Edmonton and the battle of Vimy

The Battle of Vimy Ridge began at 5:30 a.m. on Easter Monday, April 9, 1917. The first wave of 20,000 Canadian soldiers, each carrying up to 36 kilograms of equipment, attacked through the wind-driven snow and sleet into the face of deadly machine gun fire.

In just four days, a highly trained and unified Canadian force was able to achieve something both British and French forces had been unable to accomplish in over three years – victory over German forces at Vimy Ridge.

The 49th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Edmonton Regiment) and 190 men of the 19th Alberta Dragoons, fought at Vimy Ridge. One third of the soldiers of the 31st (Alberta) Canadian Infantry Battalion were from Edmonton and also fought in this battle. As well, many of the 11th Canadian Field Ambulance (Western Universities) were from Edmonton and worked under enemy fire to bring back wounded soldiers of the 4th Canadian Division.

A year later, in March and April 1918, possession of Vimy Ridge by the Canadians prevented the German Army from attempting to break the Allied Power’s defensive Western Front line at Vimy during the enemy’s final, and ultimately unsuccessful, major push to win the war.

The story of Vimy Ridge is one of commitment, training, bravery and sacrifice. While 3,598 Canadian soldiers were killed during the battle, the impressive victory over German forces is considered by many to be the beginning of Canada’s evolution from dominion to independent nation.

The Legacy

At Vimy Ridge, regiments from coast to coast saw action together in a distinctly Canadian triumph, helping create a new and stronger sense of Canadian identity in our country. Canada’s military achievements during the war raised our international stature and helped earn us a separate signature on the Treaty of Versailles that ended the war.

Today, on land granted to Canada for all time by a grateful France, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial sits atop Hill 145, rising above the now quiet surrounding countryside. This great monument is inscribed with the names of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who were listed as “missing, presumed dead” in France. It stands as a tribute to all who served their country in battle and risked or gave their lives in the war and paid such a price to help ensure the peace and freedom we enjoy today.

Important Historical Facts:

  • Vimy marked the first engagement of the complete Canadian Corps, fighting as a formation within the British 1st Army.
  • The battle was the only major success made by the British Expeditionary Force in the much larger First Battle of the Scarpe (1917), the opening phase of the larger Arras Offensive (1917).
  • Canadians suffered over 10,500 casualties of which 3,598 soldiers were killed in action.
  • Edmonton’s part-time Canadian Militia (never more than 500 soldiers) began its formation in 1906, and during the First World War raised 14,000 volunteers in thirteen battalions of infantry, two squadrons of cavalry, and recruited drafts to augment other Canadian Expeditionary Force combat arms and support services.

For more historical information visit The Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum:  http://www.lermuseum.org/.