At the height of the First World War, on Easter Monday April 9,
1917, in early morning sleet, sixteen battalions of the Canadian
Corps rose along a six-kilometre line of trenches in northern
France against the occupying Germans. All four Canadian divisions
advanced in a line behind a well-rehearsed creeping barrage of
artillery fire. By nightfall, the Germans had suffered a major
setback. The Ridge, which other Allied troops had assaulted
previously and failed to take, was firmly in Canadian hands. The
Canadian Corps had achieved perhaps the greatest lightning strike
in Canadian military history. One Paris newspaper called it
"Canada''s Easter gift to France."
Of the 40,000 Canadians who fought at Vimy, nearly 10,000 became
casualties. Many of their names are engraved on the famous monument
that now stands on the ridge to commemorate the battle. It was the
first time Canadians had fought as a distinct national army, and in
many ways, it was a coming of age for the nation.
The achievement of the Canadians on those April days in 1917 has
become one of our lasting myths. Based on first-hand accounts,
including archival photographs and maps, it is the voices of the
soldiers who experienced the battle that comprise the thrust of the
book. Like JUNO: Canadians at D-Day, Ted Barris paints a
compelling and surprising human picture of what it was like to have
stormed and taken Vimy Ridge.