorial.
The Canadian Vimy Ridge Memorial was erected in 1936 on Canadian soil, and King Edward VII helped unveil the monument for the first time. The memorial was closed for restoration from 2005 to 2007.
University of Saskatchewan historian Bill Waiser says many Canadians recognize the two pillars that reach high above the battlefield, but there is one unique feature to remember the dead.
Waiser says “what a lot of people don’t realize is that the monument not only commemorates that battle, but it commemorates all the Canadian dead who died in France with no known grave, so all around the base of the monument, in alphabetical order, are all the names of the missing.”
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Waiser says his great-uncle is one of the over 11-thousand Canadian soldiers who died and never received a burial. He says it was “very overwhelming” the first time he saw his great-uncle’s name on the memorial.
Over 35-hundred men died and 7-thousand were wounded in the Battle of Vimy Ridge victory for Canada.
Waiser says while the battle was not a major moment in the First World War, it was a significant moment that defied Canadian troops as “shock troops”, taking part in battles like Paschendale and the Hundred Days Campaign to end the war.