A magnificent monument on the Vimy Ridge, designed by Canadian sculptor & architect Walter Seymour Allward to commemorate the sacrifice of Canadians in the First World War.
The limestone monument is stunning, overlooking the Douai Plain, with symbolic figures carved into the stone. A cloaked figure stands at the front, a sorrowful figure of a woman, representing Canada, mourning her dead.
Carved on the walls are the names of over 11,000 Canadians who died in France but whose final resting place is unknown.
We visited restored tunnels & trenches with a young Canadian volunteer (they come to France for 4 month stints) who made it clear just how close the allied and German trench lines were – at some points only 25m – and how awful life in the trenches must have been. The network of trenches originally ran the entire 7 kms length of the Canadian sector at Vimy. 5 British tunneling companies excavated 14 ‘subways’ in the Canadian sector, the longest being 1,700m long. They were used for communications, safe movement of soldiers to front line & other support services eg dressing stations.
In the Visitor Centre we read about the contribution of the Canadian Corps in recapturing the strategically important high ground of Vimy Ridge as part of the Battle of the Somme, April 9 – 12th 1917.
Grazing sheep – much of the site is off limits to visitors because it is still littered with unexploded munitions. Sheep graze the rough terrain and craters to keep the grass down. The craters were created by heavy artillery fire & by powerful underground mine explosions. Some were even named eg The Montreal Crater at Vimy Ridge.
There are also 2 cemeteries for more than 3000 soldiers of the WW1 – including more than 370 Canadians who lost their lives during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.