Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for The Battle of Vimy Ridge

Remembering the Fallen: Canadian National Vimy Memorial

The Canadian National Vimy Memorial at Vimy Ridge on the 1914-1918 Artois battlefields, northern France.

Designed by Canadian sculptor and architect Walter Seymour Allward, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial stands on Hill 145, overlooking the Canadian battlefield of 1917, at one of the points of the fiercest fighting. It took 11 years and $1.5 million to build and was unveiled on July 26, 1936 by King Edward VIII, in the presence of President Albert Lebrun of France and 50,000 or more Canadian and French Veterans and their families. In his address, the King noted, "It is a memorial to no man, but a memorial for a nation."
At the base of the Memorial, in English and in French, are these words:
To the valour of their countrymen in the Great War
and in memory of their sixty thousand dead this monument is raised by the people of Canada.

In fact, more than 66,000 Canadians died in action, or of their wounds after the war—more than one in ten of those who had worn uniforms. Among the dead are many who have no known grave. Inscribed on the ramparts of the Memorial are the names of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who were posted "missing, presumed dead" in France. Another 6,994 names of missing Canadians are carved on the Menin Gate at Ypres, Belgium.

CWGC Cemetery Record Search: Vimy Memorial

In 1922, use of the land for the battlefield park which contains the Canadian National Vimy Memorial was granted for all time by the French nation to the people of Canada. The Memorial rests on a bed of 11,000 tonnes of concrete and masonry, reinforced by hundreds of tonnes of steel. Many live bombs and shells were unearthed during the excavation. Today's visitors will find the now grassy grounds still pock-marked with the depressions of mine-craters, shell-holes and mounds from the massive artillery bombardment which the Canadians used to take Vimy Ridge.

The Memorial's two towering pylons and a score of symbolic, twice-life-sized sculptured figures contain almost 6,000 tonnes of limestone, brought to the site from an ancient quarry in Yugoslavia. The figures were carved where they now stand from huge limestone blocks over a 10-year-span.

The troops of the Canadian Corps of the First World War were superbly capable citizen-soldiers, tested in the cruel crucible of war. But their dreams were of peace. The people of Canada still respect those dreams and that sacrifice. Canadians strive to ensure that the dreams are realized and the sacrifice honoured, now and in the years to come. Then the valiant soldiers of Vimy may continue to rest in peace.

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