#100DaysofVimy – April 9th, 2017

“Without the dead we were helpless… I have tried to show this in this monument to Canada’s fallen, what we owed them and we will forever owe them.” (Walter Allward, 1921)
The Ghosts of Vimy Ridge by Captain William Longstaff, Canadian War Museum, Object Number 19800724-001.

Vimy 100

2016 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize recipient Zoe McDaniel with the Canada Bereft statue, looking out over the Douai Plains.
Credit: The Vimy Foundation/Pascal Brunet, 2016.

On this monumental day in Canada’s history, we commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. On this occasion, and indeed throughout the many years to follow, Canadians will stand in awe at the base of Walter Allward’s Vimy Memorial. The power of such a monument and its dedication to sacrifice becomes ever more so upon reading Allward’s vision for the Vimy Memorial:

At the base of the strong impregnable wall of defence are the defenders – one group showing the breaking of the sword, the other, the sympathy of the Canadians for the helpless… On the wall stands an heroic figure of Canada, brooding over the graves of her valiant dead. Below is suggested a grave with a helmet and laurels. Behind her stands two pylons – symbolizing the two forces, Canadian and French. Between and at the base of these is the Spirit of Sacrifice, who, giving his all, throws the torch to his comrade. Looking up they see the figures of peace, justice, truth, knowledge, for which they fought, chanting the hymn of peace.”

And of his inspiration for the monument:

I dreamed I was in a great battlefield. I saw our men going in by the thousands and being mowed down by the sickles of death…Suffering beyond endurance at the sight, I turned my eyes and found myself looking down on an avenue of poplars. Suddenly through the avenue I saw thousands marching to the aid of our armies. They were the dead. They rose in masses, filed silently by and entered the fight to aid the living… Without the dead we were helpless… I have tried to show this in this monument to Canada’s fallen, what we owed them and we will forever owe them.” (Walter Alward, 1921)

Mana Moshkforoush, 2016 Vimy Pilgrimage Award recipient, studies the figure of the Spirit of Sacrifice at the Vimy Memorial.
Credit: The Vimy Foundation/Pascal Brunet, 2016.