Tag Archives: Vimy Ridge

France, Canada leaders mark centenary of Vimy Ridge

Military boots symbolising dead soldiers are seen as a Canadian police mounted officer stands guard before the ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge, at Canadian National Memorial in Vimy, France, April 9, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

By Miranda Alexander-Webber
April 9, 2017

ARRAS, France (Reuters) – French President Francois Hollande and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led commemorations on Sunday marking the centenary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in northern France in which over 3,500 Canadian soldiers were among the dead.

A giant poppy made up of messages of love and gratitude was unveiled at Heroes Square in the town of Arras where Hollande and Trudeau wrote their own notes and placed them among others.

The Canadian armed forces, representing the four battalions that fought in the 1917 battle, conducted a military parade at sunset on Saturday, the eve of the centenary.

During the First World War battle on Easter Monday in 1917, over 3,500 Canadian soldiers, many of them below 20 years old, died while capturing the ridge in a fierce battle with German forces.

Hollande, Trudeau and British princes Charles, William and Harry were to take part in a ceremony later on Sunday expected to draw some 25,000 people.

Copyright Reuters 2017

(Reporting by Miranda Alexander-Webber; Writing by Bate Felix; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) poses for a selfie picture at Heroes Square in Arras, France, as part of a ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy RIdge April 9, 2017. REUTER/Philippe Huguen/Pool

French President President Francois Hollande (L) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (R) place signed red circles that form a giant poppy design at Heroes Square in Arras, France, as part of a ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy RIdge April 9, 2017. REUTERS/Thibault Vandermersch/Pool

A Canadian police mounted officer stands guard before the ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge, at Canadian National Memorial in Vimy, France, April 9, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

A Canadian police mounted officer stands guard before the ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge, at Canadian National Memorial in Vimy, France, April 9, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Military boots symbolising dead soldiers are seen as Canadian police mounted officer stand guard before the ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge, at Canadian National Memorial in Vimy, France, April 9, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Military boots symbolising the dead soldiers are seen as a Canadian police mounted officer stands guard before the ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge, at Canadian National Memorial in Vimy, France, April 9, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

French President President Francois Hollande (R) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak at Heroes Square in Arras, France, as part of a ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy RIdge April 9, 2017. REUTERS/Thibault Vandermersch/Pool

People attend a Remembrance Day ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge, at Canadian National Memorial in Vimy, France, April 9, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

An image of a sculpture on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial is projected on the National War Memorial during an overnight vigil on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, April 8, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

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“War to End All Wars” fading from history

A copy of a Vancouver newspaper dated April 10, 1917, celebrating Canada’s role at Vimy Ridge. The battle of Vimy Ridge began 100 years ago, on Sunday, April 9, 1917. It’s often called the making of Canada. And it’s fading from history.

Remembrance, a photo-essay by Greg Locke and Deborah Jones

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Remembrance Day is an occasion when people are supposed to remember and honour those who died in their nation’s wars. But why should we believe that this obligation exists? The dead are dead.  … read more

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Every person who fought in World War I is now dead – and yet no one alive today is unaffected. The war consumed much of the globe for, arguably, decades. Many contend that the unresolved conflicts of the “Great War” re-ignited to become the conflagration we call World War II, then set in motion events from the Cold War to today’s Middle Eastern conflicts. A century after it began, I am most astonished at the hubris. … read more

Far from Flanders Fields, By Deborah Jones

It’s at Ypres that my imagination falters, along with my tenuous grasp of poet John McCrae’s identity, and interest in the tiresome debate over the merits and meanings of his poem In Flanders Fields. It’s because of Ypres I am unable to imagine a man with the sensitivity of a poet and the intelligence of a physician harbouring “romantic” notions of war in the conditions of 1915 trench warfare. … read more

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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From Vimy to Gibraltar, Obamacare to Russia: Journalism Matters at F&O

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New on F&O this weekend:  Sunday April 9 marked the 100th anniversary of the WWI battle of Vimy Ridge — said to have marked Canada’s passage from colony to country status. Read our report with photo-essay by Reuters, France, Canada leaders mark centenary of Vimy Ridge WWI battle. In Commentary Tom Regan notes that for Canada and the United States, the battle and World War I have very different meanings.  Read Regan’s column,“War to End All Wars” fading from history, here.

Jonathan Manthorpe this week considers Gibraltar — “The Rock” Caught In A Hard Place — in a new column about the territory in British hands since 1713, and is now emerging as an issue in negotiations with Brussels to leave the European Union. Read more about Gibraltar.  Manthorpe’s previous column, Beijing brings order to its colonial “Savage Reservations,” contends that Beijing is reaching back into the excesses of Maoist Stalinism and forward into the high-tech social control of Aldus Huxley’s “Brave New World” to try to contain the restive natives of its colonial outposts, Tibet and Xinjiang, setting the stage for grief for Hong Kong. Click here for the column on China, or here for the list of all of Manthorpe’s F&O works.

Americans turn Canadian about health care, writes Penney Kome in a new piece about how U.S.  public opinion is forcing Republicans to think “expansion,” not “repeal,” of the Affordable Care Act. Read the column, or find Kome’s complete  F&O OVER EASY columns here.

Jim McNiven has been pondering the fuss made by America over Russia, and asks this week, Why Does America’s President Bother with Russia? That column is here, or find all of McNiven’s THOUGHTLINES columns for F&O here.

Noteworthy items elsewhere on the web:

“Why do so many in the news media love a show of force?” asks Margaret Sullivan in the Washington Post.
Good question. The answer is probably found in audience ratings and social media shares– and so, as with everything in the world of commerce, with citizen’s demands.

First Draft News produced a well-received “Field Guide to Fake News,” launched this month at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy. The Columbia Journalism Review reports.
Stories about America’s political meltdown have become a flood. As mentioned earlier, these diverse, authoritative and credible news sites are worth following for breaking news: Reuters, the New York TimesPolitico,Washington PostBBC, The GuardianAl Jazeera, France24Financial Times, and The Economist.

Last but not least, here are some of our other recent stories, in case you missed them:

Trump Staffers’ Financial Disclosures /ARIANA TOBIN & DEREK KRAVITZ, ProPublica

Trump and Russia: “There is a smell of treason in the air”/TOM REGAN    Column

Beijing brings order to its colonial “Savage Reservations”/JONATHAN MANTHORPE  Column

European leaders renew fraying Union’s vows/ALASTAIR MACDONALD & JAN STRUPCZEWSKI  Report

Lights go out around the world for 10th Earth Hour/REUTERS   Slideshow

Fukushima still in hell/PENNEY KOME    Column

McGill University mangles academic freedom/TOM REGAN   Column

America’s Republican Quandary/ JIM McNIVEN   Column

Sri Lanka’s slow shuffle to lasting peace/JONATHAN MANTHORPE  Column

Reader-Supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We survive on an honour system. Thanks for your interest and support. Details.

Note: this post was updated April 9 to include our report on the Vimy Ridge event in France.

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“War to End All Wars” fading from history

World War 1 tank and soldiers. Great War Observer, Creative Commons

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
April 8, 2017

For Canada and the United States, World War I has very different meanings.

In America, it is a barely remembered oddity. Very few Americans know that 100 years ago on Friday, April 6, 1917, America entered the First World War. Buried under the tsunami of the “Greatest Generation,” that won World War II, and wedged in between that war and the Civil War some 50 years beforehand, the “war to end all wars,” as it’s known in much of the world, rates barely a blip in a country that pays scant attention to its history at the best of times.

It’s a completely different story in Canada. World War I is very much present in the minds of many older and younger Canadians. And that is primarily because of one battle – Vimy Ridge, which began 100 years ago on Sunday, April 9. It was the first time that all four Canadian divisions in the war fought together.

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The British and the French had previously tried to take Vimy Ridge, and failed. The repeated assaults on the Ridge were little more than diversionary tactics designed to draw German strength away from a more strategically important battle, the battle of Arras. But that did not matter to Canadians, who stormed and captured Vimy Ridge.

It was a battle that became mythologized, true or not, as the “moment” Canada became a country.

In America, World War I was seen as a problem that the United States needed to avoid. The imperial powers of Britain and France fought the imperial powers of Germany, Russia and Turkey for control of the European continent. Although Britain and France upheld democratic ideals, close to American beliefs, American politicians distrusted European long-term objectives and saw the war as a way for the countries involved merely to increase their territorial holdings. (And in some ways, this was very true, particularly regarding  the Sykes-Picot agreement dividing up the Middle East between the imperial powers, a deal that haunts the world to this day.)

Two events changed America’s perspective on the war. The first was the sinking of the British ship the Lusitania in 1915; 128 Americans were killed when it was torpedoed in the Irish Sea by a German submarine. After this, American President Woodrow Wilson became much more vocal in his support of Britain and France, despite the attempts of German-Americans to keep America out of the war.

The final straw was the January, 1917, Zimmerman letter to Mexico from the German Foreign Ministry, to the government of Mexico. It proposed a military alliance between the two countries and Japan if the United States entered the war. (Germany, which had decided to return to unrestricted submarine attacks on merchant shipping, anticipated this would draw in the US.) It called on Mexico to invade United States, and Germany promised that it would help recapture and hold the land Mexico lost to the US in the 1840s, including Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. The letter created a firestorm in the US. It was only a matter of time before the Americans went “over there.”

Despite its current low profile, World War I did affect America in many important ways. Perhaps the most important was how many immigrants, who had always been viewed with suspicion by Anglo-Protestant Americans, came to be seen as “real” Americans for the first time because of their willingness to sign up and fight. It promoted America’s move from a mostly-rural culture to a much more urban one. For many of the thousands of troops who went to Britain and France, this was the first time they had been more than 20 or 30 miles away from the spot on which they had been born. And, as the song says, “How ya going to keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paris?”

The front of a Vancouver newspaper dated April 10, 1917, celebrating Canada’s role at Vimy Ridge.

Canada had been involved in the struggle from the very beginning, but always under the command of British officers. Part of Vimy Ridge’s importance was because Canadians won that battle with minimal British help.

There were dark moments. In Newfoundland, which back then was a colony of Britain, and not yet a part of Canada, July 1 does not only mark the day Canada became a country in 1867, but  the day that 758 Newfoundlanders took the field at Beaumont-Hamel on the first day of the battle of the Somme in 1916. By the end of that day 90% of the Newfoundland Regiment were dead, dying, or wounded. At the next day’s roll call only 68 men were present. There was hardly a town or an outport in all of Newfoundland was not touched by that day’s events.

For me, World War I is also very present. I was named after a great uncle, my grandmother’s brother, who was killed by a sniper during that war. I have very strong memories of watching First World War veterans taking part in ceremonies at the National Cenotaph in Ottawa when I was growing up. As a youngster, I met several men who had fought in the war. It does not seem like it was 100 years ago to me.

After the war, Canada was different. It no longer saw itself as a colony of Great Britain, but as its own country. Some 20-odd years later when World War II started, Canada did not declare war on Germany the same day as Great Britain, but purposely waited several days, to make the point ‘we call our own shots from now on.’

Taking a more realistic view, World War I was an unnecessary slaughter of hundreds of thousands of men on both sides for reasons that are still not very clear. And while Vimy Ridge was an important moment for many Canadians, it’s fair to say that it means more to English Canada than to French Canada, so the claim that it is the moment that Canada became a country needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

I think that after this year’s anniversaries, World War I, the “war to end all wars,” will continue to disappear into the background, and perhaps will become only a comment in British historical dramas, Canada’s National Film Board documentaries, and maybe some Ken Burns-like filmmaker in America deciding to do a series on PBS. It led to many changes in many countries, but I doubt that in another 50 years it will be marked by more than a few paragraphs in high school history books.

Copyright Tom Regan 2017

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

Further information:

Three films, available online from Canada’s National Film Board:

The battle of Vimy Ridge represents a turning point in the First World War. From April 9-12, 1917, as part of the British-led Battle of Arras, four divisions of the Canadian Corps rallied and captured the German-held high ground. However, the price of victory was steep: 10,500 Canadians perished or were injured in combat. Historians see this battle as one of Canada’s most important military victories as well as a decisive element in the consolidation of a burgeoning Canadian unity and identity. Mark the 100th anniversary of this fierce battle with these few NFB films. Go to NFB site.

You may also like these works from F&O’s archives:

Remembrance, a photo-essay by Greg Locke and Deborah Jones

A philosopher asks: what do we owe the dead? By Janna Thompson

Remembrance Day is an occasion when people are supposed to remember and honour those who died in their nation’s wars. But why should we believe that this obligation exists? The dead are dead.  … read more

World and War, By Deborah Jones

Every person who fought in World War I is now dead – and yet no one alive today is unaffected. The war consumed much of the globe for, arguably, decades. Many contend that the unresolved conflicts of the “Great War” re-ignited to become the conflagration we call World War II, then set in motion events from the Cold War to today’s Middle Eastern conflicts. A century after it began, I am most astonished at the hubris. … read more

Far from Flanders Fields, By Deborah Jones

It’s at Ypres that my imagination falters, along with my tenuous grasp of poet John McCrae’s identity, and interest in the tiresome debate over the merits and meanings of his poem In Flanders Fields. It’s because of Ypres I am unable to imagine a man with the sensitivity of a poet and the intelligence of a physician harbouring “romantic” notions of war in the conditions of 1915 trench warfare. … read more

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Tom Regan Tom Regan is a journalist in the Washington, D.C., area. He worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92, and is a member of the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for journalism at Harvard.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details and payment options, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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