On April 9, 2017, Canada commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, during which four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought side-by-side to defeat three divisions of the German Sixth Army in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France during World War I. Historians have often cited this battle as representing the birth of Canada as a nation.
Vimy was undoubtedly a significant battle for Canada. The Canadian Corps suffered 10,602 casualties: 3,598 killed and 7,004 wounded. Five military units from British Columbia were involved, and the Vimy battle honour is carried by these modern day units:
- British Columbia Dragoons (Kelowna)
- British Columbia Regiment (Vancouver)
- Canadian Scottish Regiment (Victoria)
- Royal Westminster Regiment (New Westminster)
- Seaforth Highlanders of Canada (Vancouver)
Lest we forget.
“The Birth of a Nation”
The Battle of Vimy Ridge is often cited as the moment when Canada as a nation was born. Below, we list four works that argue on one side of this concept or the other. We invite members to weigh in with their thoughts on our BCHF Facebook page.
- “Honouring Canada’s Greatest Generation: Vimy Ridge and the Home Front” by Barry Gough (PDF). Barry Gough, Honorary President of the BCHF and author of From Classroom to Battlefield: Victoria High School and the First World War (Heritage House, 2014), discusses how Vimy Ridge was a centrepiece of Canadian sacrifice and glory, with important legacies for the building of modern Canada.
- Vimy: The Battle and the Legend by Tim Cook (Allen Lane, 2017). Military historian Tim Cook explores how memory of the battle has evolved over 100 years, using new archival material and photographs to place Vimy in context as more than just a defining battle, but as a story of Canadian identity and memory.
- Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment edited by Geoffrey Hayes, Andrew Iarocci and Mike Bechthold (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2007). Drawing on original research, this book explores the battle from three perspectives: the Canadian Corps within the wider context of the Western Front in 1917; Canadian leadership, training, and preparations, via the story of each of the four Canadian divisions; and the commemoration of Vimy, both for contemporaries and later generations of Canadians.
- The Vimy Trap by Ian McKay and Jamie Swift (Between the Lines, 2016). A finalist for the 2016 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, The Vimy Trap challenges the idea that Canada became a nation on the Vimy battlefield. Combining scholarly insight with sharp-eyed journalism, the authors aim to explain both how and why peace and war remain contested terrain in ever-changing landscapes of Canadian memory.