Our guest speaker for May was Past President Art Currie who spoke in great detail about the Battle of Vimy Ridge and followed his presentation with a video about the 1917 battle.
Art pointed out that at the time of the First World War, Canada’s population was approximately eight million and from that number, 620,000 served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force with 424,000 serving overseas. Some 60,000 died with 51,700 of those battle casualties. Another 1,400 died serving in the Royal Flying Corps.
Vimy Ridge is considered so important in this country’s history because it marked the first time that Canada’s four divisions fought together. They were joined by one British division for a total of 170,000 men under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir Julian Byng. Arthur Currie was commander of the 1st Canadian Division.
The Canadian forces were called on to capture Vimy Ridge as part of the Battle of Arras after the French had failed to displace Germany forces who had held the ridge for two years. But the Canadians did learn from the French experience and historians attribute the success of the Canadian Corps to a mixture of technical and tactical innovation, meticulous planning, powerful artillery support and extensive training. Excellent intelligence provided by aerial reconnaissance, extensive tunneling, trench raids and improved technology helped the Canadians prepare for the battle.
The actual attack began on Easter Monday, April 9, and by nightfall the next day the Canadians had almost completely achieved their objectives. But it did not come cheaply. There were 3,598 dead out of 10,602 Canadian casualties.
Art pointed out that most Canadian soldiers in the First World War were either born in the U.K or their parents were and the concept of fighting for “King and Empire” was very strong. However, as the war continued the reality of fighting as Canadians began to grow.
Our speaker at the upcoming June meeting will be Annika Gionet, representing the Owl Foundation which is an owl rehabilitation centre in the Niagara Region.