Vimy Ridge - 90 Years On
THE REDEDICATION OF THE MEMORIAL (4)
Speech by M. Dominique de Villepin, Prime
Minister of French Republic
Majesty, Prime Minister of Canada, Ministers, Members of
Parliament and elected representatives, Ambassadors,
Monsieur le Préfet, General Officers, Ladies and gentlemen.
We are gathered today at the monument to the
Canadian soldiers killed at the battle of Vimy Ridge.
90 years ago, on Easter Monday 1917, an
allied offensive attacked an enemy fortress here, a fortress
defended by reinforced concrete, barbed wire, machine-gun nests,
mines and trenches, and which had already cost the lives of more
than 150,000 Entente troops.
90 years ago this Easter Monday, after a week
of shelling the enemy lines, in driving sleet, 35,000 Canadian
soldiers launched their assault. Beneath a deluge of fire, they
advanced towards the German defences. By midnight on Tuesday,
Vimy Ridge had fallen. 3,600 Canadian troops were dead and
11,000 wounded. By their courage and their spirit of sacrifice,
those who fought at Vimy struck one of the first of the blows
that opened the way to victory a year and a half later.
Altogether 66,000 Canadians, all volunteers,
many of them so young, coming from all over Canada, were to give
their lives for this war fought so far from home. They did so
out of solidarity with Great Britain and with France, their
brothers. That is why on 26 July 1936, King Edward VIII, your
uncle, Ma’am, inaugurated this monument of commemoration and
Your nation, Mr Prime Minister, displayed
this same solidarity again at Dieppe on 19 August 1942, and on
D-Day, when Canadian troops were in the front line on Juno
Beach, paving the way for the Liberation of Europe.
The heroes of Vimy died to defend values
which have constantly united us and brought us together: values
of peace, freedom, tolerance and respect for man. Our
democracies must go on defending these values throughout the
world. This is why we are together involved in safeguarding
peace in Bosnia, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Haiti
and Afghanistan. It’s why I want, in France’s name, to pay a
solemn tribute to the Canadian soldiers fallen on French soil.
In my thoughts too are the six Canadian soldiers killed
yesterday in the line of duty in Afghanistan.
To our British allies, I want to express our
On this Artois soil which has suffered so
much, and where our allies were our liberators, France says
thank you to Canada. Thank you Canada.
To the Great War veterans, I want to express
the whole nation’s heartfelt admiration and deep gratitude.
France honours the Canadian soldiers! France honours Canada!
Long live the Republic! Long live France!
Speech by the Right Honourable Stephen
Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
Majesty, Mr. Prime Minister of the Republic of France,
distinguished guests, veterans, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you
all for honouring us with your presence today.
Canadians here today are a long way from home but there may be
no place on Earth that makes us feel more Canadian, because we
sense all around us the presence of our ancestors.
close our eyes we can see them, dressed in their olive khaki
uniforms, rifles slung over their shoulders, the distinct
wide-brimmed helmet perched on their heads.
are emerging from their filthy trenches, trudging through the
boot-sucking mud, passing the skeletons of trees and the shell
holes of blood, surrounded by the horrible noises of war.
Overhead, the Canadian Red Ensign is fluttering through the
hundred thousand brave Canadians fought here 90 years ago today.
Three thousand five hundred and ninety-eight died.
nation has a creation story to tell.
First World War and the battle of Vimy Ridge are central to the
story of our country.
names of all the great battles are well known to Canadians and
Newfoundlanders, but we know the name of Vimy best of all,
because it was here for the first time that our entire army
fought together on the battlefield and the result was a
spectacular victory, a stunning breakthrough that helped turn
the war in the allies favour.
the importance of historical events is only understood with the
benefit of hindsight but at Vimy everybody immediately realized
the enormity of the achievement.
Brig-Gen. Alexander Ross famously said that when he looked out
across the battlefield he saw, and I quote, "Canada from the
Atlantic to the Pacific on parade,'' and that he felt he was
witnessing the birth of a nation.
year after the war ended the brilliant Canadian commander at
Vimy, Sir Arthur Currie, put it another way in a speech at
Toronto's Empire Club.
was a nation of immigrants before 1914, he said. Now these men
who have come back are your very own.
tells our story of the First World War as eloquently or as
powerfully as this extraordinary monument. It reminds us of the
enormity of their sacrifice and the enormity of our duty to
follow their example and to love our country and defend its
freedom for ever. The veterans of Vimy passed their stories to
their children, who passed it to theirs, who passed it to us,
who are passing it to our children.
Thousands of them are with us today. And some of them will
return here someday with their own children, and their
nothing tells our story of the First World War as eloquently or
as powerfully as Walter Allward's extraordinary monument to the
11, 285 Canadians who fell in France with no known resting
said he was inspired by a dream. He saw thousands of Canadians
fighting and dying in the vast battlefield. Then, through an
avenue of giant poplars, a mighty army came marching to their
rescue. They were the dead, Allward said. They rose in masses
and entered to fight and aid the living: I have tried to show
this in this monument to Canada's fallen, what we owed them, and
will owe them forever.
sometimes said that the dead speak to the living. So at this
special place at this special time on this special day, let us
together listen to the final prayer of those whose sacrifice we
are honouring. We may hear them say softly: I love my family, I
love my comrades, I love my country and I will defend their
freedom to the end.
Speech by Her Majesty, Queen
and gentleman, in any national story there are moments and
places, sometimes far from home, which in retrospect can be seen
as fixed points about which the course of history turns; moments
which distinguish that nation forever. Those who seek the
foundations of Canada's distinction would do well to begin here
this day 90 years ago, Vimy Ridge had been impregnable; a lesson
learned at terrible cost to the armies of France and Britain.
For the Allies, this ridge had become a symbol of futility and
despair. It was against this forbidding challenge that the four
divisions of the Canadian Corps were brought together as a
single army for the first time.
matter of a few hours, on this cold and inclement Easter Monday
morning, the Canadians became masters of the ridge and
accomplished what many had thought impossible. Their victory was
the fruit not only of an ingenious battle plan drawn up by
Canadian commanders, but especially of courage and determination
with which Canadian soldiers carried out their mission.
fewer than four Canadians were awarded the Victoria Cross for
conspicuous bravery during the battle, though it could easily be
said that every soldier in the field demonstrated conspicuous
bravery, such was the verve of the Canadian attack. It was a
stunning victory. More, in capturing this formidable objective,
the Canadian Corps transformed Vimy Ridge from a symbol of
despair into a source of inspiration. After two-and-a-half years
of deadly stalemate, it now seemed possible that the Allies
would prevail and peace might one day be restored.
on this hallowed ground, where so much has been sacrificed,
we're commemorating their courage and achievement. Their victory
gave more than hope, it allowed Canada, which deserved it so
much, to take its place on the world stage as a proud, sovereign
nation, strong and free. Canada's commemorative monument at Vimy
shows Canada's great strength and its commitment to freedom and
also shows the deep solidarity that links Canada and France.
lastly, it certainly shows the bravery, courage and sacrifice of
the courageous Canadians that inspired a young nation to become
a great nation.
their eternal remembrance, to those who have recently lost their
lives in Afghanistan, to Canada, and to all who would serve the
cause of freedom, I rededicate this magnificently restored