Ministers of Veterans Affairs and National Defence commemorate Battle of Vimy Ridge

Veterans Affairs Canada

Ottawa, ON – In the early stages of the First World War, Germany captured Vimy Ridge in northern France and turned it into a strong defensive position. With its complex system of tunnels and trenches, and a heavy arsenal of machine guns and artillery pieces, the Germans established a nearly impenetrable fortress that the Allies struggled to overtake. Hundreds of thousands of Allied troops would be killed or wounded in unsuccessful assaults on Vimy Ridge in 1914 and 1915.

By the spring of 1917, with Europe having been at war for more than two-and-a-half years and neither side gaining significant ground, a major attack was planned for April in the area around Arras, France.

It would fall to the Canadians to capture Vimy Ridge.

For the first time, all four divisions of the Canadian Corps would fight together as one formation. After spending all winter strengthening the lines, preparing for the assault and training rigorously, the first wave of between 15,000 and 20,000 Canadian soldiers attacked on the morning of 9 April 1917.

In the first phase of the assault, Canadian battalions suffered great numbers of casualties as they came up against fierce and deadly machine gun fire. But by noon of that first day, most of the heavily defended ridge was captured and by 12 April, the Allies commanded the heights overlooking the Douai Plain.

In remembering the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Canadians are encouraged to reflect on the heroism and sacrifices of those who fought so hard to help secure peace in Europe during the First World War.

Quotes

“Despite the enormous losses suffered by the Canadian Corps in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, they achieved a victory that still today is remembered as one of Canada’s most important military accomplishments. At a time of great instability in the world, we honour the memory of all those who fought and died at Vimy Ridge by pledging to do everything we can to preserve and protect the peace and freedom that their sacrifice helped to give us.”

The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

“The bravery and sacrifice demonstrated by Canadian soldiers during the Battle of Vimy Ridge contributed to one of the most significant Allied victories of the First World War. The courageous actions of Canadians in uniform during the great conflicts of the first half of the 20th century, and those of Canadian Armed Forces members in more recent years, have helped ensure that peace and freedom remain pillars of Canadian society. Lest we forget.”

The Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence

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