High ground is an important feature of any battlefield and during the fighting around Arras in 1914, there was a desperate struggle for two ridges that surrounded the city to the north-east: the Notre Dame de Lorette Spur and Vimy Ridge. Both were taken by the Germans in October 1914, and in 1915 the French lost 250,000 men in re-taking Lorette and trying to capture Vimy Ridge. The British came to Vimy in 1916 when it was considered a ‘quiet’ sector of the Western Front. The war went underground as British tunnelling companies of the Royal Engineers blew a succession of mines under the ridge – many of these craters are still visible today.

The Canadian Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Julian Byng, came to Vimy at the end of 1916, after heavy losses on the Somme. As part of the Battle of Arras, all four Canadian divisions assaulted the ridge on 9th April 1917; the one and only time in the war when all four divisions fought side by side. After some bitter fighting, particularly on the northern part of the battlefield, Vimy Ridge was in Canadian hands by the 14th April - at the cost of more than 10,000 Canadians killed, wounded and missing. It remained in British hands for the rest of the war.

After the war the Canadians erected a whole series of memorials on the places where Canadian soldiers had fought on the Western Front. However, they wanted one main focus for their remembrance, and the obvious place for that was Vimy. Therefore in the 1920s the French government seeded a whole section of the ridge as a Memorial Park, preserving the trenches, shell holes and mine craters. At the trenches around the Grange Craters a portion of the line was preserved using concrete sandbags and duckboards – with German trenches the same opposite. It was here the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and Royal Canadian Regiment advanced on 9th April 1917. Below ground is a vast network of tunnels, used by the Canadians to bring up their troops unseen by the Germans. A nearby visitors centre has leaflets, and on-site guides will be happy to answer your questions. From April to November each year tours of the tunnels are also possible, but only in small groups and in the company of one of the Canadian guides.

Preserved Trenches on Vimy Ridge

On the highest point of the ridge, on Hill 145, is the Vimy Memorial. It commemorates over 11,000 Canadians missing in France from 1915-18 who have no known grave; the majority of them fell on the Somme, around Courcelette and Regina Trench, in 1916. Work on the memorial began in the late 1920s, and it was designed by Walter Allward - the design came to him in a dream. It was unveiled by King Edward VIII in July 1936, when more than 10,000 Canadians came to the ceremony – among the guests of honour was a woman, Mrs Woods, who had lost five sons in the war. Among those commemorated on the Vimy Memorial are the following Canadian Victoria Cross winners:

Lt R.G.Combe

27th Canadians


3rd May 1917

Sgt F.Hobson

20th Canadians

Hill 70

18th August 1917

Pte W.J.Milne

16th Canadians

Vimy Ridge

9th April 1917

Sgt R.Spall


Nr Amiens (Somme)

13th August 1918

Close to the memorial car-park is a ‘Interpretative Centre’ where a short film about the battle can be seen, along with various artefacts and photographs. Postcards and several Canadian related books can also be purchased here. There are public toilets nearby.

Vimy Ridge Interpretative Centre



©Paul Reed 2001-2006

Hit Counter

Home Up Arras Tourism Arras Tour Battlefield Tourism Bullecourt Museum Essigny War Museum Point du Jour St Quentin Tour Vimy Ridge War Cemeteries