This significant First World War battle was a pivotal moment in Canadian history
On April 8, Canada Post will issue commemorative stamps to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, an impressive Canadian victory that served as coming-of-age moment for Canada in the First World War.
The joint issue with France will feature two stamps—one designed by Canada Post and the other by France’s La Poste—honouring the bond forged between the two nations.
“The Battle of Vimy Ridge saw thousands of Canadians make the ultimate sacrifice and is the best-known chapter in our country’s proud First World War history,” said Deepak Chopra, president and CEO of Canada Post. “The valour of Canadians at Vimy a century ago is a poignant reminder of the enormous price paid so we can live in freedom.”
At 5:30 a.m. on April 9, 1917, the first wave of soldiers in the nearly 100,000-strong Canadian Corps emerged from their muddy trenches. The Corps was ordered to seize a heavily fortified and strategic height of land, Vimy Ridge, in northern France. The ridge had been a virtually impregnable German-held position since early in the war and had withstood several previous assaults, at great cost to the Allies.
Advancing on the heels of a ferocious artillery barrage that pounded the German defences, the Canadians crossed a treacherous no man’s land, attacked up hill and played a vital role in helping Allied forces capture Vimy Ridge.
It was one of the most impressive Allied victories of the First World War; however, it came at a heavy price. Nearly 3,600 Canadians were killed and more than 7,000 were wounded during four days of bitter fighting. The Canadian soldiers’ bravery, determination and skillful precision earned Canada international accolades.
To this day, the Battle of Vimy Ridge is considered by many to be one of the defining moments that helped to forge a proud, more independent identity for a nation that was still relatively young.
The Canadian stamp was designed by Susan Scott, of Montréal, and features the two towering pylons of Walter Allward’s Vimy monument, which represent France and Canada. The sheer scale of the monument reflects Canada’s important contribution to Allied victory in the First World War. In the foreground of the stamp is a figure of a grieving man, one of the monument’s statues, symbolizing loss and grief. The ridge behind the monument on the stamp recalls the site of the battle itself.
“The size of the monument and its masterfully carved statues are impressive, but I find the most moving part is the thousands of names inscribed into the limestone,” said Scott.
Also represented on the stamp are the thousands of names inscribed around the base of the monument. They are a memorial to all the Canadians who died in France during the First World War and had no known grave at the time. Laurel sprigs surrounding the monument’s two towers on the stamp represent the victory and tragic loss of life. A maple leaf on one sprig represents Canada, while an oak leaf on the other represents France.
The French stamp focuses on one of the most poignant statues at the site, a cloaked woman. Representing a country in mourning, “Canada Bereft” gazes down at a symbolic tomb at her feet and overlooks the French countryside where Canadians fought for peace and sacrificed for freedom.
The Canadian National Vimy Memorial was featured on a stamp Canada Post issued in 1968, commemorating the 50-year anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War.
SOUVENIR SHEET, BOOKLETS OF 10
Available in a booklet of 10, the domestic-rate stamps measure 41 mm x 30 mm and feature lithography in a four-colour process and two special inks. A Canada souvenir sheet at the Canadian international rate featuring two stamps—one designed by Canada and another by France—measures 130 mm x 85 mm and includes lithography and offset gravure printing. An official first-day cover with a single domestic rate stamp and a joint official first day cover with both stamps at the Canadian international rate measure 190 mm x 112 mm and feature a four-colour process and one special ink.