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
"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
"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
"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
"The most comprehensive examination of the Battle of Vimy Ridge published to date. "- Rocky Mountain Outlook
"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
"Practical, detailed, and superbly researched. "- J.L. Granatstein, CHOICE, Vol. 45, number 6
"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
"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
"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)