“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign”
Robert Louis Stevenson
Britain governs Canada, so when England went to war, Canada was one of the Commonwealth countries that fought alongside them. Many Canadians joined so they wouldn’t miss out on the action. The soldiers that lived in the trenches had to suffer through the mud, cold rats, lice, fleas and many other obstacles. There was a narrow strip of land in between the British and German trenches that was called no man’s land which was made of mud, barbed wire, and shell craters created by machine gun fire. The soldiers had to cross no man’s land when they launched an attack and a lot of them would die or get injured.
On April the ninth, 1917 at 5.30 am the Battle at Vimy Ridge began. The first line of 15 000 – 20 000 of Canadian soldiers attacked the Germans facing wind, snow and machine gun fire and with many casualties. By noon a lot of the ridge had been captured and by the 10th of April, hill 145 (where the memorial now stands) was taken. There was a huge cost at securing Vimy Ridge with over 6000 injured and over 3500 dead of the Canadian Soldiers.
We visited the Canadian WW1 Memorial at Vimy Ridge and did a guided tour with one of the Canadian University Students through an underground tunnel and the restored WW1 trenches. The student was really good and told us lots about the trenches and tunnels. The underground tunnels were used so the soldiers could plant explosives under the German’s front line and when they exploded then the Allied soldiers would advance into no mans land and try to take over the Germans front line. The land around the site still has huge crater holes left over from WW1. We walked through some of the trenches, I can’t imagine having to live in that tiny space in the cold and rain.
At the Vimy Ridge Memorial they have rebuilt the trenches with concrete duckboards and cement filled sandbags for the walls. It does give you an idea as to the cramped conditions and how close they were to the German front-lines, in some places a stones throw away.
A German machine gun pillbox, where the Germans could fire out of the opening but also be protected from return fire.
The Canadians worked on many underground tunnels or subways the one we toured was part of a 0.8 ‘Grange Tunnel’. The purpose of the tunnels was either to get the soldiers safely to the front-line or for the allies lay explosives under the German’s front-line.
Some of the Crater holes around Vimy
Tourist Information for Vimy Ridge
- 1st April – 30th September: Tuesday to Sunday – 10 am to 6 pm, Monday – 12 pm – 6 pm
- 1st October – 31st December: Tuesday to Sunday – 9 am to 5 pm, Monday – 11 am to 5 pm
Entrance and Guided tour by a student is free
Written and researched by Ava. Photos by mum.