One hundred years ago, it was an epic battle that helped to forge Canadian identity.
Now, you can experience the reality of Vimy Ridge — the dank tunnels, the Lee-Enfield rifle in your hand, the bullets whizzing past your head, even the artillery rumbling the earth beneath your feet — as part of a new exhibit at the museum of Canada’s oldest military regiment in London.
Thursday, the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum at Wolseley Barracks formally relaunched its First World War exhibit to mark the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
The display includes new artifacts and archives, but the big attraction is a virtual reality kiosk that puts you in the boots of soldiers in the trenches of that epic battle on the Western Front.
The Canadian victory over dug-in German forces on the ridge in France evolved into Canada’s archetypal First World War battle because it “has all the elements of strong national mythology,” said Jonathan Vance, a history professor and First World War specialist at Western University.
It was fought on Easter weekend, on the 50th anniversary of Confederation, and it was the first time in which all four divisions of the Canadian Corps, which included the RCR, fought together side-by-side.
Four Victoria Crosses were awarded to Canadian soldiers for their bravery.
“It had drama, a compelling story of valour and loss and it had the right ending — the ridge was taken,” said Vance.
But it also cost more than 10,000 Canadian casualties and wasn’t considered a key battle in the war. Instead, it was only a ray of hope in the ghastly, grinding conflict that had bogged down into brutal trench…
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