Legion to mark Vimy Ridge anniversary

April 9 is the 90th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge during the First World War and the Royal Canadian Legion Br. #29 will be joining other Legions across the country in holding a celebration that day.
The celebration—open to everyone—will start with a service at the Fort Frances cenotaph on Monday at 1 p.m.
Afterwards, a lunch will be served in the Legion lounge hosted by Br. #29 and the local Legion Ladies Auxiliary.
According to the “Return to Vimy” 90th anniversary tour website, many historians feel the Battle of Vimy Ridge created the first true sense of Canadian unity.
“Forces from each of the provinces joined together and did what other Allied forces during the First World War had failed to do—storming the ridge and conquering a long-held German stronghold.
“Controlling Vimy Ridge gave the Germans control of much of northern France, and they made this strategic point one of the most heavily-defended points on World War I’s Western Front.
“An almost impenetrable combination of tunnels, trenches, barbed wire, massive artillery, and machine guns took the lives of 150,000 French soldiers in 1915 alone.
“In 1917, the Allies decided to launch another attack. Canadian forces—still largely unproven in war—were called in for the assault. For the first time, all four divisions of the Canadian Corps would fight together.
“The Canadian commanders showed unparalleled creativity in designing the assault. Rather than relying on top-down management, as the French and British had done, with generals issuing broad commands that left the troops in the dark, the Canadians gave each platoon detailed, specific instructions and tasks.
“Infantry had specialized roles as machine gunners, riflemen, and grenade throwers, and were trained to use highly-detailed maps to guide them on the battlefield rather relying on officers for direction.
“For months, the soldiers trained on replicas of the ridge.
“On April 2, 1917, the Battle of Vimy Ridge began. The Canadian Corps shelled the German forces for a full week, using more than one million shells in the largest artillery barrage in history to that point; the explosions were said to be heard all the way in London.
“Attacking together for the first time, the four Canadian divisions stormed the ridge at 5:30 a.m. on April 9, 1917.
“The Canadians used a tight creeping barrage, continuing the shelling in advance of the soldiers. Within two hours, three of the four divisions had taken their objective.
“The fourth division was caught on Hill 145, where the Vimy Ridge Memorial now stands.
“Many Canadian soldiers forced their way through machine gun fire armed only with bayonets to force German surrender, and they finally succeeded in taking the hill.
“The battle continued for three intense days before the Allies could claim victory. During the entire battle, 3,598 Canadians were killed and another 7,000 were wounded.
“The capture of Vimy was more than just an important battlefield victory for the Allies. For the first time, all four Canadian divisions had attacked together; soldiers from all regions of Canada had fought.
“Brig.-Gen. A.E. Ross declared after the war, ‘In those few minutes, I witnessed the birth of a nation.’
“Upon hearing that Vimy Ridge, the most fortified point on the Western Front, had been captured, a French solider exclaimed ‘C’est impossible!’ When he learned the Canadian forces had accomplished it, he replied ‘Ah! Les Canadiens! C’est possible!’
“The determination, creativity, and heroism displayed by Canada’s combined forces during this epic World War I battle cemented the Canadians’ reputation as the finest troops on the Western Front, and secured the country a place at the table during the armistice negotiations.”
For more information on Vimy Ridge’s 90th anniversary, visit www.returntovimyridge.ca

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