The battle of Vimy is commemorated by the Vimy Memorial, at Vimy Ridge, in Givenchy-en-Gohelle, near Vimy, in the french Pas-de-Calais. It is Canada’s most important memorial to the fallen soldiers of World War 1.
The Memorial commemorates Canada’s role in the First World War with stone figures that symbolize the values defended and the sacrifices made. There is a wealth of symbolism in its sculptures which help the viewer in contemplating the structure as a whole. Built between 1925 and 1936, the works of art, produced by Canadian war artists, record and illuminate the nation’s military achievements by documenting, and commenting on, Canada’s notable contribution.
The monument was designed by a Canadian architect and sculptor, the late Walter Seymour Allward. His design was selected from 160 others submitted by Canadians who participated in a competition held in the early 1920s. The two pylons, representing Canada and France, tower 27 metres above the base of the monument. Because of the height of the Ridge, the topmost figure – that of peace – is approximately 110 metres above the Lens Plain to the east. The land for the memorial as well as the surrounding 100 hectares were given to Canada by France in 1922 in gratitude for sacrifices made by Canada in the First World War and for the victory achieved by Canadian troops in capturing Vimy Ridge in April 1917.
This memorial was built by the people of Canada as a tribute to their countrymen who fought in the Great War and, particularly, to the more than 66,000 men who gave their lives to defend freedom.
As you walk to the front of the monument, you will see one of its central figures – a woman, cloaked and hooded, facing eastward toward the new day. Her eyes are cast down and her chin is resting on her hand.
Below her is a tomb, draped in laurel branches and bearing a helmet. This saddened figure represents Canada – a young nation mourning her fallen sons.
Vimy Ridge is today wooded with Canadian pines and maples, each tree planted by a native of Canada and representing the sacrifice of a Canadian soldier.