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Vimy Ridge

A Canadian Reassessment

Edited by Geoffrey Hayes, Andrew Iarocci, and Mike Bechthold
Subjects History, Canadian History, Military History, Battlefield Guides
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Paperback : 9781554582273, 368 pages, March 2007
Hardcover : 9780889205086, 368 pages, March 2007
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554586974, 368 pages, October 2009
Ebook (PDF) : 9781554580958, 368 pages, March 2007

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment, edited by Geoffrey Hayes, Andrew Iarocci, and Mike Bechthold

List of Illustrations




Part I: The Strategic Background

1. Vimy Ridge and the Battle of Arras: A British Perspective | Gary Sheffield

2. The End of the Beginning: The Canadian Corps in 1917 | Paul Dickson

3. Vimy Ridge: The Battlefield before the Canadians, 1914–1916 | Michael Boire

Part II: The Battle for Vimy Ridge, 9–12 April 1917

4. “Old Wine in New Bottles”: A Comparison of British and Canadian Preparations for the Battle of Arras | Mark Osborne Humphries

5. Julian Byng and Leadership in the Canadian Corps | Patrick Brennan

6. The Gunners at Vimy: “We are Hammering Fritz to Pieces” | Tim Cook

7. The Sappers of Vimy: Specialized Support for the Assault of 9 April 1917 | Bill Rawling

8. The Canadian Army Medical Corps at Vimy Ridge | Heather Moran

9. The 1st Canadian Division: An Operational Mosaic | Andrew Iarocci

10. The 2nd Canadian Division: A “Most Spectacular Battle” | David Campbell

11. The 3rd Canadian Division: Forgotten Victory | Geoffrey Hayes

12. The 4th Canadian Division: “Trenches Should Never be Saved” | Andrew Godefroy

13. The German Army at Vimy Ridge | Andrew Godefroy

14. In the Shadow of Vimy Ridge: The Canadian Corps in April and May 1917 | Mike Bechthold

Part III: Aftermath and Memory

15. Battle Verse: Poetry and Nationalism after Vimy Ridge | Jonathan Vance

16. “After the Agony in Stony Places” The Meaning and Significance of the Vimy Monument | Jacqueline Hucker

17. Safeguarding Sanctity: Canada and the Vimy Memorial during the Second World War | Serge Durflinger

18. Afterthoughts | The Editors


1. Order of Battle—Vimy Ridge

2. Lest We Forget: The Men of Vimy Ridge

Selected Bibliography



Contributors’ Bios

Mike Bechthold is the managing editor of Canadian Military History and the Communications Director of the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies. He teaches military history at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Michael Boire is a graduate of Loyola College, Montréal, the Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston and the Ecole supérieure de Guerre, Paris. He teaches Canadian military history at the Royal Military College.

Patrick Brennan earned his PhD from York University. He is an associate professor in the history department at the University of Calgary, where he is a fellow in the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies. His research interests focus on the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He is currently working on a study of senior commanders in the Canadian Corps—Currie’s and Byng’s Commanders: A Study in Military Leadership during the Great War.

David Campbell completed his graduate studies in history at the University of Calgary where he specialized in military history. His major area of research is the social and operational history of the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. He currently resides and teaches in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Tim Cook is the First World War historian at the Canadian War Museum, where he recently curated the South African and First World War permanent gallery. His first book, No Place To Run: The Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the First World War (2000) won the C. P. Stacey award for the best book on military history published in Canada or written by a Canadian that year. His second book, Clio’s Warriors: Canadian Historians and the Writing of the World Wars was published in 2006.

Paul Dickson is a strategic analyst and military historian with the Centre for Operational Research and Analysis at the Department of National Defence. He has published articles on leadership and operations during the First and Second World Wars in, among others, The Journal of Military History, War and Society and Canadian Military History.

Serge Durflinger is an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Ottawa. From 1998 to 2003 he served as an historian at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. He is the author of Lest We Forget, a history of the Last Post Fund of Canada and Fighting From Home (2006) an exploration of the Second World War’s impact on the bilingual community of Verdun, Québec.

Andrew B. Godefroy is a strategic analyst working with the Canadian Army’s Directorate of Land Strategic Concepts, as well as Director of the Fort Frontenac Army Library and Managing Editor of The Canadian Army Journal and The Canadian Army Reading List. A military field engineer officer of sixteen years service, he is currently completing a study of the conceptual and doctrinal evolution of the Canadian Army after the Korean War.

Geoffrey Hayes is an associate professor of history at the University of Waterloo. He is the author of The Lincs: A History of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment at War, 1939–1945 (1986) and Waterloo County: An Illustrated History (1997). He is also the associate director of the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. Hayes has led many Canadians on tours of the battlefields of Northwest Europe, including Vimy Ridge.

Jacqueline Hucker holds a BA in art history from Queen’s University and an MA in Canadian Studies from Carleton University, with a concentration on First World War art. She is the manager of the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, Parks Canada, and is also the historian on the conservation team that restored the Vimy Monument in France.

Mark Osborne Humphries is a doctoral candidate and the Sir John A. Macdonald Graduate Fellow in Canadian History at the University of Western Ontario. His dissertation is titled “The Horror at Home: Canadians and the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919. ” He has also completed a study of shell shock in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War.

Andrew Iarocci recently completed an R. B. Byers Postdoctoral Research Fellowship with the Department of National Defence and now teaches military history at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Western Ontario. His publications include Canadian Forces Base Petawawa: The First Century (2005). Currently he is writing a monograph on the overseas training and combat operations of 1st Canadian Division during 1914–15. Iarocci has directed several tours of Canada’s First and Second World War battlefields in recent years.

Heather Moran is a graduate of the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Western Ontario studying the Canadian medical services during the First World War.

Bill Rawling, a graduate of the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto, is the author of Surviving Trench Warfare: Technology and the Canadian Corps, 1914–1918; Technicians of Battle: Canadian Field Engineering from Pre-Confederation to the Post-Cold War Era, and Canada’s Sappers: A History of 3rd Field Engineer Squadron. He is currently a researcher for the Department of National Defence in Ottawa.

Gary Sheffield is a professor of war studies at the University of Birmingham, in the United Kingdom. He previously taught modern history at King&38217;s College London, based at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, Shrivenham. His most recent book, co-edited with John Bourne, is Douglas Haig: War Diaries and Letters 1914–1918 (2005). Sheffield is working on a biography of Douglas Haig and a book on the experience of the British soldier in the Second World War.

Jonathan Vance holds the Canada Research Chair in Conflict and Culture in the Department of History at The University of Western Ontario. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including Death So Noble: Memory, Meaning, and the First World War (1997), High Flight: Aviation and the Canadian Imagination (2002), A Gallant Company: The True Story of The Great Escape (2003), and Building Canada: People and Projects that Shaped the Nation (2006).


On the morning of April 9, 1917, troops of the Canadian Corps under General Julian Byng attacked the formidable German defences of Vimy Ridge. Since then, generations of Canadians have shared a deep emotional attachment to the battle, inspired partly by the spectacular memorial on the battlefield. Although the event is considered central in Canadian military history, most people know very little about what happened during that memorable Easter in northern France.

Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment draws on the work of a new generation of scholars who explore the battle from three perspectives. The first assesses the Canadian Corps within the wider context of the Western Front in 1917. The second explores Canadian leadership, training, and preparations and details the story of each of the four Canadian divisions. The final section concentrates on the commemoration of Vimy Ridge, both for contemporaries and later generations of Canadians.

This long-overdue collection, based on original research, replaces mythology with new perspectives, new details, and a new understanding of the men who fought and died for the remarkable achievement that was the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Co-published with the Laurier Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies


"Practical, detailed, and superbly researched. "

- J.L. Granatstein, CHOICE, Vol. 45, number 6

"The best book on this battle remains Geoffrey Hayes, Andrew Iarocci and Mike Bechthold (eds. ), Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Assessment. "

- Major John R. Grodzinski, CD, MA, Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 10, No. 1

"Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Assessment . .. attempts to understand World War I by looking closely at the facts and documents of the period and by placing the war in its socio-political, military, and rhetorical context [and] strives to slice through sentiments, propaganda, political manoeuverings, and jingoism that seem to stick to the Great War to arrive at a deeper appreciation of what was at stake for the Canadian nation and its citizens, at home and on the battle front. It . ... goes some distance towards establishing clarification and balance in our ongoing analysis of Canada's role in the war and our understanding of what it continues to mean for us. ... Upon reflection, I am struck by the implicit warnings these authors offer which I take to be that the legacy of war is terrible, that w forget this legacy at our peril, and that the rhetoric of national glory leads directly to the inglorious language of intolerance, demonization of enemies, aggression, and violence. "

- Sherrill Grace, Canadian Literature, 196, Spring 2008

"The problem with any narrative that sees Canada maturing form colony to nation on the top of Vimy Ridge is that is misrepresents both the nature of the Canada Corps' victory and exaggerates its place in Canadian constitutional development. A scholarly `reassessment' of Canada's most heralded military achievement is thus long overdue and welcome. ...Geoffrey Hayes, Andrew Iarocci, and Mike Bechthold. ..have delivered a worthy addition to a body of literature that is disproportionately small in relation to the magnitude of Vimy's contribution to Canadian nationalism. The authors have managed to clarify some persistent misconceptions about the Canadian Corps and have clearly demonstrated the value of ongoing study of this monumental event. "

- Jody Perrun, H-Net Reviews

"While the Battle of Vimy Ridge is reasonably well known in the UK and Canada, few people know exactly what happened during those eventful days in April 1917. Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment fills this gap in our knowledge by providing new details, new perspectives, and a new understanding of the sacrifice made by 10,000 Canadian soldiers; for 3,598 of these soldiers, it was the ultimate sacrifice. ... This excellent history explores the circumstances, events and results of the battle from three perspectives: the strategic background and the battle within the wider context of the Western Front in 1917; the events of 9–12 April 1917, focusing on the Canadian leadership, training and the story of the four Canadian divisions. ..and the aftermath, i. e. the commmemoration of the battle by contemporaries and later generations of Canadians. The Battle of Vimy Ridge is viewed as both a military and a cultural event. ... Each section is accompanied by detailed footnotes. The selected bibliography is informative. The text is interspersed with maps demonstrating troop movements. There are also a number of black-and-white photographs featuring commanding officers as well as private soldiers. "

- Vivien Hughes, British Journal of Canadian Studies, Volume 21, #1

"This a very fine collection and an important contribution to Canadian military history. The authors point to the importance of the battle at Vimy Ridge, but they do not go on a nationalist rampage, and this adds to the strength of the work. The book will add to our knowledge on a subject that most thought was `done,' and it deserves to sell well in the 90th anniversary year of the great battle. "

- J.L. Granatstein, author of Whose War Is It?: How Canada Can Survive in the Post-9/11 World (2007)

"The articles are of uniformly high quality in both writing and research. Although they cannot all claim to offer fresh reassessments, some are genuinely useful and original. ... Surprisingly, Godefroy discovers that the German army's official records do not describe Vimy as a defeat but rather as a minor tactical reverse. Given the British expeditionary force's inability to exploit the capture of the ridge and launch a full-scale breakthrough, it was hardly a meaningful defeat for the Germans. Indeed, according to the records of some German units, containing the Canadians and British around Vimy was itself a victory, since the Canadians suffered over 10,000 casualities for the sake of only a few square kilometres. Unfamiliar perspectives such as these, plus the detailed articles on battlefield medics and the history of the Vimy Ridge memorial, ensure that this volume truly stands out. "

- Matt Gurney, International Journal, Winter 2008-2009

"The most comprehensive examination of the Battle of Vimy Ridge published to date."

- Desmond Morton, founding director, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, Rocky Mountain Outlook

"Clarifying what actually happened before, on, and after 9 April 1917 is overdue in a year when Canada's government has given orders to celebrate a ninety-year anniversary and when virtually none of the original participants will be alive to complicate the ceremonies with their own memories. I welcome [in Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment] a number of innovative contributions, notably when the text sets Vimy in the context of the British Arras offensive, when it underlines the British contribution to the Canadian Corps operations, and explores the contributions and problems of specific branches of the service, such as artillery engineers and medical corps. Not only have the authors dissected the battle, they have contributed to an understanding of all those myriad but vital elements of victory that most historians ignore except for specialist audiences. This book restores a fuller historical context to the capture of Vimy Ridge without undermining, in any substantive way, the pride Canadians can take in their achievement."

- Desmond Morton, founding director, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, Rocky Mountain Outlook