The Canadian National Vimy Memorial

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Pictures by Burke Paterson

Canada’s most impressive tribute overseas to those Canadians who fought and gave their lives in the First World War is the majestic Vimy Memorial, which overlooks the Douai Plain from the highest point of Vimy Ridge, about eight kilometres northeast of Arras on the N17 towards Lens. The Memorial is signposted from this road to the left, just before you enter the village of Vimy from the south. At the base of the memorial, these words appear in French and in English:

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

Inscribed on the ramparts of the Vimy Memorial are the names of over 11,000 Canadian soldiers who were posted as ‘missing, presumed dead’ in France.

A plaque at the entrance to the memorial states that the land for the battlefield park, 91.18 hectares in extent, was ‘the free gift in perpetuity of the French nation to the people of Canada’. Construction of the massive work began in 1925, and 11 years later, on July 26, 1936, the monument was unveiled by King Edward VIII.

The park surrounding the Vimy Memorial was created by horticultural experts. Canadian trees and shrubs were planted in great masses to resemble the woods and forests of Canada. Wooded parklands surround the grassy slopes of the approaches around the Vimy Memorial. Trenches and tunnels have been restored and preserved and the visitor can picture the magnitude of the task that faced the Canadian Corps on that distant dawn when history was made.

On April 3, 2003, the Government of Canada designated April 9th of each year as a national day of remembrance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

-Veteran Affairs Canada

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