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Vimy 2017: Both Sides of the Ridge Wrap-Up


Dr. Holger Herwig, Professor Emeritus, opens the conference Credit: David Brown, University of Calgary Imaging Services

On April 9, 1917, a century ago, 15,000 men of the Canadian Corps stormed Vimy Ridge in France and three days later took Hill 145, victorious in the face of enemy machine gun fire. The event soon became Canada’s most celebrated battlefield victory and has evolved from a significant, but costly, military victory to one of the core events of Canadian national identity, a symbol of Canada’s nationhood and independence from Britain. Yet, was this battle really that significant?

To mark the 100th anniversary of this iconic battle, the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies together with the Federal Republic of Germany's Centre for Military History and Social Sciences (Zentrum für Militärgeschichte und Sozialwissenschaften der Bundeswehr - ZMSBw) held a conference to re-examine the legend and the reality of Vimy Ridge.  Vimy Ridge: From Both Sides of the Ridge was held at the University of Calgary from April 20-22. The participation of five top German First World War scholars gave conference attendees - over 120 faculty, students, military members and the public - an unprecedented look at the “enemy’s” perspective on Vimy Ridge and the wider battlefield: a view rarely found in Vimy’s historiography. 

 

Additional light was trained on the battle by the top echelon of Canadian military historians including Dr. Patrick Brennan, Dr. Tim Cook, Dr. Jack Granatstein, Dr. Rob Rutherdale, Dr. Serge Durflinger as well as several up-and-coming scholars who brought a much-needed fresh assessment to aspects of the battle. The dinner keynote by Dr. Michael Neiberg detailed the American entry into WWI, giving context and colour to the daily discussions.

It is fitting that 100 years after Vimy, long held as the battle that helped define Canada, this conference brought academics, researchers, students and the general public a unique view from both sides of the Ridge. Through the continued mobilization of the discussions and presentations and the new research undertaken as a result of these discussions, this conference will change the Canadian perspective on Vimy Ridge and will have a lasting impact on Canadian political, social and military historiography.

Program

A copy of the program can be downloaded here.

Audio Recording of Proceedings

Audio recordings of the conference proceedings are available as a YouTube playlist.

Photos

In addition to the selection of photos at the bottom of this page, the full galleries from the conference are available on Flickr as follows:
Reception - by Dave Brown, University of Calgary Imaging Services
Reception - by Timothy Choi, CMSS PhD Candidate and Web Administrator
Day 1 - by Dave Brown, University of Calgary Imaging Services
Day 1 - by Timothy Choi, CMSS PhD Candidate and Web Administrator
Day 2 - by Timothy Choi, CMSS PhD Candidate and Web Administrator

We thank our sponsors for making this event possible:

University of Calgary
Office of the President
Office of the Provost
Office of the Vice President (Research)
Department of History
Department of Sociology
Bookstore

Zentrum für Militärgeschichte und Sozialwissenschaften der Bundeswehr - ZMSBw

41 Canadian Brigade Group

Veterans Affairs Canada

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

A special note of appreciation to Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr for helping to open the conference!

Selected Photos

Larger versions can be viewed by either going to the Flickr links mentioned above or by right-clicking -> Open image in new tab/window.

The conference reception was held in the new Taylor Teaching and Learning Institute's atrium

Image Credit: Dave Brown

University of Calgary Chancellor Dr. Elizabeth Cannon and CMSS Director Dr. David Bercuson open the conference reception

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Scholars from the ZMSBw share a laugh at the reception

CMSS and Political Science students enjoy some refreshments at the reception

Dr. Holger Herwig and Dr. Elizabeth Cannon converse during the reception

Guests observe the opening introductions at the reception

Dr. David Bercuson gives remarks during the reception as ZMSBw Senior Scientist Dr. Michael Epkenhans looks on

ZMSBw Senior Scientist Dr. Michael Epkenhans delivers opening address at the reception

Day 1 - Royal Air Force officers in attendance converse with Canadian Army Lt. Col. David Fearon 

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Day 1 - Royal Air Force officers look on as Dr. Holger Herwig delivers remarks

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Day 1 - Dr. Holger Herwig opens the conference proceedings

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Day 1 - Dr. Florentine Strzelczyk, Vice Dean, Faculty of Arts, delivers remarks on behalf of the Faculty of Arts

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Day 1 - Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr looks on during introductions

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Day 1 - Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr delivers welcoming remarks on behalf of the Canadian government

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Day 1 - Audience listens as Kent Hehr helps open the conference proceedings

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Day 1 - Dr. Holger Herwig introduces the first panel featuring Dr. Patrick Brennan (UoC) and Dr. Epkenhans

Image Credit: Dave Brown

Day 1 - Chaired by Dr. Jean-Sébastien Rioux, the second panel featured Dr. Gerhard Gross (ZMSBw), Lt. Col. David Fearon (Canadian Army), and Dr. Mark Humphries (Wilfrid Laurier University)

Day 1 - Dr. Hans-Hubertus Mack of the ZMSBw delivers his luncheon keynote

Day 1 - Dr. David Bercuson introduces the third session

Day 1 - Session three, chaired by CMSS Associate Director Dr. Ian Brodie, included Dr. Mike Bechthold (Wilfrid Laurier University) and Major Bill March (Canadian Armed Forces)

Day 1 - Participants enjoy their 15-minute "health break" between sessions (click to enlarge)

Day 1 - Session four begins with Dr. Bercuson introducing the chair, Dr. Rob Huebert (CMSS), and speakers Dr. Christian Stachelbeck (ZMSBw) and Dr. Geoff Jackson (Ambrose University College)

Day 1 - Final session concludes with Dr. Andrew McEwen and David Thuell

Day 1 - The evening banquet saw the conference hall transformed into a more elegant space

Day 1 - Conference attendees converse prior to dinner (panorama image - click to enlarge)

Day 1 - Dinner attendees were treated to a performance by the Calgary Highlanders' Pipes and Drums

Day 1 - The Dinner keynote was delivered by Dr. Michael Neiberg of the US Army War College

Day 2 - Panel one saw Dr. Rob Rutherdale (Algoma University), Dr. Serge Durflinger (University of Ottawa), and Carla Stokes (O'Keefe Ranch) chaired by Dr. Holger Herwig

Day 2 - Carla Stokes speaks on the wartime photography of William Ivor Castle

Day 2 - Panelists engage the audience during the Q&A

Day 2 - Session Six saw Dr. Jack Granatstein, Dr. Tim Cook, and Dr. Michael Neiberg engaging that most significant of questions, "Did Vimy Matter?"

Day 2 - Session Six

Day 2 - During lunch, Krista Cooke from the Canadian War Museum presented the CWM's new Vimy exhibit

Day 2 - Dr. David Bercuson closes out the conference