The Vimy Memorial overlooks the Douai Plain from the summit of Vimy Ridge. Located north of Arras in France, the Memorial is Canada’s largest overseas National Memorial.
After the war, the highest point of the ridge was chosen as the site of the great memorial to all Canadians who served their country in battle during the First World War, and particularly to the 54,000 who gave their lives in France and Belgium.
It also bears the names of 11,000 Canadian servicemen who died in France, many of them in the battle for Vimy Ridge, who have no known grave.
The battle is considered by Canadians to represent 'The Birth of the Nation' It was the first time that all 4 Canadian Divisions, made up of men from all the provinces of Canada, had fought together.
They played a leading role in the huge tactical victory in the capture of the 60 metre high ridge. The task was daunting. The Germans had been in occupation of the ridge since the early days of the war and the defences constructed in that period were formidable, including concrete blockhouses and shelters underground to protect against artillery bombardment.
The preparation for the assault was meticulous. Rail lines were laid to move stores and ammunition, pipes were laid to deliver water to the thousands of men and pack animals. Crucially, several kilometres of tunnels were dug towards the ridge, so that the initial approach of the assault was not visible to the Germans.
The slopes leading up to the memorial are pockmarked by shell craters. There is barely any area where the ground is flat.
All over the Western Front, from Ypres, Loos and Vimy in the north, to the borders with Switzerland, there continues to be The Iron Harvest. Tens of millions of shells were fired by both sides in the 4 years of WW1. In the 'hurricane bombardment' of the German lines before the Battle of the Somme, British artillery fired 1.5 million shells in 6 days. On 1st July, 1916, the first day of the battle, 250,00 more were fired.
Every year, hundreds of unexploded munitions are found, mostly by farmers ploughing, some with fatal results.