Standing between the grand towers made to represent Canada and France, is a statue symbolizing ‘Mother Canada‘. She overlooks in mourning, the plains where so many (of her) children were lost in the battle of Vimy Ridge. At the time (1917), Canada was barely a country.
She united for the first time to join France in an attempt to finally break through the integral ridge ‘line’ (a key position for Germany) that had been held, unbroken for two years already.
Remains of last minute emergency German bunkers, built from sections of crumbling road, still stood in the spot they were constructed as a last attempt to survive the Canadian onslaught.
Standing beside Mother Canada to take the above photo, evoked feelings in me that were so powerful I could almost imagine the suffering of the 60,000 mothers who had lost their babies on that day 95 years ago.
Yes, I cried.
Looking out at the still ragged battle grounds, knowing that thousands of un-named men lay buried just beneath the surface, I couldn’t help it.
We spent more time at Vimy Ridge than we did the night before in Paris.
We even had a fantastic conversation with the young Canadian woman who worked at the centre. Turns out most of the employees at Vimy are bilingual Canadians, primarily University students.
They do a ‘tour’ at Vimy and then return to Canada (she was from Ottawa), to continue with their studies.
She told us that some hosts will tell you that the sheep are for cutting grass alone, that they are smart enough or light enough to avoid triggering the land mines. This version is told to groups with children or persons deemed sensitive.
In actuality, the sheep are part of a land mine de-activation program. She said that sometimes miraculously they set the land mines off and somehow walk away uninjured, but they are indeed there for a very important reason – to save human lives.
The added benefit is that they also keep the grass trimmed. I think Lady Diana would approve.
Aside from the infamous tree line that was used as base ground, the ridge was initially void of woodland. The trees that stand at Vimy now were planted to honour the Canadian soldiers who lay buried where they fell, to ‘make them feel comfortable’.
They are referred to as the ‘peace trees’.
Though we could have stayed for a few more hours and toured the tunnels, we still needed to get to Calais to see about getting off of this land mass. It was time to head out and continue our drive.
- Canadians at Vimy Ridge
- Corporal Will Bradbury: Hero of Vimy Ridge and Hill 70 by Roy MacGregor (littleimmigrants.wordpress.com)
- Canada Pays Tribute to All Who Served at a Remembrance Ceremony at Canadian National Vimy Memorial (sys-con.com)