Canadians prepare to observe special anniversary -- WWI assault on Vimy Ridge

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Ninety years ago, on Easter Monday, April 9, 1917 troops of the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s four divisions launched a dawn assault on Vimy Ridge.

It was a momentous day, for the first time they were all fighting as a unit under their own general and, as many claim, Canada became a nation in the process.

Although Canada had earned many Empire battle honours, from Lundy’s Lane in 1814 to the Boer War in South Africa to repulsing the German gas attacks at Ypres in 1915, Vimy was the first time Canadians had not fought under British army command.

In five days they swept the Germans off the ridge, succeeding with new tactics and training, much to the surprise of the French and British who had earlier failed. The cost, as always during the Great War, was enormous with more than 10,000 casualties, including 3,600 dead.

The twin-towered Vimy Memorial is a Canadian historic site near Arras, completed in 1936. Located on the militarily designated Hill 145, where some of the last and heaviest action occurred, it is engraved with names of 11,285 Canadians “missing, presumed dead” in the Great War.

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