Remembrance Day Special Part 3 – Vimy Ridge and 2 Canadian War Cemeteries

One more jump in days to July 18, 2015; we are still in North of France, staying in the pretty seaside resort village of Honfleur. We had meant to go to Vimy while we were in Belgium as it is not as far as it was from Honfleur, but it hadn’t worked out that way, so we had to leave very early to arrive in good time. And as it turns out,  I was very glad we did.

The amazing monument towering over the landscape once you clear the forested area, is very, very impressive.

DSC_0001 DSC_0002 DSC_0004 DSC_0005    DSC_0011 DSC_0012

We had some serendipitous events happen to us while traveling, but I think none more wonderful than this.

As we approached the monument I spied some armed forces uniforms; wondering what was going on, I asked an officer who was striding fiercely by.



He told me that it just so happened that a contingent of Canadian Armed Forces personnel which had been seconded to the Nijmegen Contingent for the annual International Four Days Marches and were encamped on the nearby base. They were about to head to Nijmegen, but first decided to visit the monument and hold a Remembrance Ceremony, including laying of wreathe and the Last Post with a bugler and bagpipes!

So here we were on July 18 and able to observe and take part in a Remembrance ceremony at Vimy Ridge: the piece of Canadian soil in France, in front of this amazing monument.

Not only that but I noticed some different uniforms …


“Those are cop uniforms,” I said to MLW.

Sure enough, they were Vancouver Police Department members tagging along with the Armed Forces Personnel to go to the walk. Plus 2 RCMP officers! They also came to support the ceremony in Vimy with the Nijmegen contingent.

So here are some views of the monument and some highlights of the ceremony …

DSC_0016 DSC_0017 DSC_0018 DSC_0019 DSC_0020 DSC_0021 DSC_0029 DSC_0031 DSC_0035 DSC_0036 DSC_0044 DSC_0045 DSC_0046 DSC_0047 DSC_0048 DSC_0051 DSC_0052 DSC_0057 DSC_0060 DSC_0061 DSC_0078 DSC_0080 DSC_0081 DSC_0087 DSC_0088 DSC_0090 DSC_0093 DSC_0094 DSC_0097 DSC_0098 DSC_0099 DSC_0100 DSC_0101 DSC_0102 DSC_0104 DSC_0110 DSC_0111 DSC_0114 DSC_0116 DSC_0126 DSC_0133 DSC_0135 DSC_0137 DSC_0138 DSC_0142 DSC_0143 DSC_0146 DSC_0147 DSC_0148 DSC_0150 DSC_0154 DSC_0155 DSC_0157 DSC_0159 DSC_0163 DSC_0164 DSC_0165 DSC_0167 DSC_0171 DSC_0175 DSC_0176 DSC_0178 DSC_0182

I recommend to every Canadian to go to Vimy and see what happened there in 1915 in the miles and miles of tunnels and trenches. They have left the landscape as is (now grown in with grass and stuff but all the bomb craters and trench remains are there.

The electric wired fence all along the battlefields is actually to keep the sheep  in, which the local French  farmers are allowed to graze there. it is a good agreement as Canada doesn’t have to mow the grass and it is better if a sheep gets blown up then a human, as they believe there to be still unexploded ordnance there. Of course, the Monty Python sketch comes immediately to mind …

DSC_0186 DSC_0190 DSC_0191 DSC_0192 DSC_0193 DSC_0194

The visitor centre is small but will soon be rebuilt bigger and better  …

DSC_0197 DSC_0198 DSC_0200 DSC_0202 DSC_0203 DSC_0206 DSC_0207 DSC_0208


and the visitor centre has refurbished tunnels for tours. pretty much as they were except for granite roof and lighting.

DSC_0211 DSC_0212 DSC_0213 DSC_0214 DSC_0215 DSC_0216 DSC_0217 DSC_0218 DSC_0219 DSC_0220 DSC_0221 DSC_0222 DSC_0223 DSC_0224 DSC_0225

The tunnels actually connected up as far back as the town of Arras 12.9 kilometres away so troops and supplies could be brought under mask until the assault.  Tunnel network was dug by Welsh miners because of the chalk content of the stone. They connected up to medieval tunnels made by the locals to store wine cheese etc.

Only runners, officers, medical people, engineers and technicians were allowed in the tunnels. Soldiers slogged on out on the front lines and rotated back to the 2nd and 3rd lines every week – 2 km back each line.

Front line tunnels were built 30 metres down so as to go under the German tunnels and have the potential to listen in on what they were doing or planning; also to be able to come up and lay explosive charges close to the enemy which they could set off in advance of an attack.

Pictures below are of the front line trench (there were three trench lines dug 2 km back from each other back (on both sides German and Allies) which extended in a line from The North sea at Belgium all the way to Switzerland.

The trenches didn’t look like this of course at the time, they were sandbags and mud, and wood planks for floors.

DSC_0247 DSC_0209 DSC_0210 DSC_0226 DSC_0227 DSC_0228 DSC_0229 DSC_0230 DSC_0231 DSC_0246

Sniper viewpoint. The first photo is from the Canadian front line trench looking across no mans land to the German front line trench – both are sniper positions. Yes, at that next hill is the German position

DSC_0232 DSC_0233 DSC_0234 DSC_0235 DSC_0236 DSC_0237 DSC_0239 DSC_0240

Below is No Mans land:  Germans on the right , Canadians on the left. A huge mine crater in the middle from where the Canadians tunneled under up to the enemy line and set 14 explosive mines which preceded their assault. Try to imagine it not grassed but with slick mud, razor wire,and  bodies (some as old as 2 months because no one could get in to retrieve them). What awful horror…


DSC_0241 DSC_0242 DSC_0243 DSC_0244   DSC_0248


One of the methods that the Canadians used to successfully take Vimy Ridge was called the Creeping barrage. Most of the time prior to this, allies would barrage the enemy with shells and mortars until an assault was planned, then suddenly the barrage would stop as they didn’t want to kill their own troops. Well the Germans knew they could just start firing; no need to hunker down.  The Canadians devised a coordinated attack where the barrage would be raised in degrees and distance in front of them so they could continuously move behind the barrage. Another device was allowing the front line soldier and NCOs to know the battle orders and plans, so if the Officers were killed or the base was incommunicado, the troops could carry out the plan anyway.

So much to learn here.

After we left the visitor centre we went to two nearby Canadian cemeteries.

DSC_0251 DSC_0252 DSC_0253 DSC_0254 DSC_0255 DSC_0256 DSC_0257 DSC_0258 DSC_0259 DSC_0260 DSC_0261 DSC_0262 DSC_0263 DSC_0264 DSC_0265 DSC_0266 DSC_0267 DSC_0268 DSC_0269 DSC_0270 DSC_0271 DSC_0272 DSC_0273 DSC_0274 DSC_0275 DSC_0276 DSC_0277 DSC_0277-17 DSC_0279 DSC_0280 DSC_0281 DSC_0282 DSC_0283 DSC_0284 DSC_0285 DSC_0286 DSC_0287 DSC_0288


We will remember them



Part 2


2 thoughts on “Remembrance Day Special Part 3 – Vimy Ridge and 2 Canadian War Cemeteries

  1. Pingback: Remembrance Day Special Part 2 – Juno Beach and Canadian War Cemetary at Beny Sur mer | Colin John Keats

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s