The Canadian War Memorial of Vimy is the most prestigious Canadian monument in Europe and was designed by the Canadian sculptor and architect, Walter Seymour Allward. The Vimy Memorial stands on Hill 145, overlooking the Canadian battlefield of 1917, at one of the points of fiercest fighting and is located about 10 kilometres north of Arras, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region.
The Memorial stands as a tribute to all Canadian soldiers who risked or gave their lives in battle during the First World War and commemorates the 9 April 1917 battle.
The construction of the Memorial required 11,000 tonnes of concrete and masonry for the foundations, reinforced with hundreds of tonnes of steel. The towering pylons and sculptured figures contain almost 6,000 tonnes of limestone brought to the site from an abandoned Roman quarry on the Adriatic Sea (in present day Croatia). It took 11 years to build it.
Inscribed on the ramparts of the Memorial are the names of the 11,285 Canadian soldiers who were declared “missing and presumed dead” in France and have no known graves.
A commemorative ceremony takes place every year on 9 April, the date of the battle’s anniversary.
In 1922, the land which contains the Vimy Memorial was granted by the French nation to the people of Canada in recognition of the sacrifices made by Canada during the First World War and for the victory achieved by Canadian troops when the Vimy Ridge was seized on 9 April 1917.
The Canadian Memorial of Vimy offers a spectacular view of the mining valley of Artois region, which was the context of violent and bloody fighting during the war.
Standing on the monument’s wide stone terrace overlooking the broad fields and rolling hills of Northern France, one can see other places where Canadians fought and died. More than 7,000 are buried in 30 war cemeteries within a 20 km radius of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Altogether, more than 66,000 Canadian service personnel died in the First World War.
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The 110 hectare park surrounding the Vimy Memorial is adorned with 11,285 Canadian pine trees paying tribute to the 11,285 Canadian soldiers “missing and presumed dead” during the First World War.
Even today, the grassy ground is pock-marked with the depressions of mine-craters, shell-holes and mounds from the massive artillery bombardment which the Canadians used before seizing Vimy Ridge. Because the ground is still full of unexploded mines and shells, visitors are warned not to stray from marked pathways. By walking through the perfectly restored trenches and tunnels, the visitors can experience the significance of the task the Canadian Corps had to carry out to defeat the German troops.
What is this ?
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier refers to a grave in which the remains of an unidentified soldier are interred and is dedicated to the common memories of all soldiers killed in any war. Such tombs can be found in many nations and are usually high-profile national monuments. Throughout history, many soldiers have died in wars without their remains being identified. Following the First World War, a movement arose to commemorate these soldiers with a single tomb, containing the body of one such unidentified soldier.
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