Sunday, January 29, 2017

The news from Vimy in 1917

Our occasional correspondent Libby Toop has been reading what her local paper was writing about the First World War as it happened.  Meanwhile, reading Canada's History she came across something I recently wrote:
It will often be said this year that that Canada “became a nation” at Vimy Ridge. But victory at Vimy only happened because in 1917 Canada was already a nation, one that could raise, equip, and send overseas a fighting force with the leadership and esprit de corps of a national army capable of fighting the Vimy battle.
So she went back to the newspapers:
I checked out the microfilm for the Smiths Falls Record News for April of 1917 once again. The first reference to Vimy was in the paper from April 12th. The news story was short and connected the story to the Allied strategy. The paper from the same date also included an article entitled "British and Canadian Victories in Big Fight Around Arras. Capture Vimy Ridge, Sweep Foe Back on a Wide Front. Take 6,000 Prisoners - Tanks Play Big Part in Triumph." Obviously, the article which accompanied this heading was much more informative than the first one I mentioned. Nothing suggested that this meant Canada was coming of age. The paper routinely signified Canadian actions and involvement in the War as Canadian.
On the 19th of April, the editorial was entitled "The Blow at Arras". The comments here on the Germans are sarcastic. Then - "It is a different kind of news from what we were accustomed to read in the first two years of the war, and it is no super-optimism that foresees a steady growth of British and French superiority and a steady weakening of the German power of defense."
Beside the editorial is a piece entitled "The Battle in the Snow", which concerns military activities directly following Vimy. The piece ends with the following two paragraphs.
"The battle of Arras is another proof of the futility of militarism in the long run. The Germans have been making ready for this war for forty years, and at the beginning of it they were superior. The British began to make ready after the war started and have been at it two years and a half; and already they are superior.
"Canada has a new reason for pride. It was great good fortune for her that the taking of the Vimy Ridge, for which the Allies had poured out so much of their blood, fell in the long run to her. April 9, 1917, will be in Canada's history one of the great days, a day of glory to furnish inspiration to her sons for generations."
The paper was a Liberal one and came out twice a week in 1917.

You might be interested in knowing that in April of 1917 the paper was giving at least as much attention to the American entry into the War and what they thought the consequences might be. That is a whole different kettle of fish and a pretty interesting one, so far as I've been able to follow it.
Thank you, Libby Toop!
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