This week I am going to stray off the normal path for this column which normally focuses on agriculture, or at least the rural Prairies.
But as I write this it was a century ago that Canadian soldiers climbed out of their trenches in France to begin the battle for Vimy Ridge.
History looks back on the battle, which ended with Canadian success on April 12, 1917, as a galvanizing moment in this country’s history. It was the first time Canadians fought as a national unit under our own command, rather than as part of the British forces.
At the time of the actual battle, it was naturally less recognizable in terms of significance, one battle in a war that was bogged down in the trenches of France for years.
The Battle for Vimy Ridge was a costly success for this country.
By nightfall on April 12 1917, the Canadian Corps was in firm control of the ridge. The corps suffered 10,602 casualties: 3,598 killed and 7,004 wounded. The German Sixth Army suffered an unknown number of casualties with approximately 4,000 men becoming prisoners of war.
Many of those who died, or were wounded in the four days of fighting, were young men from farms and small towns and villages across Canada.
One hundred years ago the move from farms to cities was just beginning, small farms growing ever and ever larger to the present day.
So when war came and the call for soldiers came it was rural Canada which responded.
One cannot even imagine someone leaving a small town in Saskatchewan, or a farm in Manitoba, and heading to Europe to defend the freedoms we still enjoy.
While Vimy is historically significant for Canada, it was only four days in a four year war that left tens of thousands dead. Farmers of the future not just from Canada, but countries around the world left dead, many of their bodies never found, simply lost in the mud of France.
You would think there would have been a lesson learned in the death and destruction of the first world-encompassing war.
But they were not. It would be scant years before a second world war would deprive Canada and other countries of another generation of farmers, mechanics, barbers, doctors and more.
Even now, a century after Vimy, as we in Canada pause to remember those who fought in the galvanizing battle of our nationhood, missiles are still being launched causing death a destruction.
Ten decades have come and gone, and the losses of Vimy while proudly remembered, was not the moment where the world grew beyond war.
Vimy Ridge will forever live in Canada’s collective memory, but hopefully at some point our world grows beyond wars completely.