Ottawa Journal (April 12 – April 16, 2021)
David Tilson, M.P. (Dufferin-Caledon)
In April, we remember the heroic Canadian soldiers who fought in the battle of Vimy Ridge during the First World War. While mothers, fathers, wives, and children waited patiently on home soil, young Canadians risked their lives overseas to defend King and Country and show the world what Canadians can achieve. The determination and bravery of the men who fought for Canada helped unite Canadians, in pride and in mourning, and helped turn our colony into a nation.
Vimy Ridge was an area of occupied France that was essential to the German defence system. It protected an area where German mines and factories were in full production for the benefit of enemy forces. Vimy Ridge was so well protected that prior to Canada’s attack, all attempts to capture the Ridge had failed. This however, did not stop our Canadian troops from preparing for one of the most successful battles of the First World War. The Canadian Corps, with the help of the British First Army, was led by the Canadian Lieutenant General, Sir Julian Byng. He and his dedicated army spent the cold winter months planning and practicing for their assault on Vimy Ridge, even creating a full-scale replica of the battle area with coloured tapes and flags.
Our soldiers also created an extensive underground tunnel system which helped reduce casualties and enabled supplies to be brought up under less hazardous conditions.
It was this careful planning from Canadian soldiers that allowed them to take Vimy Ridge with considerably fewer casualties than was the norm for major assaults. This success, along with our other feats during the First World War, helped establish Canada on the world stage and even won for us a separate signature on the Versailles Peace Treaty which ended the war.
As Canadians, we recognize and honour our soldiers, for all they gave up to fight for our country. They left the safety of their homes and the comfort of their families for the dangers of warfare overseas.
In addition to remembering the battle of Vimy Ridge, Canadians have recently shared an important historical moment. On February 18, 2010, John "Jack" Babcock passed away. Mr. Babcock was Canada's last known Veteran of the First World War and his passing marks the end of an era in Canada’s military history. Canadians recognized this important milestone on April 9, at the National War Memorial, in Ottawa, by holding a national commemorative ceremony honouring all of Canada's First World War service men and women.
Canadians are proud of their dedication and commitment. It was their bravery and unwavering determination that was instrumental in the capture of Vimy Ridge. The heroism of our troops was a driving force that helped create the Canada we know and love.
As Brigadier-General Alexander Ross later said of the battle, “It was Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific on parade. I thought then... that in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation.”
Lest we forget.