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Canadian History for Kids: Vimy Ridge

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One and Canadian History for Kids have assembled 31 remarkable stories about incredible people, places and events which helped shape our amazing nation.

A grateful nation never forgets a hero.

Arthur Currie leads all four divisions of the Canadian Corps, capturing most of Vimy Ridge by nightfall.

April 9th, 1917, Easter Monday, four Canadian military divisions attacked Vimy Ridge in northern France during the first world war. This Canadian History for Kids, Sketches of our Canada, looks at this battle and the ‘birth of a nation”.

The ridge fell under German control in October 1914 during the war. The ridge provides a natural free view for tens of kilometres in all directions and was important for the German’s to maintain France, which they had invaded. Both British and French forces had tried unsuccessfully to take the ridge earlier during the war. In spring 1917 the task was given to the Canadian Corps, commanded by British Lt-Gen Sir Julian Byng, and his right-hand man, Arthur Currie, kept Canadian casualties down.

After the Canadian troops carefully trained and rehearsed, at 5:30 a.m. April 9th, they attacked. It was the first time the Canadians attacked together, and they achieved a brilliant victory, sweeping the Germans off the ridge. By April 14 they had gained more ground, more guns, and more prisoners than any previous British offensive had done.

Canadian casualties mounted to 3598 deaths and 7004 wounded. Nevertheless the sense of achievement and national pride created by this success gave the Canadians a great feeling of self-confidence. The Canadian Corps was to gain recognition as an elite corps.

The Canadian achievement in capturing Vimy Ridge owed its success to sound and careful planning and thorough training, all of which was designed at minimizing casualties.

Canadians attacked German machine-guns, the greatest obstacles to their advance, with great courage. They saved many lives as a result.

Another Canadian History for Kids fact is that four Canadian soldiers won the Victoria Cross for their bravery.

A Canadian History for Kids fact is how at Vimy, the Canadian Corps had captured more ground, more prisoners and more guns than any previous British offensive in two-and-a-half years of war. It was one of the most complete and important battles of the Great War and the greatest Allied victory up to that time.

The Canadian success at Vimy marked a deep turning-point for the Allies. A year-and-a-half later, the Great War was over. The Canadian record, crowned by the achievements at Vimy, won for Canada a separate signature on the Versailles Peace Treaty ending the war.

The victory at Vimy, won by troops from every part of the country, helped unite many Canadians in pride at the courage of their citizen-soldiers, and established a feeling of real nationhood.

Brigadier-General Alexander Ross had commanded the 28th (North-West) Battalion at Vimy. He said of the battle: “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.”

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