A Travellerspoint blog

Day 62

Vimy

sunny 23 °C

We woke again to a bright sunny day. Our hosts provided us with breakfast and then we were on our way.

We drove about 3 hours to Vimy. Canadians, be proud, the Vimy museum and experience is very well done. We met young people who work at this museum and as tour guides from all over Canada. This can be a four-month experience for them or a permanent posting with Veterans Canada. We were met at the door of the museum and offered free tours of the tunnels and trenches and then we visited the exhibits before setting off to walk to the Monument and cemeteries.

Vimy Museum and Visitor Centre

Vimy Museum and Visitor Centre

Walking down 8 metres below ground to the tunnels

Walking down 8 metres below ground to the tunnels

What the tunnels look like with the lighting provided today

What the tunnels look like with the lighting provided today

These trench walls are only 1/2 the height of the original ones

These trench walls are only 1/2 the height of the original ones

A father and son look out over a trench wall

A father and son look out over a trench wall

The German machine gun nest (pillbox) which was only 30 feet or so from the Canadian front line

The German machine gun nest (pillbox) which was only 30 feet or so from the Canadian front line

The tour guide explained to us that the tunnels that we see as tourists have much better lighting than what existed in 1917 plus we were walking on concrete floors while the soldiers of 1917 walked in mud with occasional wooden ladders laid on the ground to keep their feet out of the mud and water. The same was true of the trenches which would have been twice as deep as the ones we walked through and again, the ground would have been covered with mud and water with wooden ladders to protect their feet.

The soldiers spent 4 to 6 days in these conditions and then went back away from the front lines while another group were on the front line. When they were away from the front line they had training exercises and so on.

These trenches and tunnels were dug through the chalk which comprised the underlying rock formation in this area. Welsh miners did most of the work. Because this rock is white and would alert the Germans to what was going on, it was put in sandbags and carried out at night. One cubic metre of this chalk filled over 200 sand bags. Wheeled carts were developed to get the sandbags from the diggers to the exit holes. These sandbags were buried at night under the ground further away so as to disguise what was going on.

This was the first time all four Canadian divisions had fought together.

When the final attack was going to happen all of the soldiers were crammed into the tunnels. Some of them waited 12 to 36 hours not knowing what was going to happen. It must have been very uncomfortable. They were finally allowed out of the tunnels at 4:30 AM on April 9, 1917 and they charged the German lines at 5:30 AM in the snow and rain. Our Canadian forces were successful in moving the German forces back away from Hill 145 where the Canadian Memorial Monument stands today.

Plaque noting that France gave to Canada the ground on which these monuments stand

Plaque noting that France gave to Canada the ground on which these monuments stand


The remains of trenches in the Vimy area

The remains of trenches in the Vimy area

We walked over to the monument. This first picture is the back of the monument.

Back of the Vimy monument with paper poppies and peace dove

Back of the Vimy monument with paper poppies and peace dove

Before WW I this area was a coal mine. Even today you can see the slag heaps that are left behind from those mines.

Two of the slag heaps from the coal mines

Two of the slag heaps from the coal mines

One of the statues that decorates the back of the monument shows the despair that war causes.

Despair

Despair

This is a close-up of the back of the monument.

Back of the monument

Back of the monument

We climbed up the stairs on the back of the monument then walked around to the front of the monument. We had to walk quite a distance away from the monument to get the whole monument in one photo.

Front of the monument

Front of the monument

There is a statue of a woman on the front of the monument that looks down on a crypt which represents the 11,000 Canadian service men that are dead and missing from WWI. Their names are engraved on the base of the monument.

Woman looking down on the crypt

Woman looking down on the crypt

Close-up of the crypt

Close-up of the crypt

Plaque describing the battle at Vimy Ridge.

Battle description

Battle description

On May 9, 1915 the men of the 1st Moroccan Division indeed managed to break through the German lines and a small wood known as Bois Folie and started the attack on Vimy Ridge. This monument is a tribute to their efforts. This was two years before the Canadian offensive.

Moroccan monument

Moroccan monument

The area that bears the scars of the battle, trenches and tunnels has been left as it was. Tourists are kept away from the area with electric fences which also keep these sheep in the area to control vegetation.

Vimy Ridge lawn mowers

Vimy Ridge lawn mowers

There are two cemeteries on this site. One known as Givency Road Cemetery holds the graves of 111 soldiers (Art counted the headstones) that lost their lives April 9th to 13th, 1917 at Vimy Ridge.

Givency Road Canadian Cemetery

Givency Road Canadian Cemetery

Story of this cemetery

Story of this cemetery

As we left this cemetery we noticed a small family of elderly people walking toward the Vimy Monument. It seemed very touching to Reta so she took a photo.

Elderly walking toward the monument

Elderly walking toward the monument

Nearby to the Givency cemetery is the Canadian Cemetery 2 which holds the graves of 370 Canadian soldiers who lost their lives at Vimy Ridge. There are a total of 3,000 First World War soldiers from many countries commemorated at this cemetery. These soldiers are victims of the 1914 - 1918 conflict.

Canadian Cemetery 2

Canadian Cemetery 2

We spent about 3 hours at the Vimy area. We learned a lot about our countrymen and what they accomplished. Many of them were as young as 15 or so.

World War One claimed the lives of 61,000 Canadians. The wounded numbered 172,000. Newfoundland which joined Canada in 1949 lost 1,305 people and several thousand were wounded.

After our Vimy tour we drove to our lodging tonight in a suite on a working farm about 40 kilometres from Vimy. Tomorrow we will visit Flanders Field and then travel to our hotel in Amsterdam.

Posted by A-RPoulton 12:05 Archived in France

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