Most Canadians aware of First World War’s Battle of Vimy Ridge
When the First World War started in 1914, Canada’s population was only about eight million and Newfoundland was not a part of the country. More than 650,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders served in the war and more than 172,000 were wounded, according to Veterans Affairs Canada.
Yet, Canadians wildly overestimate the number of soldiers who died in the conflict, according to a new poll.
The Ipsos survey for the Vimy Foundation, questioned 5,521 people in Canada, France, Germany, Britain, Belgium and the United States on their First World War knowledge.
Jeremy Diamond, the Vimy Foundation’s executive director, said the poll shows Canadians see the Battle of Vimy Ridge as an important part of Canada’s history.
“Canadians are often said to not know about their own history but we’ve found that over 60 per cent of Canadians had heard of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and in some areas were over 70 per cent,” he said
Canadians scored highest in awareness of the Battle of Vimy Ridge at 61 per cent — not surprising, considering the battle is often touted as a seminal moment in Canadian history.
The battle, on April 9, 1917, helped pave the way to an Allied victory. Only 17 per cent of French people knew of the battle, despite the fact it was fought in France.
Canadians also scored highest in attending war remembrance ceremonies. Twenty-five per cent said they attended a ceremony in the past 12 months. Britons came in second, with 18 per cent, while Germans were last with four per cent.
Perceptions of the number of soldiers killed varied dramatically from reality. Canada lost 61,000 soldiers and Newfoundland 1,305, but Canadians guessed there were 174,772 casualties, nearly triple the actual number.
The poll also asked other nations to estimate the number of Canadian casualties. Interestingly, all other countries came closer to guessing the correct number: At 66,675, the United States was by far the closest.
While Canada, the United States, Belgium and Britain overestimated their number of soldiers who died, France and Germany significantly underestimated their numbers. Germans were off by about 700,000 — they guessed there were 1,149,436 German soldiers killed, when 1,900,876 soldiers died. The French thought there were 915,047 casualties, rather than 1,397,800.
Twenty-nine per cent of Canadians say they are descended from someone who served in the First World War, about the same as Belgium’s 30 per cent and the United States’ 31 per cent.
The U.K. scored significantly higher than other countries, with fully 46 per cent of people saying they have an ancestor who was a veteran.
The Vimy Foundation is planning a tour to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, April 4 to 11, 2017.
Many people also plan to attend a ceremony marking the centenary. This has been organized by Veterans Affairs Canada and will be held at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial on April. 9.