Vimy Ridge – Expression in Stone

Engraved names on the Vimy Ridge Memorial prior to restoration in 2007. (P. Ferguson image, 1995)

Names on the Vimy Memorial prior to its restoration in 2007. (P. Ferguson image, 1995)

How many eyes have seen these names…
and whispered voices read them softly?
(P. Ferguson, © September 1995)

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Part One
The Battle for Vimy Ridge

Vimy Ridge Trench Map.

Vimy Trench Map.

Vimy Ridge, a northern French landscape helped establish Canada’s identity as a nation unto itself.

Heavily fortified along a seven kilometer front the Ridge, occupied by German forces, held a commanding view over the Allied lines.

The commander of the Canadian Army at Vimy Ridge,  Julian Hedworth George Byng, 1st Viscount Byng of Vimy GCB GCMG MVO.

The commander of the Canadian Army at Vimy Ridge, Julian Hedworth George Byng, 1st Viscount Byng of Vimy GCB GCMG MVO.

Chaps, you shall go over exactly like a railroad train, on time, or you shall be annihilated.

Sir Julian Byng, Canadian Corps Commander

Green grass now grows upon the craters. Note the reforested area of the once devastated Vimy.

Lush, green grass now grows upon the craters. Note the reforested area of the once devastated Vimy. (P. Ferguson image, 1995)

In two years of fighting no other Allied Army succeeded in capturing the ridge. The French alone lost 150,000 men attempting to capture the position.

Harry Amrose Willis memorial at Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver, B.C. Wounded at Vimy Ridge. Died April 13, 1917.

The Willis family memorial at Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver, B.C also commemorates family member Harry Ambrose Willis. Wounded at Vimy Ridge. Died April 13, 1917. (P. Ferguson image,  ca. 2000)

The Canadian victory though a success cost the lives of 3,598 Canadians and 7,000 wounded.

Cross of Sacrifice at Vimy.

Cross of Sacrifice at Vimy. (P. Ferguson image 1995)

The fighting and memories of April 9 – 12, 1917 would endure with Canadian Great War veterans, their families, and friends throughout their remaining days. Perhaps they did not realize or expect that the record of their sacrifice would continue to this day. Our desire to remember them is evidenced by the volumes of research, interest in exhibitions and literature and by the many visitors to these former sites of conflict.

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Part Two
Some Corner of a Foreign Field

Building a Park Legacy 1925 – 1936

Mother Canada in mourning statue at the Vimy Memorial, France. (P. Ferguson image, 1995)

Mother Canada in mourning. Statue at the Vimy Memorial, France. (P. Ferguson image, 1995)

The French Government granted Vimy Ridge “freely, and for all time, to the Government of Canada, the free use of the land…”

Walter Allward

The Vimy Monument was designed by Canadian sculptor Sir Walter Allward. The figure represents a male mourner. (The Epic of Vimy, 1936)

“To the valour of their countrymen in the Great War and in memory of their sixty thousand dead this monument is raised by the people of Canada.” The inscription at the Vimy Memorial is written in both English and French.

The Vimy Memorial. (P. Ferguson image, 2009)

The Vimy Memorial. (P. Ferguson image, 2009)

The Vimy Pilgrimage, organized by the Canadian Legion in 1936, was first conceived at the Dominion Convention in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1928. At that time it was believed the memorial would be unveiled in either 1931 or 1932.

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Part Three
Think Only This of Me

The Pilgrims in France

The Vimy Ridge program.

Unveiling program. Canadian National War Memorial, Vimy Ridge – July 26, 1936.

Vimy pilgrims awaiting the arrival of King Edward VIII, Vimy, 1936. (The Epic of Vimy)

Vimy pilgrims awaiting the arrival of King Edward VIII, Vimy, 1936. (The Epic of Vimy)

King Edward VIII

King Edward VIII at Vimy, 1936.

King Edward VIII delegates and officials at Vimy, 1936. (The Epic of Vimy)

The memorial was unveiled by King Edward VIII July 26, 1936 with over 8,000 Canadians in attendance and another 92,000 visitors.

Pilgrims gathered at the Vimy Memorial, 1936. (The Epic of Vimy)

Pilgrims at the Vimy Memorial, 1936. (The Epic of Vimy)

A British newspaper remarked, “there were as many persons present at Vimy Ridge on July 26th, 1936 as there had been on April 9th, 1917.”

Amongst those who journeyed were Canadian Silver Cross mothers Mrs. McDermott, Mrs. MacDonald, Mrs. Wardle and Mrs. Wood.

Amongst those who journeyed were Canadian Silver Cross mothers Mrs. McDermott, Mrs. MacDonald, Mrs. Wardle and Mrs. Wood. (The Epic of Vimy)

Charlotte Susan Wood was the second wife of Frederick Louis Wood who was  already the father of six sons. Together they had seven children. Five of the 13 children were killed during the Great War.  (The Epic of Vimy)

Charlotte Susan Wood was the second wife of Frederick Louis Wood who was already the father of six sons. Together they had seven children. Five of the 13 children were killed during the Great War. (The Epic of Vimy)

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Part Four
Expression in Stone

The King’s speech, broadcast by CBC Radio across Canada, described the memorial as “an inspired expression in stone…”

The laying of wreaths at the Vimy Memorial, 1936. (The Epic of Vimy)

The laying of wreaths at the Vimy Memorial, 1936. (The Epic of Vimy)

After the official ceremony the Pilgrims jammed the memorial, placing wreaths and anxious to find names of friends and family chiseled into its walls.

Pilgrims in the trenches. (The Epic of Vimy).

Pilgrims in the trenches. (The Epic of Vimy).

Pilgrims visited the restored trenches of Vimy Ridge.  These trenches remain in existence today.

All quiet on a September. The preserved trenches at Vimy Ridge in the early morning mist morning.

All quiet on a September day. The preserved trenches at Vimy in the early morning mist. (P. Ferguson image, 1995)

A pilgrim finds his brother's name. (The Epic of Vimy)

A pilgrim finds his brother’s name. (The Epic of Vimy)

Pilgrim William Arthur Unthank of Toronto indicating the name of his brother, Private Richard Peter Unthank of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles who was killed September 29, 1916.

W.A. Unthank was a First World War veteran who originally joined the 83rd Battalion C.E.F.

Emma and Ole Berget

Emma and Ole Berget, of Alderson (Medicine Hat), Alberta. Private Ole Berget, 31st Battalion CEF, formerly 175th Battalion, Missing in Action, Battle of Fresnoy, May 3, 1917. Commemorated on the Vimy Memorial. His wife Emma also lost her brother Bernard Kyllo of the 50th Battalion C.E.F. The images are of the author’s Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather.

The author at the Vimy Memorial, September 14-15, 1995.

The author’s expression in stone at Vimy. Pointing to the chiseled name of O BERGET, September 14-15, 1995.

How many eyes have seen these names…
and whispered voices read them softly?
(P. Ferguson, © September 1995)

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About The Author

pferguson
Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.

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