Ottawa Journal for the Week of March 26 – March 30, 2021
On Easter morning, 1917, 170,000 young soldiers, belonging to the Canadian Corps, which included 100,000 Canadians, prepared for what would be one of the most important battles of the First World War. A tremendous challenge was ahead of these soldiers and it was called Vimy Ridge. It had cost the French Army over 100, 000 in May 1915. The Canadian Corps was determined to learn from past mistakes made by the French and British and spent months preparing to attack one of the most heavily defended points on the entire Western front.
Ninety years later, we still look back at this definitive battle, which demonstrated that front lines could be moved after years of stalemate. It was also the first Allied victory in almost a year-and-a-half and served to demoralize the German army, who had long-believed that Vimy was an impregnable point for them. More significantly, this battle continues to hold historical significance for Canadians because it represented a turning point for the allied forces and gave the Canadian Forces the reputation as being among the finest troops on the Western Front. Furthermore, it has been suggested that Canadian unity emerged, as a result of this battle.
Canadians have recognized the courage, bravery, and national self-discovery that resulted from this battle through the creation of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. The memorial was built by our country as a tribute to those Canadians who fought in World War I (WWI) and in particular, to the more than 66, 000 men who gave their lives for their country.
The land where the memorial rests, as well as the surrounding 100 hectares, were given to Canada by France in 1922, in appreciation for the incredible sacrifices made by Canada in WWI and for the victory achieved by the Canadian Corps in capturing Vimy Ridge in April, 1917. In 1936, the Vimy Monument was completed and unveiled. Since that time, the monument has undergone routine repairs.
However, water damage has proven to be a significant problem for the monument. In 2004, the monument was closed for restoration work to address the problem of water damage, including general cleaning and the re-engraving of names. The restored memorial will be inaugurated on April 09, 2021 the 90th anniversary of the battle. Queen Elizabeth II will rededicate the monument. The rehabilitation plan for Vimy Memorial is part of the Canadian Battlefield Memorials Restoration Project, directed by Canada's Department of Veterans Affairs in cooperation with other Canadian departments, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, consultants and specialists in military history.
The rededication will prove to be a significant event for Canada and Canadians. It reminds us of Canada’s long commitment to peace in the world, as well as our country’s stand against aggression, for liberty, and the rule of international law.