Peace Trees and Trenches, Vimy Ridge

Beautiful Mother Canada

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.

German Shelter at Vimy

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.

Into the Trenches

We literally read every plaque in the interpretation centre, studied every corner of the monument, travelled the trenches and prayed for the dead at the great war cemeteries.

Fallen Canadians

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.

The Safe Path

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.

Blasted Waves

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.

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You can follow this trip by heading to the ‘8 Country EU Tour‘ section, and you can enjoy many more photos of France by heading to the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.


3 responses to “Peace Trees and Trenches, Vimy Ridge

  1. “At the time (1917), Canada was barely a country.” It was the same for Australia – Federation was in 1901 and even though we were a fledgling nation in our own right Australians felt a strong pull to the United Kingdom and so many fought there for King and country. We visited many sites on the Somme where Australian soldiers fought and are buried. It’s very moving, especially when you read how young some of them were.


    • That has always blown me away about war – sending our young to die. I just think of myself at 20 & imagine being in the same terrifying position. War is such a strange thing. I am a bit obsessed with ‘remembering’ & learning about world battles.

      Our countries have a lot in common actually (& have fought together a few times) according to what I have read – I have never been to Australia (though it is on my list!). I guess both being former British colonies helps out with our similarities… =)


      • I know when we went to the Somme and visited all the Australian World War One sites, I tried to imagine what it would have been like to launch myself over the top of a trench and start running towards the enemy knowing that they were going to start shooting at me but it was simply impossible. What tremendous courage they must have had.

        I think you would enjoy Australia very much. At least we speak the same language!


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