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10 things you might not know about Vimy Ridge

 

Canadian soldiers parade in front of the Canadian memorial in France, 2007. (Philippe Huguen/Getty Images)

During World War I, many Canadians were very proud of their country’s armed forces for what they achieved in the battle of Vimy RidgeWhat makes you proud to be a Canadian? Is it our awesome sports teams and athletes, our breath-taking landmarks or the fact that our country is one of the largest in the world?

On April 9, 1917, soldiers from all across Canada started a battle that would end in one of the most important victories for the Allied forces (the side that Canada fought for in the war).

Let’s check out some interesting facts about this key event in Canadian history.


1. The land of Vimy Ridge

Vimy Memorial lit up at night

(Lara Chatterjee/CBC)

France granted Canada the Vimy Memorial and the use of the 100 hectares of land it sits on in perpetuity (forever) and the Canadian government maintains the land. This land includes preserved trench lines, cemeteries and other memorials.


2. The "Vimy Glide"

historical photo showing soldier on horseback going across Vimy Ridge

The Canadian Light Horse going into action at Vimy Ridge. April, 1917. (Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada)

When attacking Vimy Ridge, Canadian soldiers moved forward at a measured speed of 100 yards every three minutes. This effective technique would come to be known as the “Vimy Glide.”


3. Grange subway

the underground tunnel at Vimy Ridge lit up with electric lighting

The Grange subway tunnel. (Lara Chatterjee/CBC)

It was difficult to see the Canadian soldiers approaching because they travelled through “subways,” or underground tunnels that led them right to the enemy’s front lines! Today, 250 metres of the underground Grange subway tunnel have been preserved and Canadian interpretive guides provide tours.


4. Close trenches

walking through the Canadian trenches

(Lara Chatterjee/CBC)

At Vimy Ridge, the Canadian and German trenches were so close to each other — in some cases only about 25 metres apart — that the soldiers could hear each other on quiet nights.


5. Courageous reputation

historical photo of soldiers returning from the battle

Canadian soldiers returning from Vimy Ridge. May, 1917.  (Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada)

After the Vimy attack, Canadian soldiers gained a reputation as courageous fighters and were called upon to fight in the most difficult battles to ensure victory.


6. Vimy sheep

sheep grazing in the danger zone of Vimy Ridge

(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Since 2001, the land around the Vimy Memorial has been maintained by sheep! Their grazing not only keeps the vegetation short enough for the visitors, but it's also much easier on the delicate terrain that is full of underground tunnels and active landmines.


7. Newfoundland Memorial

the Beaumont Hamel memorial

Beaumont Hamel dedication. (Canada. Department of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / ecopy)

When World War I started, Newfoundland wasn't part of Canada yet. Newfoundland soldiers are instead commemorated at Beaumont Hamel, a National Historic Site where the Royal Newfoundland Regiment was defeated.


8. Bluebirds

historical group photo of the Nursing Sisters

O.C. and Nursing Sisters, 4th Casualty Clearing Station, Valenciennes. November 1918. (Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada)

Women were not allowed to be soldiers in World War I, but they still played an important role during the war effort, both at home and overseas. Thousands of women volunteered as Nursing Sisters — nicknamed "Bluebirds" because of their blue uniforms — with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. They tended to the wounded soldiers on the front lines and on hospital ships.


9. Memorial dream

historical photo of the Vimy Memorial and its land as seen from above

(Photo by General Photographic Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A great monument now stands at the site of the victory in Northern France as a tribute to all of the brave Canadian soldiers and to symbolize Canada's long commitment to peace in the world. Canadian architect Walter Seymour Allward said that the design for the monument came to him in a dream!


10. Vimy on your money

hand holding a couple of Canadian 20 dollar bills

(Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Vimy Ridge continues to be a symbol of national pride. The Vimy Memorial was designated a Canadian National historic site and is featured on the back of the Canadian $20 bill. Spend it, save it, but never forget it!