The Battle of Vimy Ridge began 97 years ago, on the morning of April 9, 1917. The first wave of 20,000 Canadian soldiers, each carrying up to 36 kilograms of equipment, attacked through the wind-driven snow and sleet into the face of deadly machine gun fire.
Photo: Canadian soldiers advancing alongside a tank during the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. Thanks to careful planning and great courage, the Canadians captured this heavily defended enemy position. (Library and Archives Canada PA-004388)
The Battle of Vimy Ridge
The decades since the Battle of Vimy Ridge have slipped by, but the legacy of the Canadians who accomplished so much in that pivotal First World War battle lives on. Many say that Canada came of age as a country on those hard April days in 1917.
The First World WarThe First World War was the largest conflict the world had ever seen up until that time. It came about due to the political tensions and complex military alliances in Europe at the time. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the summer of 1914 resulted in an international crisis that brought Europe into war. By August, the fighting had begun. This bloody four-year war would see Britain (and her Empire), France and Russia lining up against Germany and Austria-Hungary.
Canada Goes to WarIn 1914, Canada was considered a part of the British Empire. This meant that once Britain declared war, Canada also was automatically at war. The First World War opened with great enthusiasm and patriotism on the part of Canadians, with tens of thousands rushing to join the military in the first months of the conflict so they would not miss the action. They need not have worried. The war would grind on for more than four years, killing more than ten million people in fighting that would be revolutionized by high-explosive shells, powerful machine guns, poison gas, submarines and war planes.
Canadian machine gunners dig themselves in, in shell holes on Vimy Ridge. April 1917/Vimy Ridge, France. Photo: DND/Library and Archives Canada PA-001017
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Full documentary (MUST WATCH): Vimy Ridge - Heaven to Hell