Monday, April 09, 2007

Random things

Yesterday was interesting....they shut all the lights off downtown Ottawa around the War Memorial, and projected the names of men who had died at Vimy. So I had to see that! Interesting enough I guess....though I wish I was in France to see the crowds. Seems everybody who was anybody was there...Queen of England, Prime Ministers of France and Canada. There were plenty of Germans in the crowd, but they didn't speak up. Too bad, only 20 miles down the road is a cemetary with forty five thousand German dead in it. This was just the first world war! That amount is difficult to comprehend. I note that the French left a lot of extra space in that particular cemetary. Presumably to leave room for the "next time".

The battle honour of "Vimy Ridge" is a little will not be able to find a Canadian who has NOT heard of it, and of course you would be hard pressed to find a British or French person who HAD heard of it. Can't state for sure about the Germans, but they remember the Canadians...they called us "Devils in Skirts". I hope they were refering to the kilts so many regiments wore. Generally speaking, Canadians believe that Vimy Ridge was the battle which defined Canada as a country as opposed to being just a British Colony. Certainly the Canadian commanders had a difficult time keeping them together in Canadian units rather than dispersing them willy nilly into the replacement cadre for mauled British units.

Seems Brenda's Grandfather actually went up that miserable hill...he was in the 26th battalion, who charged up the ridge about a mile south of hill 145, which of course is the site of the present beautifully restored monument. You can see in the map on the previous post where the 26th battalion charged under the command of a very junior but veteran Lieutenant Thomas William Brewer. Shortly after the big push, he was sent to hospital in England for (of all things) sciatica. Guess it was slugging all those sand bags into place.
Not bad for a fella who had survived The Somme. They liked his performance so much that they promoted him from the ranks in THAT bit of unpleasantness.

Incidently, the reason they name the hills like they do.....hills are named by how high in meters they are above sea level. Although rare, there might be several "hill 145's" in an area, but normally you know where to go because you see "145" written as a tiny little contour circle on a contour map.


Frustrated Writer said...

I am enjoying all the history you are posting!

Jennifer said...

Me too! 45,000 is hard to comprehend, indeed. Wow. That would have been a cool site to see all the names displayed like that. As an American, I have never heard of the battle, either. So thank you!

STAG said...

I can understand an American not knowing about the battle, y'all were not there. But the Brits and the French surely were. On the other hand, how many Canadians have a clue about Teddy's charge up San Juan Hill, the burning of Atlanta, or the Battle of the Angle? It is hard to stay on top of ALL the history.