Sunday, August 09, 2009
A FURTHER LOOK AT THE EPIC BATTLE OF VIMY RIDGE
VIMY RIDGE: A Canadian Reassessment, Edited by Geoffrey Hayes, Andrew Iarocci, & Mike Bechtold, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, Waterloo, 353 pages, photographs, maps, bibliography, index.
The three military historians who compiled this study are acknowledged experts on Canadian participation in World War One, particularly well-equipped to select these commentaries on one of our country’s most epic battles. The result is a compendium of twenty cogently written opinions and reports about the final bloody struggle for possession of Vimy Ridge, now considered not only an important military victory but also a defining moment for Canadian nationhood.
They tell how (unusually for those days) the Canadian troops at all levels of rank were given detailed briefings on the planned strategy before the attack was launched, which enabled even private soldiers to surge forward confidently to fight a “corporal’s battle,” often independent of direction by officers.
The book puts the struggle in context; the hill’s strategic significance, the seldom-mentioned British participation, and the German point-of-view. It also provides insights about the personalities and military styles of various senior officers – including General Julian Byng, Canadian Corps commander, and Major. Gen Arthur Currie, who insisted on meticulous preparations before the attack by his First Canadian Division.
Excellent photographs movingly show Canadian warriors of all ranks who fought so valiantly that day, and good clear maps help readers follow various tactical moves during the battle. This retrospective provides a thorough explanation of exactly why those monumental concrete towers now stand atop Vimy Ridge.
-- Sidney Allinson