CBC Digital Archives

1936: Vimy Ridge Memorial unveiled

They called it "The Great War" and "The War to End All Wars" – though of course it didn't. When hostilities erupted in Europe in 1914, Canadians rushed to Britain's side. But the cost was terrible: more than 60,000 were killed, 172,000 wounded. There are no more Canadian combat veterans alive to recall the horrors of the First World War, but their voices and memories live on in the archives of the CBC. Lest we forget, here are some of their stories.

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It's a consecration of love, says King Edward VIII of the Vimy Ridge Memorial in France. Before a crowd of Canadians and dignitaries, the memorial is unveiled and dedicated to Canada's fallen sons. For many, the ceremony is bittersweet -- it is both a memorial to those who died in the First World War and a commemoration of Canada's growing sense of nationhood.

In 1917, Canadian forces recaptured the high ridge from German control. Canadian soldiers and civilians celebrated the hard-fought victory and contribution to the war effort. At the end of the war, France gave Canada the Vimy Ridge grounds on which to build a memorial. In this 1936 clip from CBC Radio, King Edward speaks of Canada's great loss and tremendous contribution in the First World War.

• Before the Canadians attacked on Easter Monday, British and French attempts to capture the German position had failed. After three days of fighting, the Canadians successfully took the high ridge but at a great price: 3,598 soldiers were killed and 7,004 were injured.

• Brigadier-General Alexander Ross commanded the 28th Battalion at Vimy Ridge. Of the battle, he said that 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."

• The memorial was designed by Canadian sculptor and architect Walter Allward. His proposal was selected from over 160 other submissions in a cross-country competition.

• Inscribed on a series of long walls are the names of 11,285 Canadians who were killed in France, their resting places unknown. Sitting on the walls are two stone pylons and 20 giant statues. The pylons represent Canada and France and the statues represent truth, knowledge, gallantry and sympathy.

• In 1960, the Department of Veterans Affairs requested permission to destroy Allward's original plaster prototypes. The Minister of Veterans Affairs argued that they were less valuable than the finished product because they were simply working models. The Minister of National Defence refused and the models are now housed in the Canadian War Museum.

Also on July 26:
1845: English explorer Sir John Franklin disappears on an expedition in the eastern Arctic. He is last seen by a crew of whalers on Baffin Bay. It was later learned that Franklin's ships were frozen in, west of King William Island.
1923: Warren Harding arrives in Vancouver to become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Canada. Harding died of a stroke a week later in San Francisco.
1998: Forty thousand people gather at Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg for a Winnie-the-Pooh Friendship Day. In 1914, Canadian soldier Harry Colebourn bought a bear cub and named it Winnipeg after his hometown. The bear, nicknamed "Winnie," quickly became a regimental mascot during the First World War and later inspired author A.A. Milne's children's classic.
Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News Special
Broadcast Date: July 26, 1936
Speaker: King Edward VIII
Duration: 5:07
Photo: National Archives of Canada PA 183544

Last updated: July 21, 2014

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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