Rendez-vous at Vimy Ridge National Historic Site of Canada
High above the Douai Plain, two majestic white pylons adorned with beautiful sculpted figures stand as a memorial to the brave Canadian soldiers who, in April 1917, won the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
At 27 metres high, the pylons consumed approximately 6,000 tons of stone when they were built. Designed by the Canadian architect and sculptor Walter Seymour Allward, they represent Canada and France as two nations beset by war and united to fight for a common goal: peace and freedom.
In all, it took nearly eleven years to erect the monument because of the immense technical difficulties encountered in building on a site which had seen four years of intense fighting. Indeed, before the foundations of 15,000 tons of reinforced concrete could be laid, the site had to be cleared of its live bombs and shells.
Carved out of a single piece of stone weighing 30 tons, the most famous of the figures which grace the monument represents the young Canadian nation as a saddened woman who weeps for her dead. On the surrounding wall of the monument are carved the names of the 11,285 soldiers killed in France during the First World War and whose final resting places were never found. In their honour, a Canadian pine for each of these brave men was planted in a park close to the monument.
In total more than 60,000 Canadians lost their lives in the Great War, and the Vimy Ridge National Historic Site of Canada (the official name of the memorial) pays tribute to their sacrifice. It covers 107 hectares and comprises mostly woodland.
Some of the military tunnels and trenches have been preserved so that visitors may gain an insight into just how hard it was, on 10th April 1917, for the Canadian divisions to take the ridge and spare the town of Arras from hostile fire. This victory, one of the few on the Front prior to 1918, constitutes a defining event in the history of the Canadian people.