Transcript: A Century After Vimy | Apr 12, 2017

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, checkered white shirt, and checkered lilac tie.

A caption on screen reads "A century after Vimy."

Steve says THE YEAR WAS 1917.
ALMOST THREE YEARS INTO THE
GREAT WAR, THE WAR TO END ALL
WARS.
AND FOR THE FIRST TIME, THE FOUR
CANADIAN DIVISIONS FOUGHT AS
ONE, IN THEIR MISSION TO TAKE
VIMY RIDGE IN NORTHERN FRANCE
FROM THE OCCUPYING GERMANS.
CLOSE TO 3,600 CANADIAN
SOLDIERS WERE KILLED.
7,000 MORE WERE WOUNDED.
BUT THAT FOUR-DAY FIGHT, WHICH
ENDED 100 YEARS AGO TODAY,
RESULTED IN A VICTORY THAT'S
COME TO MEAN SO MUCH MORE THAN
THE FEW KILOMETRES KNOWN AS
VIMY RIDGE.
WHY?
LET'S TAKE THAT UP WITH:
IN CALGARY, ALBERTA:
HOLGER HERWIG, PROFESSOR
EMERITUS OF HISTORY, UNIVERSITY
OF CALGARY, SPECIALIZING IN GERMAN HISTORY...

Holger is in his late fifties, clean-shaven, with short side-parted blond hair. He's wearing a gray suit and a striped blue shirt.

Steve continues AND WITH US IN STUDIO:
MAJOR MICHAEL BOIRE, MILITARY
HISTORIAN AT THE ROYAL MILITARY
COLLEGE OF CANADA AND LEADER OF
THE SCHOOL'S BATTLEFIELD TRIP PROGRAM...

Michael is in his seventies, clean-shaven and bald. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and striped blue and green tie.

Steve continues MARGARET MacMILLAN, PROFESSOR OF
INTERNATIONAL HISTORY, OXFORD
UNIVERSITY, AND AUTHOR OF "THE
WAR THAT ENDED PEACE."

Margaret is in her late fifties, with short blond hair. She's wearing a peach cardigan over a black shirt, and a beaded necklace.

Steve continues TIM COOK, MILITARY HISTORIAN AT
THE CANADIAN WAR MUSEUM IN
OTTAWA AND AUTHOR OF "VIMY: THE
BATTLE AND THE LEGEND."

Tim is in his forties, clean-shaven, with short gray hair. He's wearing a gray pinstripe suit, purple shirt, and purple tie.
A picture of his book appears briefly on screen. The cover features a black and white picture of soldiers firing a large artillery gun on the battlefield.

Steve continues AND, IAN McKAY, THE WILSON CHAIR
OF CANADIAN HISTORY AT McMASTER
UNIVERSITY AND CO-AUTHOR OF "THE
VIMY TRAP OR, HOW WE LEARNED TO
STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE GREAT WAR."

Ian is in his fifties, with receding white hair and a goatee. He's wearing glasses, a gray suit, white shirt, and spotted gray tie.
A picture of the book appears briefly on screen. The cover is range and yellow, with a drawing of the Vimy memorial.

Steve continues THAT'S A GOOD SUBTITLE.
THANK YOU, EVERYBODY, HERE IN
STUDIO FOR BEING WITH US TONIGHT
ON THIS VERY IMPORTANT DATE IN
CANADIAN HISTORY, AND TO HOLGER
HERWIG IN CALGARY.
WE'RE HAPPY TO HAVE YOU ABOARD
AS WELL.
LET'S GET THE MAP UP BECAUSE I
DON'T WANT TO ASSUME EVERYBODY
KNOWS WHERE VIMY IS, THERE IT IS
IN NORTHERN FRANCE, CLOSE TO THE
BORDER WITH BELGIUM AND 100
YEARS AGO TODAY THE GUNS FELL SILENT.

A map pops up showing the northern part of France and the southern part of Britain. Vimy Ridge, north of Paris and close to the Belgian border, appears highlighted.

Steve continues THE CANADIAN CORPS DID TAKE THAT
7-KILOMETRE LONG RIDGE FROM THE
GERMANS WHO HAD PREVIOUSLY HELD IT.
HOW'S THIS FOR A PICTURE?
TIM, IS THIS FROM YOUR BOOK?
I THINK IT IS.

A black and white picture shows two soldiers on a snowy ground, guarding a stream.

Tim says YES, IT IS.

Steve says LOOK AT TWO
CANADIANS SURVEYING THEIR
ACCOMPLISHMENTS ON THE DAY.
WE DON'T WANT TO SPEND A LOT OF
TIME ON THE BATTLE BECAUSE OVER
THE LAST FEW DAYS THAT STORY HAS
BEEN TOLD MANY TIMES.
AGAIN, FOR THOSE WHO MAY NOT
KNOW, THE FRENCH TRIED TO TAKE
IT BACK AND FAILED.
THE BRITISH TRIED TO TAKE IT
BACK AND FAILED.
THE CANADIAN CORPS WAS
SUCCESSFUL.
HOW COME?

The caption changes to "Tim Cook. Author, "Vimy: The battle and the legend.'"
Then, it changes again to "Taking the muddy ridge."

Tim says WELL, THE
CANADIANS HAD COME OFF THE
BLOODY SOMME WHERE THEY LOST
20,000 CASUALTIES, AND THEY
LEARNED THEY HAD TO FIGHT MORE
EFFECTIVELY.
THIS WAS HAPPENING ACROSS THE
BRITISH ARMY AND THE GERMAN ARMY
AS WELL FIGHTING MORE
EFFECTIVELY ON DEFENCE.
THEY INSTIGATED NEW INFANTRY
TACTICS, ARTILLERY TACTICS,
COMBINING THE TWO, BETTER USE OF
INTELLIGENCE, DECENTRALIZATION
OF COMMAND, AND THEY REALLY
PREPARED HARD FOR THIS BATTLE
THAT THEY KNEW WAS GOING TO
COME.
OF COURSE AS YOU SAID THE
GERMANS HAD CAPTURED THE
POSITION ON OCTOBER 1914, THEY
HAD HELD IT AGAINST A SERIES OF
COUNTER ATTACKS FROM THE ALLIES.
WHEN THE CANADIANS ARRIVED ON
THE BATTLEFIELD, IN FACT IT'S AN
OPEN GRAVEYARD OF UNBURIED
CORPSES.
I WONDER WHAT THAT WOULD HAVE
BEEN LIKE FOR THE CANADIANS TO
STARE UP AT THAT HULKING MASS
TOWERING ABOVE THEM AND
REALIZING THAT'S THE POSITION
THEY HAD TO ATTACK.

Steve says HERE'S WHAT AWAITED
THEM. MAJOR BOIRE, I'M GOING
TO GET YOU TO REACT TO THIS...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Surrounded by sorrow." The quote reads "Wounded men (were) sprawled everywhere in the slime, in the shell holes, in the mine craters, some screaming to the skies, some lying silently, some begging for help, some struggling to keep from drowning in (water-filled) craters, the field swarming with stretcher-bearers trying to keep up with the casualties."
Quoted from 2nd division's 6th brigade, as reprinted in the National Post (April 9, 2017).

Steve says THAT'S AN ACCOUNT
FROM THE OFFICIAL RECORD OF THE
2ND DIVISION'S SIXTH BRIGADE,
MADE UP OF MOSTLY WESTERN
CANADIANS.
FOLLOW UP ON THAT, IF YOU WOULD?
WHAT WAS IT LIKE FOR THE POOR,
AVERAGE CANADIAN?

The caption changes to "Michael Boire. Royal Military College of Canada."

Michael says CAN WE
START AT THE BEGINNING OF THE
BATTLE FOR THESE YOUNG MEN, AND
A GREAT DEAL, MANY OF THEM HAD
JUST ARRIVED IN THE CANADIAN
CORPS, BECAUSE AS TIM POINTS OUT
AFTER THE SOMME, MUCH HAD TO BE
DONE TO LEARN BUT ALSO MUCH HAD
TO BE DONE TO INTRODUCE
REINFORCEMENTS, YOUNG SOLDIERS
INTO THE CANADIAN CORPS.
SO WHEN THE CORPS DOES FINALLY
ATTACK, A GREAT PERCENTAGE OF
THEM ARE RELATIVELY NEW.
SO THIS IS THEIR FIRST BATTLE.
IF YOU CAN TAKE THE LIFE OF A
SOLDIER BACK THEN, IT WAS
RELATIVELY COMFORTABLE OUT OF
THE LINE.
THEY ATE WELL.
THEY DIDN'T EAT OFTEN BUT THEY
ATE WELL.
THEY WERE WARM.
THEY WERE CLOTHED.
AND THEY SPENT THE MAJORITY OF
THEIR TIME OUTSIDE THE TRENCH
SYSTEM.
SO WHEN IT CAME TIME TO ATTACK
VIMY RIDGE, WHAT HAPPENS OF
COURSE IS THEY BEGIN TO MARCH
FORWARD AND THEY ARE IN THEIR
PLATOONS AND COMPANIES AND
BATTALIONS, MARCHING TOWARDS THE
RIDGE.
WHEN THEY GET TO THE RIDGE, THEY
HAVE TO BE UNDERGROUND INTO A
SERIES OF CAVERNS AND TUNNELS
WHICH GETS THEM PROTECTED INTO
THE FRONT LINE, AND THERE
THEY'RE WAITING INSIDE THE
TUNNELS, SOME ARE WAITING INSIDE
CRATERS AND TRENCHES, AND
THEY'RE WAITING FOR ZERO HOUR,
5:30 ON THE 9TH OF APRIL.

Steve says 5:30 A.M. APRIL 9TH,
IT ALL BEGAN?

Michael says IT ALL BEGAN.

Steve says ON A SNOWY,
MISERABLE COLD DAY.

Michael says WELL, IT WAS SNOWY AT THE TOP
OF THE RIDGE AND IT WAS RAINING
AND SLUSHY AT THE BOTTOM.
BUT LUCKILY THAT CAUSED A LOT OF
GERMANS TO MISFIRE THEIR MACHINE
GUNS AND THAT SAVED A LOT OF
YOUNG LIVES.

Steve says THE FIGHTING WAS LIKE WHAT?

A pencil drawing shows soldiers loading artillery weapons on a battlefield peppered with explosions and smoke.

Michael says WELL, UP THEY GET.
THEY'RE FOLLOWING THE BARRAGE.
IT WAS A TRICKY, TRICKY DEAL,
FOLLOWING THE BARRAGE, BECAUSE
IT WAS COMPOSED AT FIRST OF
SHRAPNEL ROUNDS.
SHRAPNEL ROUNDS WERE ROUNDS THAT
EXPLODED OVER THE SOLDIERS'
HEADS AND FELL TO THE GROUND IN
FRONT OF THEM AND THE POINT OF
THAT WAS TO KEEP GERMANS IN
THEIR DUGOUTS AS WE ADVANCED
TOWARDS THEM.
OF COURSE, AS THEY WERE
ADVANCING ACROSS A SHELL BLASTED
LANDSCAPE, THEY'RE LOSING
ALIGNMENT, SOME ARE LOST AND
SOME ARE DISORIENTED BUT MANY OF
THEM GET TO THE FIRST, SECOND,
AND THIRD GERMAN FORTIFICATIONS
AND THEY'RE WAITING, IF THEY
FOLLOWED THE BARRAGE PROPERLY,
THEY'RE WAITING FOR THE GERMANS
TO COME OUT OF THE DUGOUTS TO
CAPTURE AND KILL THEM.
AND THIS GOES ON FOR THE ENTIRE
DAY.
IT'S FROM ONE TRENCH SYSTEM TO
ANOTHER, FOLLOWING CLOSELY TO
THE BARRAGE, WHICH TOOK AN
ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF PRACTICE TO
GET USED TO.
AND A LOT OF TIMES THE BARRAGE
FELL BEHIND OR FELL IN FRONT AND
CAUSED CASUALTIES AMONGST THEIR
OWN BOYS.
AS THEY'RE GETTING INTO GERMAN
FORTIFICATIONS, THE GERMANS ARE
COMING OUT OF THEIR HOLES.
THE GERMAN UNITS THAT HELD THE
RIDGE WERE DEMONS.
THEY FOUGHT VERY HARD AND VERY
WELL, AS DID OUR YOUNG MEN.
AND THE INTENSITY OF THE COMBAT
CAUSED A DESCRIPTION OF EVENTS
THAT YOU'VE JUST SHOWN, BUT IT
WAS VERY MUCH... MORE THAN WE
THINK, MORE THAN WE THINK WHEN
WE LOOK AT THE CONTEMPORARY
DOCUMENTS, THERE'S A LOT OF
BAYONET FIGHTING AND HAND TO
HAND COMBAT AND BOTH CAUSED A
GREAT DEAL OF DAMAGE.
I DON'T MEAN TO BE GRISLY WITH
THIS, BUT THE GERMANS DID CAUSE
NEARLY 4,000 FATAL CASUALTIES.
IT'S AN INDICATION OF HOW
HARD-FOUGHT THAT BATTLE WAS.

Steve says HAVING SAID THAT,
MARGARET MacMILLAN, THERE IS
THE BATTLE, THERE IS THE MYTH
MAKING THAT WAS ASSOCIATED WITH
IT, THAT WE SHALL DISCUSS.
THERE IS ALSO VIMY'S ROLE AS A
MILITARY CAMPAIGN IN TERMS OF
THE END OF THE WAR AND HOW
IMPORTANT IT WAS OR WASN'T
TOWARDS THE EVENTUAL VICTORY.
TALK ABOUT THAT.

The caption changes to "Margaret MacMillan. Oxford University."

Margaret says WELL,
THE WAR DIDN'T END FOR WELL OVER
A YEAR AFTER VIMY RIDGE WAS
TAKEN.
AND SO I THINK IT WAS A TACTICAL
SUCCESS.
IT WAS AN IMPORTANT POSITION TO
TAKE BECAUSE IT DOMINATED THE
PLAINS AND WHOEVER HELD IT HAD A
TREMENDOUS ADVANTAGE.
BUT I THINK VIMY ITSELF DIDN'T
HASTEN THE END OF THE WAR.
WHAT IT DID I THINK, VERY
IMPORTANTLY, WAS GIVE THE ALLIES
SOME HOPE THAT THEY WERE
ACTUALLY NOW CAPABLE OF
ATTACKING AND TAKING POSITIONS,
AND SO IT WAS A DEMONSTRATION
THAT FINALLY THE GENERALS, IN
THIS CASE I THINK GENERAL BING,
FOUNDING BACK COUNTRY, AND ALSO
OF COURSE CURRY, THE CANADIAN
GENERAL, WERE DEALING WITH A
STRONGLY FORTIFIED DEFENCE AND
LEARNING NEW TACTICS AND
WEAPONS.
RUSSIA DID DROP OUT BY THE
SUMMER OF 1917.

Steve says THEY HAD THEIR OWN
THING TO DEAL WITH.

Margaret says THEY
HAD A LOT TO DEAL WITH WHICH
MEANT THE GERMANS COULD TRANSFER
TROOPS TO THE WESTERN FRONT.
THE UNITED STATES WASN'T ABLE TO
GET TROOPS TO EUROPE UNTIL THE
FOLLOWING SPRING.
SO FROM THE ALLIED POINT OF
VIEW, 1917 WAS NOT A GREAT YEAR.
SO VIMY I THINK IS IMPORTANT
BECAUSE IT GAVE A LITTLE BIT OF
CONFIDENCE THAT MAYBE THINGS
WOULD EVENTUALLY CHANGE.

Steve says THERE WAS A NAME YOU
MENTIONED I WANT TO PICK UP ON.
BRITISH GENERAL JULIAN BING.

A black and white picture shows a mustached man in his forties in a senior military uniform. He has a grim look.

Steve continues PEOPLE MAY KNOW HIS NAME FROM
THE KING BING AFFAIR, HE'S THE
FUTURE GOVERNOR GENERAL WHO WAS
IN THE MIDST OF THAT.
THEY MAY REMEMBER HIS WIFE,
WHOSE NAME IS ON THE HOCKEY
TROPHY, THE LADY BYNG, FOR MOST
GENTLEMANLY CONDUCT.
BING'S ROLE IN OUR ATTEMPT TO
MAKE MYTHS, I WANT TO ASK YOU,
HAS IT BEEN OVERSHADOWED, HAS
THE BRITISH ROLE BEEN
DOWNPLAYED?
SPEAK TO THAT, IF YOU WOULD?

The caption changes to "Ian McKay. Author, 'The Vimy trap.'"

Ian says I THINK THAT'S A GREAT
QUESTION.
I THINK THE BRITISH ROLE HAS
BEEN EMPHATICALLY DOWN PLAYED.
RECENT RESEARCH BY NICK CLARK
SHOWS THAT 43.7 percent OF THE SOLDIERS
WHO TOOK VIMY RIDGE WERE
OFFICIALLY NOT IN CANADIAN UNITS
BUT THEY WERE IN BRITISH UNITS.
SO THAT SUGGESTS THAT MANY OF
THE PEOPLE IN THE CANADIAN UNITS
WERE VERY, VERY RECENT BRITISH
IMMIGRANTS.
SO IN A SENSE WE'VE CANADIANIZED
IT OVER THE YEARS, AND THE ROLE
OF BYNG IS FUNDAMENTALLY
ESSENTIAL TO THE BATTLE, HE WAS
INSTRUMENTAL IN THE TACTIC AND
STRATEGY, AND JUST TO, YOU KNOW,
COMMENT ON WHAT WAS ACHIEVED IN
THE BATTLE, IT WAS ALMOST A
GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT BECAUSE
THEY DIDN'T REALLY ADVANCE MUCH
BEYOND VIMY RIDGE.
THEY EXPENDED, YOU KNOW, NEARLY
4,000 LIVES FOR A GAIN OF, YOU
KNOW, SEVERAL THOUSAND YARDS.
BUT YOU HADN'T ACTUALLY SHIFTED
THE WESTERN FRONT IN ANY
SIGNIFICANT WAY, AND THAT GREAT
HEIGHT OF LAND THAT PEOPLE HOPED
WOULD COMMAND A TERRITORY REALLY
DIDN'T MAKE THAT MUCH DIFFERENCE
IN THE OVERALL COURSE OF THE
WAR.

Steve says IN THE MILITARY
STRATEGIC PART OF THE WAR?

Ian says YES.

Steve says MYTH-MAKING IS A
DIFFERENT STORY.

The caption changes to "Tim Cook. Canadian War Museum."

Tim says WE DISAGREE ON THIS.
I THINK VIMY RIDGE IS AN
IMPORTANT TACTICAL POSITION.
IF THE CANADIANS HAD NOT TAKEN
IT, THE GERMANS WOULD HAVE
COUNTERATTACKED THROUGH THE
RIDGE AND ROLLED UP THE BRITISH
OFFENSIVE FURTHER TO THE SOUTH.
IT IS A KEY POSITION, THERE'S NO
DOUBT ABOUT THAT, AND NICK'S
RESEARCH ABOUT THE BRITISH
FORCES IS A USEFUL CORRECTIVE TO
REMEMBER THE CANADIAN CORPS IS
ACTUALLY 170,000 AT THIS POINT,
BUT ALMOST ALL OF THE INFANTRY
IN THE BATTLE ARE CANADIAN.
ALMOST ALL THE MACHINE GUNNERS
AT THE FRONT ARE CANADIAN.
ALMOST ALL OF THOSE CASUALTIES
FALL TO THE CANADIANS WHO ARE
DOING THE FIGHTING.
THAT'S NOT TO DENIGRATE OR PUSH
ASIDE THE BRITISH CONTRIBUTION,
WHICH IS IMMENSE.
30,000 BRITISH GUNNERS.
THOUSANDS OF BRITISH SOLDIERS ON
THE LINE OF LOGISTICS, THE
ROADS, THE RAILWAYS, BUT IT IS
THE CANADIAN AT THE SHARPENED
AND THIS IS A CANADIAN BATTLE.

Steve says WE HAVE TO GET
CALGARY INTO THIS BECAUSE WE
HAVEN'T HEARD FROM PROFESSOR
HOLGER HERWIG INTO THIS.
YOU HEARD A MOMENT AGO,
PROFESSOR, THAT MAJOR BOIRE
DESCRIBED THE GERMANS WHO KILLED
NEARLY 4,000 CANADIANS THAT DAY
AS DEMONS.
YOU'RE BORN IN GERMANY.
IT IS YOUR AREA OF EXPERTISE TO
UNDERSTAND THE GERMAN ARMY FROM
THIS TIME.
LET ME HEAR FROM YOU WHO THEY
WERE AND HOW THEY FOUGHT.

The caption changes to "Holger Herwig. University of Calgary."
Then, it changes again to "The other side of the wire."

Holger says OKAY.
IT WAS BASICALLY A UNIT OF
BAVARIAN RESERVISTS COMMANDED BY
A 73-YEAR-OLD SUPER AN WAITED
GENERAL WHO BELIEVED THAT EVERY
INCH OF TERRITORY HAD TO BE HELD
AT ALL COSTS.
HE HAD NOT BOUGHT INTO THE NEW
ELASTIC DEFENCE AND DEPTH AND HE
STOOD ON THE RIDGE DETERMINED TO
HOLD EVERY PIECE.
HE THOUGHT HIS ARMY WAS
ABSOLUTELY READY FOR DEFENSIVE
BATTLE.
HIS COMMANDERS ARGUED NO.
THE BAVARIANS HAD FOUGHT ON THE
SOMME, THEY FOUGHT AT VERDUN,
SOME HAD FOUGHT AT BOTH, AND
THEY WERE DESCRIBED AS BEING
DEBRIS, FLAG, WORN OUT, BURNT
OUT, AND THEY WERE SENT TO VIMY
FOR SOME R and R.
IT WAS A QUIET SECTOR AND THEY
WERE SENT DOWN THERE TO RECOVER
FROM THIS HORRENDOUS EXPERIENCE
OF THE SOMME AND VERDUN.

Steve says THAT'S A LONG WAY,
MAJOR, FROM DESCRIBING THEM AS
THE DEMONS THAT YOU JUST DID?

Michael says I'LL
STICK WITH THAT.
IF YOU LOOK AT THE SMALL UNIT
ACTIONS ALL ALONG THE RIDGE, THE
BAVARIANS, THE PRUSSIANS ON TOP,
THE BATTLE TOOK PLACE RAPIDLY.
YOU SEE SMALL UNIT ACTIONS AND
IN GERMAN RECORDS YOU SEE AN
AWFUL LOT OF VERY BRAVE YOUNG
MEN HOLDING OFF AN OPPONENT THAT
IS BOUND TO GET THEM, THAT IS
COMING AT THEM FROM THE BASE OF
THE RIDGE, COVERED BY ARTILLERY
AND READY FOR A FIGHT.
THE GERMAN DEFENSIVE POSITION
ALONG THE RIDGE, THOUGH IT IS
INFORTIFICATIONS THAT ARE
IMMENSELY POWERFUL, THE NUMBER
OF GERMANS ALONG THE RIDGE
DURING THIS PARTICULAR ACTION
ARE VERY WEAK BECAUSE, OF
COURSE, IN THE BUILDUP TO THE
BATTLE, AN AWFUL LOT OF RAIDING
IS GOING ON, A AWFUL LOT OF
SHELL FIRE, AND THE GERMANS HAVE
BEEN DEPLETED.
BUT THE FEW GERMANS... NOT FEW,
BUT THE GERMAN SOLDIERS WHO ARE
ON THE LINE ON 145 AND DOWN TO
135 ON THE OTHER REALLY LARGE
HILL ALONG THE RIDGE, FIGHT AND
FIGHT VERY WELL.
THEY'RE, OF COURSE, HAMSTRUNG BY
A LACK OF ARTILLERY AND THE
SHORTCOMINGS THAT THE PROFESSOR
JUST POINTED OUT.

Steve says TIM, I WANT TO GET
YOU IN ON THIS.
WHILE THERE'S A LOT OF HISTORY
TO DISCUSS BUT THERE'S A GREAT
WHAT-IF QUESTION ABOUT HISTORY
WHICH YOU RAISE IN YOUR BOOK,
WHICH IS THAT THERE WAS A YOUNG
GUY, FIRST WORLD WAR SOLDIER AT
VIMY FOR A TIME NAMED ADOLF
HITLER.

Tim says RIGHT.

Steve says BUT HE LEFT THE
SCENE BEFORE THE BATTLE TOOK
PLACE.

Tim says YEAH.

Steve says WHAT IF HE HAD
STAYED?
WHAT IF HE HAD BEEN KILLED
THERE?
HOW MIGHT HISTORY HAVE BEEN
DIFFERENT?

Tim says WELL, I THINK OF
ALL THOSE SOLDIERS WHO WERE
THERE WHO WERE KILLED, WHO MIGHT
HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO HISTORY, OF
THE YOUNG CANADIANS WHO WERE
KILLED THERE WHO MIGHT HAVE COME
BACK AND REMADE OUR COUNTRY.
AND OF COURSE ON THE GERMAN
SIDE, LOSING THOUSANDS OF
SOLDIERS AS WELL, AND ONE OF
THEM OF COURSE COULD HAVE BEEN
ADOLF HITLER.
HIS UNIT WAS THERE.
THEY HAD MOVED NORTH BEFORE THE
BATTLE BUT HIS UNIT HAD BEEN
THERE, THE COURSE OF HISTORY
MIGHT HAVE CHANGED, AND OF
COURSE THOSE OF US WHO STUDY
HISTORY, THOSE OF US WHO WRITE
ABOUT IT ARE ALWAYS INTERESTED
IN THOSE EVENTS, THE WHAT-IFS TO
TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
I THINK IN A LARGER SENSE, THE
WHAT-IF IS WHAT IF THE CANADIANS
FAILED AT VIMY?
WE'RE TALKING TODAY, WE'RE ON
THE 12TH OF APRIL, THE CANADIANS
ATTACKED THE PIMPLE, WHICH WAS
FORTIFIED BY SOLDIERS TO THE
NORTH WHO WERE VERY GOOD AND WE
DROVE THEM OFF THAT.
IF THE GERMANS HELD THAT, THEY
COULD HAVE COUNTER ATTACKED
THROUGH THAT POSITION, THROUGH
HILL 145 WHERE THE MONUMENT IS
TODAY.
NOTHING IS... WE LOOK BACK ON
HISTORY AND WE THINK, WELL, THIS
IS HOW IT WAS.
OF COURSE, AS WE KNOW, THERE
WERE A LOT OF THINGS THAT COULD
HAVE HAPPENED DURING THAT BATTLE
THAT DIDN'T, AND I THINK IT'S
WORTHWHILE TO REFLECT UPON THAT
AND CERTAINLY THERE WAS A
TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF BRAVERY AND
SACRIFICE, GRIT AND ENDURANCE BY
THE CANADIANS, BY THE GERMANS ON
THAT VERY BLOODY RIDGE.

A black and white picture shows soldiers shooting machine guns from foxholes.

Steve says YOU KNOW WHAT?
I HAVE TO GET MARGARET IN HERE.
I'M GOING TO SHARE THE TIME
EQUALLY HERE.
MARGARET, FOR SOME REASON, VIMY
HAS... IT'S BIGGER THAN JUNO
RIGHT NOW.
IT'S BIGGER THAN KOREA.
IT'S BIGGER THAN AFGHANISTAN.
IT HAS ALMOST SUPERSEDED ALL
OTHER CANADIAN MILITARY EVENTS.
I KNOW WE'RE ON THE 100TH
ANNIVERSARY AND THAT HAS
SOMETHING TO DO WITH IT BUT IT
DOESN'T HAVE EVERYTHING TO DO
WITH IT.
WHAT'S GOING ON?

The caption changes to "Parsing its prominence."

Margaret says I'M
SORRY, THAT ISN'T A GOOD ANSWER,
BUT IT IS A MYSTERY TO ME WHY
THE PUBLIC IMAGINATION AND
INTEREST, INCLUDING ME, OF
COURSE, WILL PICK A PARTICULAR
BATTLE RATHER THAN ANOTHER ONE.
IT'S THE SAME WITH THE
AUSTRALIAN WITH GALLIPOLI.
THERE THEY'RE CELEBRATING A BIG
DEFEAT OR COMMEMORATING A BIG
DEFEAT.
WHY AREN'T THEY COMMEMORATING
THE TAKING OF DAMASCUS OR THE
TAKING OF JERUSALEM.
THESE THINGS FLUCTUATE.
IT'S PARTLY THERE HAS BEEN A
VERY DETERMINED EFFORT BY, FOR
EXAMPLE, THE VIMY FOUNDATION TO
BRING IT TO OUR ATTENTION.
CERTAINLY POLITICALLY IT'S BEEN
SEEN AS AN IMPORTANT OCCASION.
THERE'S ALSO THE PHYSICAL SPOT.
I THINK THE PHYSICAL PLACE AND
THE MONUMENT HAVE HELPED TO FIX
IT INTO OUR IMAGINATION, BUT IT
DOES COME AND GO, THIS
REMEMBERING, BECAUSE WHEN I WAS
YOUNG, I MEAN, A LONG TIME AGO
IN THE '50s AT SCHOOL IN
ONTARIO, WE DIDN'T LEARN ABOUT
VIMY.
IT WAS NOT SOMETHING THAT WAS A
BIG DEAL.

A black and white picture shows a dramatic sky with rolling clouds behind the Vimy memorial.

Margaret continues I DIDN'T REALLY REMEMBER HEARING
MUCH ABOUT IT WHEN I WAS AT
UNIVERSITY IN THE '60s.
SO I DO THINK THESE THINGS... I
THINK ARE SLIGHTLY
UNPREDICTABLE.

Steve says IT WAS BIG AND THEN
IT RECEDED FROM OUR COLLECTIVE
CONSCIOUSNESS AND NOW IT'S BACK
IN A MAJOR WAY.
I WANT TO READ THIS, IF I CAN?
I'LL GET YOU TO COMMENT ON THIS,
IAN.
HERE'S BRIGADIER GENERAL
ALEXANDER ROSS WHO COMMANDED A
BRIGADE AT VIMY.
THIS IS 1957, IT'S THE 50TH
ANNIVERSARY.
AND HE DESCRIBED IT THIS WAY...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Forged by fire?" The quote reads "It was Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific on parade. I thought then that in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation."
Alexander Ross, as quoted in "Vimy: The battle and the legend." 2017.

Steve says THERE'S THAT
MYTH-MAKING THING AGAIN THAT SO
MANY PRIME MINISTERS, AND IF YOU
GO BACK TO THIS PAST WEEKEND'S
EVENTS, JUSTIN TRUDEAU REFERRED
TO IT, DAVID JOHNSTON, THE
GOVERNOR GENERAL REFERRED TO IT.
DID CONQUERING THAT RIDGE MAKE
US A NATION IN A WAY WE WEREN'T
BEFORE?

Ian says NO.

Steve says NEEDLESS TO SAY.
FIRE AWAY.
WHAT DO YOU SAY?

The caption changes to "Born on the battlefield."

Ian says I THINK IN THE
1920s AND 1930s, THE PEOPLE
WHO HAD ACTUALLY FOUGHT AT VIMY
AND IN THE GREAT WAR HAD A
COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SENSE OF
THE WAR AND OF VIMY.
I THINK THEY THOUGHT OF IT AS A
HOLOCAUST, A WORD THEY USED
REPEATEDLY.
AND I THINK THEY WOULD RESPOND
TO TODAY'S GLORIFICATION OF VIMY
AND THE WAR AS PUTTING A HAPPY
FACE ON A HOLOCAUST.
I THINK THEY WOULD BE HORRIFIED
AND DUMBFOUNDED AT THIS
ELEVATION OF A RELATIVELY
INCONCLUSIVE BATTLE, AFTER WHICH
THE GERMANS STRUCK A MEDAL TO
CONGRATULATE THEIR SOLDIERS FOR
BASICALLY HOLDING THE WESTERN
FRONT.
I THINK THEY WOULD BE HORRIFIED
AT THE ELEVATION OF THIS BATTLE
INTO AN INSTANCE OF GLORIFYING
WAR ITSELF.
I THINK IT'S A MORAL AND
EMPIRICAL ERROR TO DO THIS.

Michael says LET ME
PUT THIS IN A CONTEXT I LIVED,
AND I HAVE NO GREAT OBJECTIONS
TO YOUR DESCRIPTION OF IT,
PROFESSOR.
I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO SERVE ON
THE BLACKWATCH IN Montréal, A
Montréal REGIMENT, THAT SENT
12,000 YOUNG MEN TO WAR AND OVER
2,000 DIDN'T COME BACK.
HOWEVER, AMONGST THOSE WHO CAME
BACK WERE A VERY MANY GREAT MEN,
VETERANS, WHO STAYED IN TOUCH
WITH THE REGIMENT.
AND AS A YOUNG MAN IN THE
1960s DOING MY BEST TO FIT
INTO THAT VERY SPOOKY
ORGANIZATION, I TALKED TO THEM.
I TALKED TO MANY, MANY SCORE OF
THESE YOUNG MEN.
YOU KNOW, THIS WAS THE '60s.
THEY WERE STILL IN GOOD HEALTH
AND THEY STILL HAD MEMORIES.
TAKING THE MEMORIES OF BATTLES
OUT OF THEM AND TRYING TO TALK
TO THEM ABOUT THE BATTLES, THAT
WAS THE KIND OF REACTION I
RECEIVED.
THEY WOULD TALK ABOUT THEIR
LEAVE.
THEY WOULD TALK ABOUT THE
FRIENDS THEY HAD MADE.
AND THEY'D TALK ABOUT THE
MEMORIES.
AND THESE QUESTIONS WERE
PRECIOUS TO ME BECAUSE I WAS A
YOUNG SOLDIER TRYING TO FIT IN.
AND I REMEMBER ASKING TO MANY,
MANY OF THEM, YOU KNOW, WHAT IS
THE BIG... WHAT IS THAT BIG
MEMORY THAT YOU BROUGHT BACK
FROM THAT FOUR YEARS OF TERRIBLE
WAR?
THERE WERE THREE ANSWERS.
IT FELL INTO ONE OF THREE.
THE FIRST OF THE GREAT MEMORIES
WAS PASSCHENDAELE, THAT MARKED
THEM ALL.
THEN THE 100 DAYS WHEN THE BOYS
LOOKING AT ME BRAGGED, WE
STARTED TO BREAK THE GERMAN
ARMY.
AND THE THIRD WAS THE GAS ATTACK
IN ST. JULIEN.
WHEN I MENTIONED VIMY, "YES, WE
WERE THERE."
IN TERMS OF SIGNIFICANCE IN
THEIR MEMORIES, VIMY WAS ONE OF
THE MANY BATTLES THEY FOUGHT IN.
THE IMPORTANCE THAT'S GIVEN VIMY
IS CERTAINLY AFTER THE FACT AND
IT STARTED AS YOU POINTED OUT IN
1967 WITH THE CBC SERIES ON THE
50TH ANNIVERSARY OF VIMY WHERE
THESE COMMON MEMORIES, SHARED BY
THE MEN WHO FOUGHT THE BATTLE,
WERE BROUGHT ONTO T.V.... SORRY,
ONTO RADIO, AND IT WAS THE
GLORIFICATION, IT WAS THE MOMENT
OF NATION HOOD.
I THINK THESE ARE CONSTRUCTIONS
AND A MYTHOLOGY AND I DON'T
THINK THEY'RE PARTICULARLY
USEFUL TO A STUDY OF HISTORY.

Steve says OKAY, TIM.

Tim says I'M SITTING HERE QUIETLY.

Steve says BUT NOT HAPPILY.

Tim says NOT REALLY.
I'VE WRITTEN A WHOLE BOOK ON
THIS, THE EVOLUTION OF THE IDEA,
AND HERE I THINK IAN AND JAMIE
AND I DISAGREE.
WE'VE LOOKED AT THE EVIDENCE,
WE'VE LOOKED AT A LOT OF
EVIDENCE AND I THINK WE'VE COME
TO DIFFERENT CONCLUSIONS AND
MINE IS THAT VIMY OF COURSE IS
MORE THAN A BATTLE.
SO WHEN WE TALK ABOUT VIMY,
WE'RE NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT THE
BATTLE ITSELF.
AS MARGARET HAS SAID, IT IS THE
MONUMENT AND THE BATTLE.
AND THE MONUMENT IS TO ALL OF
CANADA'S DEAD AND WE SAW THAT ON
THE WEEKEND.
THIS WAS NOT A CHILDISH EVENT
THAT WAS UNFOLDING ON THE 9TH.
THIS WAS A SOLEMN EVENT.
THE SPEECHES WERE SUITABLY
GRAVE, I THINK.
THEY SPOKE TO THE SACRIFICE.
THEY SPOKE TO THE LOSS.
THEY SPOKE, AGAIN, TO NEVER
AGAIN.
AND I THINK IT WOULD BE WRONG TO
CHARACTERIZE THAT ALL THE
VETERANS IN THE 20s AND '30s
WERE FOR PEACE.
MANY BELIEVED THEY HAD DONE THE
RIGHT THING.
THEY BELIEVED IN THE JUSTNESS OF
THE WAR.
THERE WERE CERTAINLY THOUSANDS,
TENS OF THOUSANDS, PERHAPS
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS WHO
THOUGHT THEY HAD WASTED THEIR
LIVES AND SEEN THEIR COMRADES
KILLED, BUT CERTAINLY NOT ALL.
THERE'S A VERY STRONG GROUP WHO
BAND TOGETHER IN THE LEGION AND
VETERANS GROUPS WHO WANT TO
REMEMBER THE WAR, THE
CAMARADERIE OF THE WAR, AND VIMY
MATTERS, IT MATTERS FOR A WHOLE
BUNCH OF REASONS.
IT IS A SYMBOL, THOUGH.
AND I THINK THAT'S WHAT WE'RE
TALKING ABOUT.
VIMY HAS BECOME MORE THAN A
BATTLE.

Another black and white picture shows the Vimy memorial.

Tim continues IT USES THE MONUMENT AS A
BACKDROP WHICH WE AS CANADIANS
HAVE PLAYED OUT MUCH OF OUR
HISTORY, MUCH OF OUR IDENTITY,
AND WHAT I DO IN MY BOOK, AND
IAN DOES IN HIS AS WELL, IS TO
LOOK AT THE EVOLUTION OF THIS
IDEA OVER TIME.
AND IT HAS INDEED ROSE... RISEN
AND FALLEN THROUGHOUT TIME.
THERE'S NO DOUBT ABOUT THAT.
BUT I THINK THE ANCHOR IN THE
IDEA HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE
MONUMENT AND THE DESIRE OF
CANADIANS TO RETURN TO THIS
PLACE, AND IT WOULD BE SIMPLY
WRONG TO SAY THAT THIS IS A
MADE-UP EVENT, THAT THIS IS A
MYTH.
I THINK IT IS A POWERFUL STORY
THAT MOTIVATES SOME CANADIANS...
NOT ALL.
THERE WILL BE MANY CANADIANS WHO
SAY THIS IS NOT MY STORY.
AND I WOULD SAY THAT'S FINE.
WE'RE A VERY BIG COUNTRY, A
COMPLEX COUNTRY, A CHANGING
COUNTRY.
WE HAVE MANY SYMBOLS.
BUT FOR MANY CANADIANS, VIMY
MATTERS.

Steve says WELL, YOU SAY IT'S
NOT EVERYBODY'S STORY.
I KNOW ONE PLACE IN THIS COUNTRY
WHERE IT'S NOT THEIR STORY, AND
THAT'S Québec.
YOU WANT TO FOCUS ON THAT FOR A SECOND?

The caption changes to "tvo.org/theagenda."

Margaret says WELL,
THIS IS THE TROUBLE WITH PUBLIC
MEMORY.
HISTORY IS ONE THING, WHERE WE
SIFT THE EVIDENCE AND WE
UNDERSTAND THAT MANY STORIES IN
HISTORY ARE COMPLEX.
BUT WHAT WE DO AS POLITICS AS WE
FLATTEN THAT OUT AND SIMPLIFY
IT.
YES, VIMY IS A SYMBOL AND IT'S
BECOME A SYMBOL AND IN SOME
QUARTERS THERE'S BEEN A
DELIBERATE ATTEMPT TO MAKE IT AS
A SYMBOL OF THE BIRTH OF A
NATION.
THE PRIME MINISTER SAID THAT.
BUT IF I WERE LIVING IN FRENCH
CANADA, I WOULD PROBABLY SAY,
NO, IT WASN'T NECESSARILY.
I WOULD ALSO SAY AS AN ENGLISH
SPEAKING CANADIAN, CANADA DOES
NOT HAVE A SYMBOL OR A SYMBOLIC
MOMENT WHEN IT BECAME A NATION.
WE EVOLVED PEACEFULLY OVER A
LONG TIME AND THERE ARE MANY
THINGS THAT HAVE GONE INTO OUR
HISTORY.
SO I THINK NO ONE IS SAYING WE
SHOULDN'T COMMEMORATE OR BE
APPRECIATIVE OF THOSE WHO DIED
IN CANADA'S WARS.
I DON'T THINK, TIM, ANYONE WOULD
SAY THAT.
BUT I THINK WHAT I WOULD SAY IS
THAT I DON'T LIKE TO SEE THE
COMPLEX HISTORY OF CANADA
FLATTENED INTO A PARTICULAR
SYMBOL.
WE WERE BECOMING A NATION OVER A
PERIOD OF TIME.
WE WERE BECOMING A NATION IN THE
GREAT WAR, BETWEEN 1914 AND
1918, BECAUSE WE WERE BECOMING
AWARE OF OUR CONTRIBUTION TO
THAT WAR.
AND SO VIMY WAS, YES, A PART OF
IT.
BUT THERE'S MUCH, MUCH MORE TO
THE STORY.
AND WE ALSO EVOLVED PEACEFULLY.
I THINK SOMETIMES WE FELT WE
DON'T HAVE AN AMERICAN WAR OF
INDEPENDENCE OR A FRENCH OR
RUSSIAN REVOLUTION, WE NEED
SOMETHING.
I DON'T AGREE WITH THAT.
WE'RE GROWN UP ENOUGH NOT TO
NEED THAT SORT OF HISTORY.
THE IDEA THAT CANADA WAS A
NATION CREATED ON THE
BATTLEFIELD SEEMS TO ME
ABSOLUTELY ABSURD.
WE WERE CREATED IN MANY WAYS.
I DON'T WANT TO SEE THE
BATTLEFIELD BECOME THE MAJOR
PART OF OUR STORY.

Steve says LET'S GO TO CALGARY.
I THINK OUR VIEWERS HAVE A SENSE
OF THE DEBATE IN THE STUDIO
ABOUT HOW MUCH THIS WAS IN FACT
THE BIRTH OF A NEW NATION OR NOT.
THE DEBATE WILL CONTINUE.
I'M INTERESTED IN HOW GERMANY
REPORTED ON AND FELT ABOUT THIS
IN THE DECADES AFTER THE BATTLE
TOOK PLACE.
WHAT ABOUT THAT?

Holger says VIMY DOES
NOT PLAY A ROLE IN ANY OF THE
GERMAN HISTORY.
IT WAS NOTED THAT THAT DAY,
APRIL 9TH WAS HIS BIRTHDAY AND
HE KIND OF SPOILED IT.
THE FIELD MARSHALL SIMPLY
COMMENTED, WELL, IT WAS A BAD
DAY.
THE GERMAN OFFICIAL HISTORY
BARELY MENTIONS IT.
THE CANADIANS ARE NOT MENTIONED.
IT'S SIMPLY BRITISH TROOPS,
TOMMIES WHO WE FOUGHT.
THE GERMAN NEWSPAPERS DID NOT
MENTION VIMY.
THEY SIMPLY SAID THAT, OTHER
THAN ATTACKING FIELD MARSHALL
HAGUE'S ARMIES, THERE WAS ALSO
ACTION SOMEWHERE ELSE.
AND IN THE 1920s, VIMY AND
CANADA SIMPLY IS NOT PART OF
THAT STORY.

Steve says LET ME SHOW A
PICTURE TO EVERYBODY HERE.
SHELDON, I'M IN THE MIDDLE OF
PAGE 7 RIGHT NOW.

A black and white picture shows Hitler and other senior Nazi officers walking in front of the Vimy memorial.

Steve continues THIS IS THE LOCATION OF THE
MONUMENT DURING WORLD WAR II.
1940, I THINK.
AND THERE'S ADOLF HITLER AT THE
VIMY MEMORIAL, WHICH IS
OBVIOUSLY BUILT TO COMMEMORATE
CANADA'S LOST SOLDIERS AND
MILITARY CONTRIBUTION.
TIM, WHY DIDN'T HITLER DESTROY
THAT MONUMENT?

Tim says WELL, AS WE
TALKED ABOUT BEFORE, HITLER HAD
SERVED IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR.
HE HAD TREMENDOUS RESPECT FOR
THE GREAT WAR VETERANS WHO HAD
SURVIVED.
VIMY WAS OVERRUN AS FRANCE WAS
OVERRUN IN MAY AND JUNE OF 1940,
AND CANADIANS ACTUALLY WOKE UP
ON THE 2ND AND 3RD OF JUNE,
1940, WITH HEADLINES IN THEIR
PAPER SAYING VIMY RIDGE MONUMENT
HAS BEEN DESTROYED.
AND IT WAS A REALLY SHOCKING
EVENT FOR CANADIANS.
A FEW DAYS LATER, THEY FOUND OUT
IT HADN'T BEEN DESTROYED.
AND A FEW DAYS LATER THEY SAW
THAT IMAGE REPRINTED IN THE
PAPERS.
AND HITLER HAD GONE THERE TO
SHOW THAT HE HADN'T BLOWN IT UP
BUT ALSO TO INSPECT IT.
AND I THINK THE GERMANS AND THE
NAZIS DID IN FACT BLOW UP A
NUMBER OF MONUMENTS ON THE
WESTERN FRONT, BUT THEY WERE
OFTEN ONES THAT WERE FRENCH
MONUMENTS THAT SHOWED VICTORY
OVER GERMANY.
TO STEP BACK A BIT.
THE POWER OF THE MONUMENT IS
THAT IT IS A MONUMENT TO
MOURNING, IT IS A MONUMENT TO
LOSS.
THOSE 20 SCULPTURED FIGURES, THE
11,285 NAMES OF CANADIANS ON
THERE WITH NO KNOWN GRAVES IN
FRANCE.
THE MOST POWERFUL GRIEVING
FIGURE, THE MOTHER WHO OVERLOOKS
THE EMPTY TOMB.

A magazine article pops up with the title "What price Vimy?" It has a cartoon of a giant leather boot with a swastika about to step on the memorial.

Tim continues AND THERE'S... HITLER HAD NO
DESIRE TO BLOW IT UP AND IT WAS
DAMAGED DURING THE WAR, BUT
SURVIVED AFTERWARDS.
AND I THINK IT IS BECAUSE IT IS
A VERY POWERFUL MONUMENT TO
MOURNING AND LOSS.
WHAT'S INTERESTING ABOUT THAT,
TO COME BACK TO OUR OTHER
CONVERSATION, IS HOW VIMY THEN
GETS INCORPORATED BACK INTO OUR
HISTORY AS A PLACE OF TRIUMPH,
AS A PLACE OF VICTORY, AND I
THINK THE ONLY WAY TO THINK
ABOUT IT IS THAT THOSE TWO IDEAS
SIT TOGETHER, OF MOURNING AND
LOSS, AND NEVER AGAIN AND OF
VICTORY AND UNITY OF COMMAND IN
BATTLE, THOSE FOUR DIVISIONS
WITH CANADIANS FROM ACROSS THE
COUNTRY.
AND ALL OF THAT I THINK SITS AT
VIMY RIDGE AND INFORMS THE IDEA
OF VIMY OVER TIME.

Steve says WE HAVEN'T TALKED
MUCH ABOUT THE MONUMENT HERE ON
PURPOSE BECAUSE WE HAVE AN ITEM
COMING UP IMMEDIATELY
THEREAFTER, RACHEAL McCAIG IS
THE WONDERFUL PHOTOGRAPHER, TOOK
SOME OF THE MOST SPECTACULAR
IMAGES OF THE MONUMENT I'VE EVER
SEEN.
SHE WAS THERE ON THE WEEKEND AND
WE'LL SHOW SOME OF HER PICTURES,
AND THAT'S WHY WE'RE NOT TALKING
ABOUT WALTER ALWARD VERY MUCH
AND YOU GET TO HIM IN YOUR BOOK.
BACK TO HOLGER IN CALGARY.
HOW DID GERMAN COMMEMORATIONS OF
WORLD WAR I COMPARE TO THE
COMMEMORATIONS THEY DO ON WORLD WAR II?

Holger says WORLD WAR I
COMMEMORATIONS IN GERMANY, YOU
CAN STILL SEE IN ALMOST EVERY
VILLAGE YOU GO TO, IN THE CENTRE
OF THE SQUARE THERE'S USUALLY
SOME KIND OF A MONUMENT, THE
NAMES OF THE BOYS FROM THAT
VILLAGE WHO DIED THERE ARE
CHISELED IN STONE.
PEOPLE REMEMBER IT.
BESIDE IT, YOU WILL SIMPLY SEE A
PLAQUE TO THOSE FROM THIS
VILLAGE WHO DIED IN WORLD WAR
II.
IT'S NOT PERSONAL.
IT WAS SO MASSIVE.
NO ONE HAS COME TO GRIPS WITH
THAT.
BUT WORLD WAR I IS STILL SEEN AS
A DEFENCE OF BAVARIAN, SAXONY,
PRUSSIA, ET CETERA, AND IT IS
RECOGNIZED AND CELEBRATED.

Steve says IAN, LET ME GET YOU
IN ON THIS ONE.
OVER THE PAST CENTURY CANADIAN
GOVERNMENTS OF VARIOUS STRIPES,
OF ALL STRIPES, IN FACT, HAVE
CONNECTED VIMY TO PEACEKEEPING
OPERATIONS, THE WAR IN
AFGHANISTAN, OTHER MILITARY
OPERATIONS THAT WE DO.
VIMY KEEPS COMING UP.
HOW COME?

The caption changes to "Malleable memories."

Ian says I THINK THEY ARE
CHANNELLING SOME OF WALTER
ALWARD'S MOTIVATION WHEN HE
DESIGNED THE MONUMENT, WHICH IS,
IN ALDS WARD'S WORDS, A SERMON
IN STONE AGAINST WAR.
HE DOESN'T ACTUALLY SEE IT AS A
CANADIAN WAR MEMORIAL, HE SEES
IT AS AGAINST WAR.
THAT WAS THE TONE OF THE
UNVEILING OF THE MONUMENT.
I THINK THIS ASSOCIATION OF
STRIVING FOR A MORE PEACEFUL
WORLD IS DEEPLY INTERTWINED IN
CANADIAN THINKING AND IT REALLY
GOES BACK TO THE 1920s AND
1930s, WHEN PEOPLE WERE...
WHEN THEY WERE WRESTLING WITH
THIS HOLOCAUST, THEY WERE SAYING
SURELY THERE MUST HAVE BEEN SOME
MEANING, SOME IMPORTANCE TO THIS
WAR, AND THEY SAID MANY SOLDIERS
WOULD WRITE AND SAY THE ONLY
MEANING I CAN FIND IS IF WE
NEVER HAVE ANOTHER WAR.
AND I THINK THAT LIES VERY
DEEPLY EMBEDDED IN THE CANADIAN
CONSCIOUSNESS.
THINK OF THE OVERWHELMING
SUCCESS OF McKENZIE KING AS
CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER.
KING WAS ABOUT, AMONG MANY
THINGS, A CONFUSING, PERPLEXING
FIGURE, BUT IF YOU LOOK AT HIS
WRITINGS, AT THE CORE OF HIS
POLITICAL THOUGHT IS PEACE.
THAT IS HIS CORE VIRTUE.
AND I THINK THAT SPEAKS TO AN
UNDERLYING INTERWAR SENTIMENT
AMONG, I WOULD SAY, THE VAST
MAJORITY OF CANADIANS.

Steve says NOT TO GET TOO FAR
OFF THE PATH, BUT I DID READ IN
TIM COOK'S BOOK, PRIME MINISTER
KING DIDN'T SHOW UP FOR THE
UNVEILING OF AL WARD'S MEMORIAL.
HE DIDN'T SHOW UP.

Tim says CANADIANS WERE OUTRAGED AT
HOW HE TREATED LORD BYNG AND YOU
MENTIONED BEFORE THE
CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES OF 1926.
I THINK YOU'RE RIGHT ABOUT
McKENZIE KING.
A FASCINATING CANADIAN.
OUR LONGEST-SERVING PRIME
MINISTER WHO HAD SEEN THE FIRST
WORLD WAR AND THE LEGACY OF IT
DESTROY THE COUNTRY AND HIS
PARTY, OR COME CLOSE TO
DESTROYING THE COUNTRY.
THE FRACTURES ALONG REGIONAL,
LINGUISTIC AND CLASS LINES WERE
VERY BITTER.
AND I THINK, AS I SAY IN MY
BOOK, AND AS I SAID DURING THE
EVENTS ON THE 9TH WHEN I WAS ON
CBC TALKING ABOUT THAT, WE HAVE
TO TALK ABOUT THAT.
THE FIRST WORLD WAR AS AN EVENT
WHICH REALLY CHANGES US AS A
COUNTRY, WHERE WE STEP FORWARD
AT VERSAILLES AND OTHER EVENTS,
WHERE WE SEE OURSELVES IN A
DIFFERENT WAY.
BUT WE ALSO HAVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE
THAT THE FIRST WORLD WAR WAS
TERRIBLY DAMAGING TO UNITY IN
OUR COUNTRY.
AND SOME OF THOSE SCARS WE STILL
SEE TODAY.
AND I THINK TOGETHER THEY HAVE
TO BE TALKED ABOUT.
AND I THINK, AGAIN, THAT'S WHY
VIMY IS MORE THAN JUST A BATTLE.
IT IS THE MONUMENT.
IT IS THE IDEA.

Ian says THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE WAR
SHIFTER KING AND THE WAR HERO
BYNG IN 1926 ENDS UP WITH...

[MIXED VOICES]

Tim says I DON'T THINK SO.

The caption changes to "The politics of battle."

Ian says I THINK CANADIANS WERE PRESENTED
WITH A FAIRLY STARK CHOICE TO
REJECT THIS PERSON WHO DIDN'T
SERVE IN THE WAR, THE
CONSERVATIVES BROUGHT THAT UP
ENDLESSLY, IT HURT McKENZIE'S
KING'S FEELINGS DEEPLY BECAUSE
HE FELT HE HAD SERVED BY KEEPING
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS GOING
THROUGH THE FIRST WORLD WAR AND
KING PREVAILED.
I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT IN WHEN
EVERYBODY WAS FALLING IN LOVE
WITH VIMY, I THOUGHT KING WOULD
HAVE BEEN SENT PACKING.
NOT THE CASE.
AND RUNNING AN ELECTION VERY
MUCH AGAINST ARTHUR MEEHAN AND
LORD BYNG, HE PREVAILS.
THAT'S TELLING ABOUT WHERE THE
CANADIAN MAINSTREAM WAS IN THE
20s AND '30s.
GRANTED NOT A SIMPLE MAINSTREAM.
VERY COMPLICATED.
BUT IF YOU'RE LOOKING AT
ACTUALLY WHO IS GOING TO WIN
POLITICAL POWER ON THIS CRUCIAL
ISSUE OF THE WAR, IT'S NOT THE
PEOPLE SAYING McKENZIE KING
WAS A SHIRKER.

Tim says THE KEY EVENT ABOUT VIMY IS
NOT IN THE 1920s.
THAT'S WHAT I SAY IN MY BOOK.
IT'S NOT A PROMINENT SYMBOL
AMONG CANADIANS.
IT'S 1936.
IT'S THE PILGRIMAGE.
IT'S THE RETURN.
I THINK THE IDEA OF CANADIANS
RETURNING TO THIS RIDGE, TO THIS
MONUMENT, HAS BEEN A VERY
POWERFUL ONE.
AND WE'VE COME BACK, IN 1967.
IN 1992.
2007.
AND THEN 25,000 CANADIANS A
COUPLE DAYS AGO.
THERE'S SOMETHING THERE.

Steve says I WANT TO PICK UP ON
THAT.
LET'S EXPLORE THE TWO ENDS OF
THE CONTINUUM HERE.
THIS PAST WEEKEND, I HAD THE
HONOUR OF BEING THERE FOR THE
FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE.
HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU BEEN
THERE?

Michael says OH, I
LIVED THERE.
I LIVED IN FRANCE FOR FOUR
YEARS.

Steve says SO YOU HAVE SEEN
THAT MONUMENT HOW MANY TIMES?

Michael says OH, GOD.
WELL OVER A HUNDRED.
I SPENT WEEKENDS ON THE
BATTLEFIELD.
I WANTED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED
THERE AND I WANTED TO KNOW WHAT
HAPPENED TO CANADA IN THE FIRST
AND SECOND WORLD WAR.

Steve says WHY DOES IT HOLD
SUCH AN IMPORTANT PLACE
OBVIOUSLY IN YOUR SOUL?

A colour picture shows the monument in soft golden light, surrounded by green fields.

Michael says LIKE THE OTHER BATTLEFIELDS
DO, VIMY IS STILL ACCESSIBLE.
MUCH OF HILL 145 IS... YOU CAN
STILL VISIT.
THE MEMORIAL ITSELF, AS TIM
POINTS OUT, MAKES A TREMENDOUS
STATEMENT, WHICH YOU HAVE TO
THINK ABOUT WHENEVER YOU WANDER
AROUND THE BATTLEFIELDS.
BUT AS A SOLDIER AND WANDERING
AROUND AND TRYING TO LEARN
LESSONS FROM WHAT I SAW, I WAS
ALWAYS STRUCK WITH JUST HOW
LARGE A ROLE LUCK PLAYED,
SIMPLE, BLIND LUCK, BRAVERY ON
BOTH SIDES, AND HOW A NEAR-RUN
THING IT WAS, IT REALLY WAS A
NEAR-RUN BATTLE.
IT IS OFTEN DESCRIBED AS A
WALKOVER.
WE PREPARED FOR 6 MONTHS.
WE LEARNED FROM THE SOMME, AND
MY GOD, WE JUST SHOWERED ACROSS
THE RIDGE.
AND THAT'S NOT TRUE.

Steve says I'M SORRY, MAJOR,
I'M GOING TO GET ALL MUSHY WITH
YOU HERE.
I DON'T THINK YOU GO BACK TO THE
SAME SITE 150 TIMES JUST BECAUSE
OF YOUR INTEREST IN MILITARY
STRATEGY.
THIS MONUMENT CLEARLY SPEAKS TO
YOU IN SOME WAY.

The caption changes to "Commemorating correctly."

Michael says YES, IT DOES.
BUT IT SPEAKS TO MY STUDENTS AS WELL.
I BRING 30 STUDENTS OVER EVERY
YEAR TO LOOK AT THE MEMORIAL AND
TO LOOK AT THE OTHER MEMORIALS
AND OTHER CANADIAN BATTLEFIELDS
AS WELL.
REMEMBER WHY THE MEMORIAL IS
THERE, JUST TO BE BLOODY MINDED
ABOUT IT.
THE MEMORIAL IS THERE BECAUSE
MORE PEOPLE CAN SEE IT THERE
THAN ANY OTHER PLACE IN THE
BATTLEFIELD.
IT'S VERY CLEAR AT THE END OF
THE FIRST WORLD WAR THAT THE
CANADIAN NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL
HAS TO GO EITHER HILL 52 OR
PASSCHENDAELE.
THAT'S AN ASIDE.
IT ENDS UP GOING IN THE RIGHT
PLACE, I THINK.
IT HAS AN EFFECT, AS TIM POINTED
OUT, IT HAS AN EFFECT.
YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT THE 20
STATUES ON THAT AND TRY TO
FIGURE OUT WHAT ALWARD IS GOING
TO SAY.
SOMETIMES IF THE LIGHT IS RIGHT
IT APPEARS VERY CLEAR.
IF THE LIGHT'S NOT RIGHT, THE
MESSAGES OF THE STATUES ARE...

Steve says THAT'S QUITE TRUE.

Michael says I BRING EVERY YEAR 30 YOUNG
STUDENTS FROM THE ROYAL MILITARY
COLLEGE.
ALL ARE GOING TO BE FUTURE
OFFICERS.
AND THEY THINK THEY KNOW WHAT
THEY'RE GETTING INTO, RIGHT?
THEY'RE ONLY IN THE FIRST YEARS
OF THEIR CAREERS.
THEY THINK THEY KNOW WHAT BEING
AN OFFICER IS, WHAT A COMBAT
SOLDIER IS.
THEY THINK THEY KNOW IT BECAUSE
OF THE STUDIES THEY'VE TAKEN.
THAT'S ALL VERY NICE.
BUT ONCE THEY LOOK AT THE
STATUES, ONCE THEY LOOK AT THE
MEMORIAL, ONCE THEY LOOK AT THE
BATTLEFIELD AND I TAKE THEM ALL
THROUGH IT TO SHOW THEM WHAT
HAPPENED, AND WITH OTHER
BATTLEFIELDS AS WELL IN CANADA'S
GREAT HISTORY, ALL OF THEM COME
TO ME AFTERWARDS AND SAY, I
DIDN'T KNOW IT WAS LIKE THIS.
THIS IS A GAME CHANGER.
AND THAT'S WHY I THINK THE
BATTLEFIELD TOURS THAT ARE
BECOMING MORE FREQUENT FOR
CANADIAN STUDENTS ARE AN
EXCELLENT IDEA.
IT'S GOOD TO SEE WHAT HAPPENED.
IT'S ALSO GOOD TO SEE THE RESULT
OF NOT A WAR.

Steve says MARGARET, LET ME
TALK WITH YOU ABOUT 2017 FOR A
MINUTE.
WE HAVE THE 150th ANNIVERSARY
OF THE CREATION OF OUR COUNTRY.
WE HAVE ON MONDAY THE 35th
ANNIVERSARY OF THE CHARTER OF
RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS, WHICH HAS
BEEN SUCH AN ESSENTIAL PART OF
THE CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS OF
PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN THIS COUNTRY.
AND, ACTUALLY, IT'S TODAY, 100
YEARS AGO TODAY IN THE PROVINCE
OF ONTARIO, THE FIRST RIGHT TO
VOTE LAW WAS PASSED FOR WOMEN IN
THE PROVINCE BY THE HEARST
GOVERNMENT.
WHERE DOES THIS ANNIVERSARY RANK
IN THE PANTHEON?

Margaret says I JUST
THINK ANNIVERSARIES ARE
IMPORTANT, ALTHOUGH THEY HAVE TO
APPROACHED WITH A CERTAIN AMOUNT
OF CARE.
ANNIVERSARIES ARE IMPORTANT
BECAUSE I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT
FOR US TO KNOW OUR HISTORY AND
IT'S A MOMENT AT WHICH YOU STOP,
YOU REFLECT, YOU PAUSE, YOU
REMIND THE NEXT GENERATIONS THAT
THESE WERE MAJOR EVENTS IN THE
PAST.
BUT WHERE I'M WARY OF
ANNIVERSARIES IS IF THEY
BECOME... THIS IS THE ONLY THING
YOU NEED TO KNOW.
THIS IS THE ONLY KEY EVENT IN
YOUR HISTORY.
I MEAN, I THINK WHAT WE HAVE TO
DO IS SOMEHOW GET OVER TO
SUCCESSIVE GENERATIONS THAT YOU
NEED TO KNOW YOUR HISTORY
BECAUSE IT'S WHAT'S PRODUCED YOU
AND YOUR SOCIETY, BUT THAT
HISTORY IS ALWAYS OPEN TO
QUESTION.
YOU KNOW, WHAT WE DO IN IT
HISTORY IS ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT
IT.
I THINK WHAT WE'RE DOING HERE,
TALKING ABOUT THE MEANING OF
VIMY AND SOMETIMES DISAGREEING
IS ABSOLUTELY WHAT WE SHOULD BE
DOING.
WHAT I DON'T LIKE IS OFFICIALLY
SPONSORED COMMEMORATIONS SAYING
THIS IS HOW YOU COMMEMORATE IT.
AS CANADIANS, WE HAVE A VERY
NICE BLOODY-MINDEDNESS, WHEN
WE'RE TOLD TO COMMEMORATE
SOMETHING IN A PARTICULAR WAY,
WE'LL SAY NO.
THERE ARE OTHER WAYS OF LOOKING
AT IT.
I THINK THAT'S ALL RIGHT.
THAT'S WHAT WE HAVE TO MAKE
PEOPLE UNDERSTAND.

Steve says WE DIDN'T EMBRACE
THE WAR OF 1812'S 200th
ANNIVERSARY.

Margaret says I THINK WITH REASON.
I THINK THE GOVERNMENT AT THE
TIME WAS TRYING TO MAKE THAT
ANOTHER DEFINING MOMENT IN
CANADIAN HISTORY.
THE TROUBLE IS WHEN YOU EXAMINE
IT, WHO WAS FIGHTING?
IT WAS BRITISH REGULAR SOLDIERS.
IT WAS CANADIAN INDIAN SOLDIERS
WHO GOT REALLY SHORT SHRIFT IN A
LOT OF THE COMMEMORATION.
WAS THIS A FOUNDING MOMENT IN
CANADA?
THERE WASN'T A CANADA AT THAT
TIME.
I DON'T LIKE READING INTO THINGS
THAT EXISTED LATER ON.

Steve says VIMY, HOLGER, 100
YEARS LATER, WHAT DOES IT MEAN
TO YOU?

Holger says WHAT IT
MEANS ARE THE LETTERS THAT I'VE
READ, HUNDREDS OF THEM, FROM
AVERAGE BAVARIAN SOLDIERS AT THE
FRONT.
THEY TALK ABOUT THE HELL OF IT,
THE SNOW, THE SHELLS, THE
TUNNELLING, THE BOMBARDMENT, THE
BODY SHREDS.
IT IS A MEMORY OF DEATH, OF
HORROR.
THERE'S NOTHING HEROIC ABOUT IT.

The caption changes to "Producer: Harrison Lowman, @harrisonlowman."

Steve says I'M REALLY GRATEFUL
TO ALL OF YOU FOR COMING IN
TONIGHT.
IN CALGARY, ALBERTA, HOLGER
HERWIG, PROFESSOR EMERITUS AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY,
SPECIALIZING IN GERMAN HISTORY,
AND OUR GUESTS IN THIS HISTORY
FOR THIS... I WAS GOING TO SAY
IMPORTANT ANNIVERSARY.
I CAN SAY THAT MUCH, CAN'T I?
DO WE HAVE CONSENSUS ON THAT
THAT IT'S AN IMPORTANT
ANNIVERSARY?
WE CAN DEBATE WHY IT'S IMPORTANT
BUT IT'S AN IMPORTANT
ANNIVERSARY TO BE SURE.
A REMINDER AGAIN, TIM COOK'S
LATEST, "THE BATTLE AND THE
LEGEND" AND "THE VIMY TRAP."
THAT'S IAN McKAY'S LATEST ON THIS.
AND IF YOU DO MANAGE TO GET TO A
BOOKSTORE OR SOMETHING, THAT'S
HOW THE NATIONAL POST DREW IT UP
OVER THE WEEKEND.
REPRINTING THE FRONT PAGE OF ITS
NEWSPAPERS FROM, OF COURSE,
OWNED BY A DIFFERENT COMPANY
BACK THEN, BUT ITS NEWSPAPERS
100 YEARS AGO.
THANK YOU SO MUCH, EVERYBODY,
FOR PARTICIPATING IN OUR
DISCUSSION HERE ON TVO TONIGHT.

All the guests say THANK YOU.

Watch: A Century After Vimy