As It Happens

Searching for 44 Canadians buried near Vimy Ridge - before the land is developed

A Canadian researcher is trying to find the remains of 44 Canadian soldiers who died while attacking Vimy Ridge 97 years ago - before the field he believes they are buried in is developed as an industrial park....
Listen10:33
A Canadian researcher is trying to find the remains of 44 Canadian soldiers who died while attacking Vimy Ridge 97 years ago - before the field he believes they are buried in is developed as an industrial park.
Norm Christie, a former member of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, says the soldiers, from the battalion known as the "Canadian Scottish" are buried in a mine crater, and lie some six metres below the surface of what is now a potato field. Mr. Christie says most of the soldiers called Manitoba home.

The municipality of Arras would like to develop the area as an industrial park, so Mr. Christie hopes to find the grave before that happens.

He tells host Rick MacInnes-Rae that the kilted soldiers of the Canadian Scottish had successfully broken through the front lines of the German defenses. Almost 100 of the 650 men attacking were killed in the battle. "That's a success, by First World War standards," he says.

According to records, 44 of the men were buried in a makeshift grave called CA-40, but its location has become a mystery. Mr. Christie believes he now knows where it is.

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He's hoping to be able to search the ground using radar, and retrieve the remains by matching them to DNA of family members. The regional government in France has been very co-operative in his quest, he added, so he's optimistic he'll get a chance to look.

But he cautioned the remains are in an area riddled with undetonated bombs. "It can be very, very dangerous," he says.

(Canadians in a support trench at Vimy. Photo Canadian War Records Office/Canadian War Museum)




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