The Battle of Vimy Ridge and its Role in Identity of Canadian Essay Example
What is the defining moment in the birth of a nation? Throughout Canada’s complex history, the country has had a plethora of influential moments that brought forth change and growth. One of Canada’s largest military endeavors was the battle of Vimy Ridge during World War I. The battle was a significant victory for Canada and its success extended far beyond the battlefield. Innovations made by Canadian leaders, as well as the sacrifices made by their soldiers, surprised the world and heavily influenced the outcome of the war. Vimy Ridge was a turning point in Canadian identity.
The extensive preparation and excellent leadership by Major-General Arthur Currie had a tremendous impact on the overall accomplishment of the battle. Firstly, he designed and executed a battle plan that was radically different from any previous offensive. The attack was meticulously organized with troops working in the air, on the ground and in tunnels underground to take pictures of the terrain and gain intelligence from the enemy trenches. Also, Currie implemented the creeping barrage strategy and instructed troops during the Week of Suffering, where more than a million shells rained down on German lines.
Secondly, Currie took every step necessary to make sure that each of his soldiers were prepared for the attack. He divided men into specific groups such as; riflemen, machine gunners and grenade throwers, and gave each group specialized training. He walked them through the assignment on a full-scale replica of the battlefield and distributed 40,000 detailed maps to the troops, optimizing their chances of success. Finally, Currie learned from past mistakes and was committed to making this a very different type of battle.
In 1916, Currie met with British and French commanders to understand the major errors that led to 630,000 casualties at the Battle of the Somme. He also adopted a different command model that relied on intelligence, organization and strategy, demonstrating his willingness to break free from out-of-date thinking. General Arthur Currie changed the way the war was fought. His visionary leadership created a powerful team of soldiers who were fully informed and fully engaged. He embraced new ideas that resulted in profound planning, displaying Canada’s readiness and aptitude for battle. Sir Arthur Currie said, “A thorough preparation must lead to success. Neglect nothing.” This quote illustrates that no effort is too small, highlighting the importance of listening to every member of the team, unifying the army and strengthening Canadian identity.
After months of tireless preparation, the Canadian Corps finally showcased their abilities in combat and were highly effective contributors to the Allied success. Firstly, the Canadians proved that they could hold their own in a battle against an unrelenting German defence. The troops moved at a steady, articulated pace of 100 yards every three minutes and crossed enemy lines in precise formations. They were meticulous with their techniques, yet showed explosive power and exceptional fighting, which overwhelmed the Germans and captured most of the ridge.
Additionally, the soldiers embodied true courage and were willing to sacrifice themselves for their country. The Canadian troops were aware of the 200,000 French and British soldiers who had died during failed attempts to capture the ridge. Nevertheless, they stormed into battle, understanding the potential of being killed in action. Lastly, the Corps remained resilient through adversity and never backed down when faced with life threatening situations.
The attack on April 9th was painstakingly cold, yet the troops marched onwards through the wind-driven snow and sleet into the face of deadly machine gun fire. Though the 4th division struggled to overthrow Hill 145, the brave soldiers persisted and fought their way through the fortified German trenches and managed to capture the rest of the ridge. The effectiveness of Canadian soldiers at Vimy Ridge was something the Germans had never seen before. The Corps’ dominance led to the most important Allied victory on the Western Front and demonstrated its unique abilities, ferocious fighting and undeniable fortitude. Though 3,600 Canadian lives were lost during the battle, their sacrifice cemented the ongoing reputation of being an honourable, skillful and elite fighting force, being a landmark fight in Canadian identity.
The defeat of the Germans in 1917 had huge effects on the formation of Canadian identity, as it was more than just a win on the battlefield, it propelled Canada into the spotlight and initiated its presence on the world stage. Firstly, the accomplishment was a breakthrough for the Allies and shifted the overall momentum of the war. Vimy Ridge was a long, high hill that dominated the surrounding landscape. Standing 150m above ground, it offered a commanding view of both sides.
When the Canadians captured the ridge, it diminished German morale because the ridge was heavily guarded and said to be impenetrable. Contrastingly, it provided a lift to the Allies, as it was a huge tactical advantage, which helped them win a string of other victories later on in the war. Secondly, the Canadian triumph at Vimy Ridge was a significant stepping stone towards independence as a nation. At the beginning of the war in 1914, Canada was merely a colony of Britain, however, this battle marked the first time in which Canadians fought together as a distinct national army. The success they achieved allowed their troops to finally emerge from Britain’s shadow and earned them a separate signature on the Treaty of Versailles that formally ended the war.
Finally, it was a coming of age moment for Canada that helped a young country discover its national pride. The Canadian Corps managed to accomplish in a few days what the other Allied nations couldn’t do in two years. Furthermore, the battle was the first time that all four divisions of the Canadian Corps had fought together, showing the strength of Canadians when they fought as one. The Battle of Vimy Ridge yielded massive repercussions for Canada and its growth as a nation. The magnitude of the success was only heightened by the fact that Canadian soldiers defied the world’s expectations and proved themselves as key contributors, not only to the efforts in the war, but to the common good. Brigadier-General A.E Ross notably stated, “I thought then… that in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation.” This quote demonstrates how Vimy Ridge opened so many doors for Canada and distinguished it as an independent country. In fact, the French thanked Canadians for their service and gave them the ridge where a memorial now stands on Hill 145.
When regiments from coast to coast saw action together in a distinctly Canadian triumph, it helped create a new and stronger sense of national identity. The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a defining moment for Canada that fundamentally changed the nation for the better. Through compelling leadership and conscientious planning, all four divisions were able to validate their excellence on and off the battlefield. This monumental victory did more than help win the war for the Allies, it was a turning point that made the world recognize Canada as a nation of its own. The battle had transformative effects in assisting Canadians to recognize their full potential and strengthened the country’s identity.