On the way back to London from Normandy, we stopped by the Canadian Memorial in Vimy Ridge. The Battle of Vimy Ridge occurred in April 1917, and it was a major military success for Canada during the First World War. It was also the first time that the four Canadian divisions in Europe fought together during the war.
On the highest point of the ridge stands the memorial. On the base of the memorial, the names of the Canadian soldiers who were missing/presumed dead are inscribed.
One of the strategic purposes of this area (so called Hill 145) was that it served as a vantage point.
One of the strategies during World War I was the use of trenches to defend against enemy attack. Some of the trench networks have been preserved.
The tour guide explained that the trench networks are not perfectly straight because if an enemy force were to attack the trench, neither side could have perfect line of sight through the entire trench line. At the same time, the height of the trench in the rear is slightly lower so that artillery shells may glide over, rather than bouncing off the trench wall and landing in the trench.
Looking out of the trench, one can see the so-called “No man’s land“. Neither side could freely move here without danger of getting fired upon. This area was once littered with mines, barbed wire, and corpses among other things. Repeated artillery bombardment and mine detonations created large craters in the terrain, which are still visible today. An electric fence still blocks the way into the no man’s land since there are still live mines here today.
The Canadian divisions transported personell and supplies through an underground tunnel, which a part of is also preserved. During the war, it was also way darker than shown in the picture and also infested by critters like rats. It was also quite common for some soldiers to sleep here.
For reference, this is what the battlefield looked like at the time (courtesy of Wikipedia). It is pretty hard to see the resemblance between the historical pictures and what it looks like today. Part of the reason is also that only a portion of the battlefield was preserved and the rest of it was redeveloped.
In Social Studies class in high school, I had learned about this place and its significance to Canada. I had seen a lot of World War II sites during my time in Europe, but this is one of the few times where I see a site related to World War I.
Link to the Vimy Ridge photo album