The Spirit of Vimy
Easter Monday, April 9th, 1917 was the day that historians claim as the birthdate of a true and independent Canadian national identity. Canadian troops, under the command of Canadian General Arthur Currie achieved in battle what no other country’s army had been so far able to do: Capture the high ground of Vimy Ridge in northern France and wrest it away from the dug-in, well fortified and highly seasoned troops of the Kaiser’s land forces.
95 years later to the day Spirit of the West will wake up on French soil, shake the cobwebs from their jet-lagged brains and attend a ceremony at the Vimy Memorial commemorating this historically significant battle.
Later that day in the nearby town of Lievin, at ‘Stade de Couvert’ concert facility, Spirit will perform a show for 4000 Canadian students, all of whom will have attended the ceremony that morning. Along with Spirit will be Newfoundland’s “Hey Rosetta!”
The delight of performing in France will be tempered by our awareness of the significance of the date and the lives lost on the battlefield, brave troops from both sides and many nations. Our Canuck Great-Grandads almost certainly didn’t know that we would honour their memory so reverently nearly a century later, and they couldn’t have realized that their war, ‘the war to end all wars’, would be nothing of the sort but rather the first chapter in a new kind of all-out conflict that threatened the whole human species.
No matter one’s birthplace, origin, or point of view we can all agree that this battle represents the best and the worst of humanity and our only option all these years later is to learn well & deeply the lessons that spring forth from the worst things, focus intelligently upon the best ones, and swear solemnly amongst ourselves that, ‘on my watch this shall never again happen’.
Vince R. Ditrich on behalf of Spirit of the West
(image is of the painting ‘For What?’
By Frederick Varley – 1917
Canadian War Museum / Beaverbrook Collection)