Vimy: A memorial like no other

Posted on 2007/04/03

Among the countless people who've marvelled at the great Canadian monument on Vimy Ridge in northeast France, none is as infamous as Adolf Hitler, who strode among the monument's shining white walls in the spring of 1940 as his conquering army swept toward Paris.

This weekend, thousands of visitors, including the Queen and scores of Canadian school children, will also gather there for a grand ceremony to remember the events of another war, and the remarkable Canadian achievement there 90 years ago this Easter.

Hitler's visit to the site has been largely forgotten in Canada today.

And what many of this weekend's pilgrims won't know is that the monument itself, which some consider the greatest war memorial ever built, has a history all its own, as turbulent and compelling as the famous battle it honours.

When the First World War ended in 1918, the high escarpment at Vimy was a scarred landscape of shattered trees, artillery craters and crumbling trenchworks, still holding the remains of some of the 3,598 Canadians who died capturing the ridge in the four-day battle of April 1917.

Vimy was one of eight battlefield sites in France and Belgium where Canada sought and received permission to build memorials in honour of the more than 66,000 of its fallen soldiers in the Great War...


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