New education centre opens ahead of 100th anniversary – The Battle of Vimy Ridge
VIMY France – It was a rare victory that did not change the course of the war or the disastrous outcome of the campaign known as the battle of Arras, but the battle of Vimy Ridge 100 years ago defined a nation.
Many who left the trenches that Easter morning may have thought of themselves as British subjects. By the time they reached the top of the ridge they became Canadians. That story will continue to be told at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial’s new education centre.
“The French and the British tried taking Vimy Ridge which was the most heavily guarded defensive position on the western front. The Canadians came along wanting to fight as a united force,” said chair of the Vimy Foundation Christopher Sweeny. “Canadian politicians and Generals were demanding that our boys fight together and not simply plug holes in the British lines.”
There were 100,000 soldiers at VImy the day of the battle and 15,000 fought, according to Sweeny. Canada had 100,000 men to arm, feed and house. What were Canadians doing at Vimy, what happened at the battle of Vimy and how did Canada change. The answers to these questions are answered at Vimy’s new education centre.
The executive director of the Vimy Foundation said this is a great opportunity for all Canadians and the world to come to Vimy and learn about the Canadian role in WWI and Canada at VImy.
“We have an experience now where people come and see the trenches, the tunnels, go over to the monument but this pulls it all together. It will act as an introduction to all,” said Jeremy Diamond.
Diamond first walked the grounds of Vimy about six years ago and said it was a profound and memorable experience. It caused him to contact the Vimy Foundation and lobby the government of Canada for an initial investment. They then went on to seek generous Canadians to match that investment.
One of the main reasons for the Canadian success at Vimy was because there was preparation, practice and learning ahead of the battle to improve the chances for success during the attack. There were also many social innovations contributing to the success, according to Canada’s Governor General David Johnston. He said 40,000 maps were given to soldiers, there was less rigid hierarchy, freedom to adjust tactics and greater trust between soldiers and those in command.
“Victory at Vimy Ridge was achieved in large part through learning,” said Johnston. “In the hours before the battle one can imagine the anxiety, the worry, and the determination of the thousands of Canadians who led the attacks. They had prepared well for the battle.”
Johnston said this education centre project is the result of the leadership and vision of the Vimy Foundation and Veterans Affairs which will operate the centre. It is, he said, the result of the generosity of Canadians and the people of France.