Vimy: The Battle and the Legend

Vimy: The Battle and the Legend

by Tim Cook


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A bold new telling of the defining battle of the Great War, and how it came to signify and solidify Canada's national identity.

     Why does Vimy loom so large in Canada's identity--and should it? Tim Cook, Canada's foremost military historian and a Charles Taylor Prize winner, examines the battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917 and the way the memory of it has evolved over 100 years. Vimy is unlike any other battle in Canadian history: it has been described as the "birth of the nation." But the meaning of that phrase has never been explored, nor has any writer explained why the battle continues to resonate with Canadians. The Vimy battle that began April 9, 1917, marked the first time the four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought together. 10,600 men were killed or injured over four days--twice the casualty rate of the Dieppe Raid in August 1942.
     Cook has uncovered new material and photographs from official archives and private collections across Canada and from around the world. Many of these resources have never been used before by other historians, writers, or film-makers.
     With the 100th anniversary of Vimy and Canada's celebrations of 150 years of nationhood just past, this new book is about more than a defining battle: it is a story of Canadian identity and memory, by a writer who brings history alive.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780735233188
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Publication date: 03/06/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 528
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

TIM COOK is a military historian at the Canadian War Museum, as well as an adjunct professor at Carleton University. His books have won numerous awards, including the 2008 J.W. Dafoe Prize for At the Sharp End and the 2009 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction for Shock Troops. In 2013, he received the Pierre Berton Award for popularizing Canadian history and was recently inducted into the Order of Canada.

Read an Excerpt

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was the most carefully planned operation the Canadians fought during the First World War. The ridge was the site of several titanic battles, starting in October 1914, and a place where hundreds of thousands of French and German soldiers had been killed or maimed in attempting to capture or hold the critically important geographical position. The 7-kilometre Vimy Ridge protected the coal-rich area around Lens that the Germans occupied and desperately needed to retain to supply their war effort. When the Canadians arrived at the foot of the western side of the ridge in October 1916, Vimy was a vast desert of shell craters and rotting corpses. The Canadians faced one of the most formidable positions on the Western Front. Under the command of British general Sir Julian Byng, the four Canadian divisions, with significant support from British engineers, gunners, and soldiers, prepared for the battle in April 1917. The assault on Vimy was part of a larger British push, the Arras offensive, which was, in turn, a supporting attack for the French Artois offensive to the south. Through meticulous preparation, training, determination, and sacrifice, the Canadians succeeded where the French armies had failed in the past. The Corps’ victory solidified its reputation among allies and opponents as an elite fighting force.

Excerpted from "Vimy"
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Copyright © 2018 Tim Cook.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Canada.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Maps viii

Chapter 1 Vimy: Battle and Legend 1

Chapter 2 Vimy Battleground 8

Chapter 3 Preparing the Assault 36

Chapter 4 Over the Top 72

Chapter 5 Vimy Aftermath 114

Chapter 6 Vimy's Impact 138

Chapter 7 Commemorating the Fallen 164

Chapter 8 Constructing Memory 191

Chapter 9 The Great War Contested 218

Chapter 10 The 1936 Vimy Pilgrimage 249

Chapter 11 Forging an Icon 274

Chapter 12 Birth of the Nation 300

Chapter 13 Vimy Contested 328

Chapter 14 Vimy Reborn 366

Afterword 385

Endnotes 395

Acknowledgments 449

Select Bibliography 454

Index 489

Credits 510

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