department: pas-de-calais (62)
region: Hauts-de-France

site of major battle

Vimy is a farming town, situated 6 miles (9.7 km) north of Arras, on the crest of Vimy Ridge, a prominent feature overlooking the Artois region. The town was first mentioned in 1183 as Viniarcum and was the scene of much fighting during the 14th, 17th and 18th centuries among the French, English, Dutch and Spanish forces.

The ridge was also the scene of fierce fighting in the First World War. Seized by the Germans in 1914, it was the subject of a French assault in 1915. In 1917 the Battle of Vimy Ridge took place southeast of Vimy and was an important battle of the First World War for Canadian military history. The town was practically destroyed during the fighting in the area.

© Pas-de-Calais WW1 R. Valmont

© Xavier Alphand

On the highest point of Vimy Ridge is the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, the largest of Canada's war monuments. In 1922, use of the land that contains the memorial was granted, in perpetuity, by the French nation to the people of Canada in recognition of Canada's war efforts.

Five major battles were fought around the town of Arras during World War One. This was because the town had an important railroad junction in it and if the Germans controlled it, the rail line could be used to help supply her troops. If the Allies controlled the rail junction, they could supply their own men.

Vimy Ridge is about 10 miles north of Arras and it was considered an important strategic area. Both the French and Germans wished to control it as it gave an army height in that area. However, Vimy Ridge won fame for the battle fought there in April 1917. The attack on Vimy Ridge started on April 9th 1917. The Germans were cleared from their trenches but between April and May a series of violent attacks took place. It was at this battle that Canadian troops won much praise for their bravery and success in keeping Vimy Ridge for the Allies.

© Pas-de-Calais WW1 R. Valmont


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