Friday, 9 December 2011

Maple Leaf Forever

Last tuesday we went to Vimy Ridge and took a tour of the tunnels used in ww1. There are 13 tunnels extending for 10 km all together. they had to dig very quietly so they couldn't use explosives. The rock was soft chalk but it was white so they couldn't pile it up outside. They put it into sandbags and shipped them back from the front line and buried it so the enemy airplanes couldn't spot piles of chalk. The tunnels go 8 m down out of range of exploding shells up above.

Above is a very famous piece of graffiti. It's a maple leaf carved by an unknown soldier, and the only piece of graffiti found in the tunnels. Remember that this was well before the Maple Leaf flag became official in 1965, but it already shows how important a symbol it is for Canadians. Vimy Ridge battle went from April 9-12, 1917, with the Canadians capturing a ridge that the Germans had held since 1914.

Tunnel for 500 waiting Black Watch
Before the battle of Vimy Ridge the soldiers had to wait down in the tunnels without food or water, in the dark and without talking. We saw the area where 500 Princess Pats Light Infantry were crowded, and another tunnel to where the Black Watch were stuffed into. They couldn't sit down because it was all water and mud and there were rats the size of house cats. Originally, they were only supposed to wait 12 hours but April 8 was a sunny day. the next day was a snowstorm (better for attacking) so they had to wait in the tunnels for 40 hours. The other really scary thing was that, as they were marching up to the front and the tunnels, they could see the support troops digging countless graves for the dead that were surely to come.

When it came time to attack, they had to climb out with their big packs, rifles, and ammunition, maybe 60 pounds of stuff! When they were restoring the tunnels, they found lots of stuff left over, including this old grenade and old bottles, tools, and other things.

Taking a look to the German trenches (where that electric fence line is) only 25 m away! Both the Canadian and the German trenches are preserved, and the whole park has lots of bumps from old trenches and bomb craters. They are all fenced off because there are still unexploded bombs and mines buried there.