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Vimy Ridge Memorial

The Battle of Vimy Ridge

The Battle of Vimy Ridge

Vimy Ridge
Photo credit: Veterans Canada website

April 9th - 12th 1917

In the summer of 1914 the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand resulted in an international crisis, due to political tensions and the complex military alliances of the era, and in August the fighting had begun.

The First World War involved Britain (and her Empire), France, Russia and the United States against Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire.

Canada, whose external affairs at that time were governed by the United Kingdom, automatically joined the war once Britain declared it.

After more than two and a half years at war, in the Spring of 1917, Canadian forces were part of the Western Front, a line stretching for nearly 1000 km from the coast of Belgium, to the border of Switzerland. Life in the trenches was miserable, soldiers faced mud and cold, as well as rats, lice and fleas. There was a ’No Mans Land’ between the opposing trenches of mud, barbed wire and shell craters, with enemy machine gun fire, artillery and snipers.

Vimy Ridge
Photo credit: Veterans Canada website
Vimy Ridge
Photo credit: Veterans Canada website

A major attack was planned for April 2017, in Arras, France, as part of the Allied offensive. The Canadians were tasked with capturing Vimy Ridge.

Vimy Ridge is a long, high hill that Germany had captured early in the war. They had made it into a strong defensive position, with tunnels, trenches, and soldiers with machine guns and artillery.

The Canadians took part in rigorous training and planning for the battle. Models of the trench system were built and the soldiers trained on what to do, they also raided German positions to gather intelligence. Tunnels were dug beneath the German lines filled with explosives to be detonated during the attack.

For a week before the attack there was a massive artillery barrage from the Allied forces. More than a million shells rained down and the Germans came to call this the ‘Week of Suffering’

Vimy Ridge
Photo credit: Veterans Canada website

The Battle of Vimy Ridge

The battle of Vimy Ridge began at 0530 on Easter Monday, April 9th 1917.  There was wind driven snow and sleet, and machine gun fire, for the first wave of 15,000-20,000 Canadian soldiers to fight through.

The Canadians had a precise line of Artillery fire move ahead at a set rate and time, known as a ‘creeping barrage’. The infantrymen followed closely which allowed them to capture German positions before the enemy soldiers could leave their underground bunkers. This attack was timed to the minute.

The assault proceeded on and by noon most of the ridge was captured, but not without a great number of casualties. The main height on the ridge, known as ‘Hill 145’ was taken on the morning of April 10th. Two days later the Canadians took the last height of the hill and the Battle of Vimy Ridge was over. 

The Germans were forced to withdraw 3km east. The allies now commanded the heights overlooking the Douai Plain, which was still occupied by the enemy.

Vimy Ridge
Photo credit: Veterans Canada website

Four Canadian soldiers earned the Victoria Cross, the highest medal for military valour, when they captured enemy machine gun positions in separate actions.  The Canadian Corps, along with the British Corps in the South, had captured more ground, prisoners and artillery than any previous British offensive of the war.

The battle of Vimy Ridge, although a great success militarily, suffered more than 10,600 casualties, of which 3.600 were fatal.  Canada would see 66,000 Canadians losing their lives, and over 170,000 wounded by the end of the First World War. 

This military triumph helped Canada bring a stronger sense of national identity and raised our international stature. It helped Canada earn a separate signature on the Treaty of Versailles that formally ended the war.

Today, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial sits on top of Hill 145, and is inscribed with the names of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who were listed as ‘missing, presumed dead’ in France during the First World War. It stands as a tribute to all who served our country and paid the ultimate price to help ensure the peace and freedom we enjoy today.

Vimy Ridge Memorial
Photo credit: Veterans Canada website

Veterans want Canadians to understand the price of freedom. They are passing the torch to the people of Canada, so the memory of their sacrifices will continue, and the values they fought for will live on in all of us. Find out more about Vimy Ridge on the Government of Canada website in the Remembrance section.

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RCAF 100 logo

RCAF Centennial

RCAF Centennial

RCAF 100 logoToday we celebrate the 100th anniversary of The Royal Canadian Air Force.

1 April 2024 marks 100 years of service for the Royal Canadian Air Force as a distinct military element. The Centennial milestone places the RCAF in a unique position to honour its distinct heritage; recognize its tremendous people today; and generate excitement for its bright future.

For more information on the RCAF centennial visit their website or the Government of Canada website.

Key historical moments

Authorization of the RCAF

The RCAF was formed on 1 April 1924. It had three components – a full-time permanent force (regular force), a part-time non-permanent force (air reserve), and a reserve of non-active personnel. No non-permanent units were created at that time as the funding was not available. The RCAF was not an independent organization as it reported to the Chief of the General Staff, the head of the Canadian Militia (the name of the Canadian Army at the time). The RCAF was now a full-time organization with its own orders: the King's Regulations and Orders for the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Pay and Allowance Regulations for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Although its role did include the defence of Canada, this role would take a back seat to flying operations performed for other government departments.

RCAF Becomes Independent of the Canadian Militia
From the time of its formation, the RCAF had been under the command of the Chief of the General Staff (CGS), the head of the Canadian Militia, as the Canadian Army was then known. On 19 November 1938, the RCAF no longer reported to the CGS but directly to the Minister of National Defence.
Canadian Forces Reorganization Act Comes Into Effect

On 1 February 1968, the Canadian Forces Reorganization Act Come came into effect, amalgamating the RCAF, Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Army. The RCAF was broken up to be part of Air Defence Command, Air Transport Command, Materiel Command, Training Command, Maritime Command and Mobile Command. The first four were largely composed of former RCAF units.

Air Command Begins Operations

On 2 September 1975, Air Command began bringing air units under its command and administrative control. It also began to develop air-related policies for all air units and personnel. This was the start of one unified air force again.

 

Wing Cdr Barker - RCAF 100
Wing Commander Barker, VC, DSO, MC, the first director of the RCAF when it was formed on 1 April 1924. He was in the position temporarily, until 19 May 1924.

RCAF WWII

WRCAF

Snowbirds
Image credits. All the above images are from the RCAF 100 website

RCAF Centennial

RCAF 100 logoToday we celebrate the 100th anniversary of The Royal Canadian Air Force.

1 April 2024 marks 100 years of service for the Royal Canadian Air Force as a distinct military element. The Centennial milestone places the RCAF in a unique position to honour its distinct heritage; recognize its tremendous people today; and generate excitement for its bright future.

For more information on the RCAF centennial visit their website or the Government of Canada website.

Key historical moments

Authorization of the RCAF

The RCAF was formed on 1 April 1924. It had three components – a full-time permanent force (regular force), a part-time non-permanent force (air reserve), and a reserve of non-active personnel. No non-permanent units were created at that time as the funding was not available. The RCAF was not an independent organization as it reported to the Chief of the General Staff, the head of the Canadian Militia (the name of the Canadian Army at the time). The RCAF was now a full-time organization with its own orders: the King's Regulations and Orders for the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Pay and Allowance Regulations for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Although its role did include the defence of Canada, this role would take a back seat to flying operations performed for other government departments.

RCAF Becomes Independent of the Canadian Militia
From the time of its formation, the RCAF had been under the command of the Chief of the General Staff (CGS), the head of the Canadian Militia, as the Canadian Army was then known. On 19 November 1938, the RCAF no longer reported to the CGS but directly to the Minister of National Defence.
Canadian Forces Reorganization Act Comes Into Effect

On 1 February 1968, the Canadian Forces Reorganization Act Come came into effect, amalgamating the RCAF, Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Army. The RCAF was broken up to be part of Air Defence Command, Air Transport Command, Materiel Command, Training Command, Maritime Command and Mobile Command. The first four were largely composed of former RCAF units.

Air Command Begins Operations

On 2 September 1975, Air Command began bringing air units under its command and administrative control. It also began to develop air-related policies for all air units and personnel. This was the start of one unified air force again.

 

RCAF WWII

WRCAF

Snowbirds
Image credit. All the above images are from the RCAF 100 website
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Flag and arm crop

Afghanistan veterans

Canada and the War in Afghanistan

Flag and arm cropCanada's longest war and its first significant combat engagement since the Korean War (1950-1953) was in Afghanistan from 2001-20014.

After the 2001 terror attacks on the United States, Canada joined an international coalition to dismantle the al-Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban regime that sheltered it in Afghanistan.

Although the Taliban rulers were removed from power until 2021 and the al-Qaeda network was disrupted, Canada and its allies failed to eradicate either group and were unable to secure and stabilize Afghanistan.

More than 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members served in the 12-year campaign. The war killed 165 Canadians - 158 soldiers and 7 civilians.

Many Canadian veterans of the war in Afghanistan suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to an investigation by the Globe and Mail, more than 70 Canadian soldiers and veterans who were deployed to Afghanistan had committed suicide by December 2017. “Many had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues related to their military work, along with personal problems such as relationship breakdowns and financial stress.” 

If you are a veteran affected by PTSD or other OSI (Operational Stress Injury) please feel free to reach out to our Service Officer John Vanderelst or see the list of resources on our Veterans pages.

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