Vimy Ridge – A Memory of War

Mist gathers at the edges of distant forests.

A vast, emerald field in northern France lined with neatly maintained trenches, scars from long ago. A lonely paved road leading up to a towering white limestone structure reaching up into the sky. It is covered with figures, stone faces staring out across the field. Some in triumph, some at peace, and some in grief, tears frozen on cold stone cheeks, never to fall to the ground. A solemn list of names etched into the stone, a reminder of those who gave their lives here on this soil. The Canadian National Vimy Memorial.

This is what we see today. A field that holds the memory of war. Holds the shouts, the tears, and the relentless gunfire from a day in which this place appeared completely different. More than one hundred years ago, on April 9th, 1917, the landscape was coated in frozen mud and soil, littered with rubble, earth, and barbed wire, and dominated by the two entrenched armies facing each other across the field. Beneath the earth, a network of tunnels housed the many Canadians about to advance up the hill toward a defensive position that had cost the lives of more than 100,000 French and British soldiers.

The Canadian bombardment of the ridge lasted for two weeks, focusing every gun in the Canadian Corps on the German lines. Bunkers, machinegun nests and wire defenses were all targeted for methodical destruction.

At 5:30 in the morning, as snow and sleet blew across no man’s land, the barrage intensified into a cacophony of sound. Giant mines were blown under the German lines All four Divisions of the Canadian Corps advanced, and in less than an hour, three of them captured their first objectives. Fighting continued for three days as the Germans were forced off every corner of the ridge, but when the smoke cleared and the field fell quiet once more, the Canadian Corps emerged victorious.

The horrors of that day are truly beyond imagination, echoing now through the years across this misty field of green. Though the place itself has changed, the memory of those terrible days lingers on in the memories of those left behind and in the monuments that stand for those who gave their lives.

Iron Indignation by Colonel David W. Grebstad seeks to bridge that gap, to honour the memory, the ingenuity, and the sacrifice of those who stood on this field more than one hundred years ago. On this anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, we too honour and remember those whose names are etched in white stone on a green field.

This article was contributed by Double Dagger team member James Leslie.

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