How We Remember

Reflecting on Edmonton’s military connections and the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

October 1, 2017

photography by Paul Swanson

Edmonton is very much a military town. Canadian Forces Base Edmonton is one of only three major deployment centres in Canada. Of those three, one is always designated a “high readiness” station — that is, if a situation arises that requires the army to respond, the soldiers at that base are primed and ready to go. From July 2016 - July 2017, Edmonton was the high readiness station, according to Major Brian Kominar.

As of mid-August, of the 6,500 troops based out of Edmonton, 900 were abroad — mainly assigned to roles in Ukraine, Poland and Latvia. Some soldiers were deployed to help with the firefighting efforts in British Columbia.

And, in April, the city marked the 100th anniversary of a battle that, despite being fought on European soil, was a defining moment in Canadian history —
Vimy Ridge. In April 1917, a large force of Canadian soldiers was tasked with capturing the seven-kilometre ridge. Anyone in the military will talk about the importance of having the high ground and the Germans had Vimy Ridge, which allowed them to see down into Allied lines.

First, artillery pounded German positions, to weaken the enemy and to keep them away from their main guns. The weather was a mix of snow and sleet, transforming the field of battle into a bog. According to the Canadian War Museum, 3,598 Canadians were killed in battle; another 7,000 were wounded. But, in honour of Canada’s sacrifice in capturing the ridge, in 1922 the French government in gave that small slice of territory to Canada — a gesture of appreciation for this country’s sacrifice.

This article appears in the October 2017 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.


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