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"The Battle of Vimy Ridge"


To give students an understanding of the harsh fighting conditions in the Battle of Vimy Ridge through the creation of a photo story.


Students will be expected to:

  • learn about the Battle of Vimy Ridge using an historical photo gallery;
  • retell the story of the Battle of Vimy Ridge using selected historical pictures.

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 (75 minutes)

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

  • Introduction (5 minutes)
  • Photo Viewing (15 minutes)
  • Selection of Pictures and Creation of the Story (45 minutes)
  • Closing Video (10 minutes)

Class Materials

  • A computer with Internet access, a projector and speakers for the teacher
  • Computers with Internet access for students
  • The Battle of Vimy Ridge historical sheet
  • Vimy photo gallery
  • Closing video: A Voyage of Discovery - 85th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Begin video excerpt at 15:00 mark and show to 22:37 mark.

Background Information

We often hear that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Although photography was invented in the 1830s, picture taking was time consuming and required the subject to stand still for the photograph to clearly form on the plate. In the early 1880s, however, new technology made it possible to take pictures instantaneously and record 'action' scenes, even on a battlefield.

At the outbreak of the First World War, however, cameras were still large and heavy compared to today's standards. Canada did not carry out battlefield photography until Max Aitken, later know as Lord Beaverbrook, created the Canadian War Records Office in London in January 1916. Therefore, few pictures of Canadians in action were taken prior to that date.

The first photographer for the Canadian War Records Office was Captain Harry Kobel who took pictures from April to August 1916. His successor was Lieutenant Ivor Castle, who shot some 800 pictures between August 1916 and June 1917, mostly at the battles of Courcelette and Vimy Ridge.

We often think that photographs are always accurate, especially if it's an 'action' shot. But photos can be modified by adding or deleting elements. Unfortunately, this is the case for some of the pictures taken by Lieutenant Castle at Vimy Ridge. Comparing photos with the original negatives reveals that some shots were actually modified to give the impression that they were taken during the actual Battle of Vimy Ridge. The truth is that some pictures were taken during training exercises and later modified to make them look like live combat shots.

Library and Archives Canada does some investigating before adding pictures to its collections. Sometimes altered images, like 'staged' war photographs, are knowingly included because they can still reveal a lot about that time period in our history. Therefore, we suggest that you inform your students of this possibility before showing them the Vimy photo gallery. Regardless, the collection is very rich and will help your students better understand the harsh fighting conditions that existed during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Introduction (5 minutes)

Have students read The Battle of Vimy Ridge historical sheet and discuss it with a partner or with the class.

Photo Viewing (15 minutes)

Break the class up into smaller groups and assign each one of them with a sub-section of the photo gallery. Each photo gallery contains between 20 and 30 pictures. The sub-sections are:

Have the students look at their photo gallery and read the descriptions.

Selection of Pictures and Creation of the Story (45 minutes)

Have the students select pictures from their gallery and draft the story they will present to the class. Final projects can be presented in electronic formats, such as a slide show or a 'photo story', or can be printed, such as a photographic essay (a sort of a graphic novel) or a photo album. In all cases, the students should write a descriptive text to accompany and explain their work.

Once the story is complete, ask the students to present their final projects to the class.

Closing Video (10 minutes)

Conclude the lesson by showing the excerpt from the video A Voyage of Discovery the 85th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Begin at the 15:00 mark and show to the 22:37 mark. You must download the video to show it. Rightclick on the "Download Full Learning Video" link and choose "Save Target As" or "Save Link As".

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