Remembrance and the Battle of Vimy Ridge

Aim

To give students an understanding of the importance of remembering the Canadians who served and died during the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the First World War.

Objectives

Students will be expected to:

  • demonstrate a basic knowledge of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial and the reason such an impressive monument was built;
  • demonstrate an awareness of the importance of remembrance and how the Canadian National Vimy Memorial honours those who died during the First World War.

Target Audience

This activity is suitable for students in grades seven to twelve (12 to 18 years of age).

Sequence of Events and Anticipated Time Frame (60 minutes)

[This activity can be modified to fit available class time.]

  • Introductory Class Discussion (10 minutes)
  • 'Exploring the Memorial' activity (35 minutes)
  • Class Debriefing (15 minutes)

Class Materials

Additional Resources

Background Information

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was an important milestone for our country. On a wind-swept ridge in northern France in April 1917, Canadian soldiers earned one of the most impressive victories of the First World War. Canada had entered the war seen as little more than an overseas extension of Britain. Canada's impressive contributions during the conflict, perhaps best exemplified by our triumph in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, changed the way that we and others in the world viewed our country. Indeed, some historians say that Canada came of age as a nation in the battle as 100,000 Canadians from coast to coast came together to capture the vital German stronghold. Though the victory at Vimy was impressive, it did not come without cost. Approximately 3,600 Canadians were killed and more than 7,000 were wounded.

Vimy, the most successful Allied offensive action to that point of the war, would be the beginning of a string of military successes that saw our soldiers at the forefront of the battles that would ultimately see the Allies triumph in the First World War.

Canadians recognized the significance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the site was a natural choice for our country's major memorial in France to the Canadians who fought and died in the First World War. In 1922, use of the land was granted for all time by the grateful French nation to the people of Canada. The Memorial was designed by Canadian sculptor and architect Walter Seymour Allward. It took 11 years and $1.5 million to build and was unveiled on July 26, 1936, by King Edward VIII, in front of thousands of Canadian Veterans and their families. Inscribed on the ramparts of the Memorial are the names of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who were listed as “missing, presumed dead” in France.

After being exposed to the harsh climate of northern France for decades, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial required an extensive restoration which began in late 2004. It was officially rededicated on April 9, 2007, on the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Visiting the Canadian National Vimy Memorial is an amazing experience but not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to travel to France to see it for themselves. However, Veterans Affairs Canada's Experience Vimy multimedia Web feature allows users to explore the Memorial from the comfort of their own chair.

Introductory Class Discussion (5 minutes)

If this learning activity is being done as a conclusion to Veterans Affairs Canada's previous lessons on the Battle of Vimy Ridge, you could take time to review what the students have already learned about this key chapter from our history.

If this activity is being done as a stand-alone exercise, take the time to explore the students' existing knowledge on the First World War, asking questions like who the combatants were, where the conflict was fought and what conditions were like for the soldiers. You could also write down key words as this is done and incorporate them into a thought web.

Once this introductory activity has reviewed and/or established what the students know about the war, explain that the class will be learning about the Canadian National Vimy Memorial and why it is important that those who have served and died in the First World War are remembered.

'Exploring the Memorial' Activity (45 minutes)

In a room with computers and Internet access, have the students work individually or in small groups to explore the 'Experience Vimy' virtual tour. The user interface encourages exploration with animation sequences showing the Canadian National Vimy Memorial from every angle and interesting information scattered throughout, accessed by clicking on arrows, links with roman numerals, or the 'Masterpiece Navigation' menu on the left-hand side.

There is flexibility in how this portion of the lesson could be done. The students could navigate the Web feature on their own, collecting ten interesting facts about the memorial that they can then share with others at the end of the activity. Alternately, you could give the students a WebQuest activity sheet and have them navigate the Web feature to answer the 14 questions that are posed.

Class Debriefing (15 minutes)

Once the students have completed their exploration of the 'Experience Vimy' Web feature, lead the class in a debrief exercise where each group shares what they have learned. If they have done the WebQuest component of this activity, review the questions with the class and get responses from different groups [Teacher's Answer Sheet]. You can mention any additional information you may wish to add or correct any misconceptions that may have arisen.

This activity can serve as a closing exercise for the previous two lessons offered in this online Battle of Vimy Ridge learning module.

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