Chez WW in England

Chez WW in England

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Valley of the Somme & Vimy Ridge, France

31 August 2011

Leaving Arras, we drove through the Valley of the Somme heading towards Beaumont Hamel and Vimy Ridge. Poppies and graves litter the landscape. At every intersection there are signs pointing to cemeteries and memorials in every direction. Reading about the Western Front in a history book is one thing. Seeing the magnitude of it is another. It is on a scale unlike anything I had ever seen before. 700,000 men died on the Western Front and that is just from the British Empire. All of the graves are in pristine condition. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission does an incredible job ensuring that the cemeteries are peaceful and respectful.

After Beaumont Hamel, we headed to Vimy Ridge. For years I had watched the Remembrance Day Ceremony at the Vimy Ridge Memorial. The site, like Beaumont Hamel and Juno Beach, is staffed with Canadian students. Like Beaumont Hamel, Vimy Ridge has been left as it was. The mine craters dot the area. Sheep graze the area and act as lawn mowers since it is not safe to have people in certain areas. The trenches still exist and can be toured.

The Battle at Vimy Ridge, fought between the 9th – 12th april 1917,  was a huge victory for the four divisions of the Canadian Corps. It was the first time that all four divisions of the Canadian Corps had fought together.The ridge protected a vital part of the German war machine. The German position was very well defended and they were not going to give up without a fight. The Canadian and British soldiers had to fight their way across No Man’s Land, avoiding machine gun fire, mine craters and wire defences. Their objective was to reach the German Front Lines and push them back, to take away land from the enemy. It could take months and cost thousands of lives just to push the enemy back a few feet. The Canadian Corps obtained their objective. The Vimy Ridge Memorial stand as a monument of the fighting spirit of the Canadian Corps.

We took a tour of the trenches and tunnels that have been preserved since The Great War. As bad as the conditions were in the tunnels, there was at least cover from gun-fire. A maple leaf is carved into the wall of one of the tunnels.

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