Hill 70: Canada's forgotten victory in France finally memorialized
Published Saturday, April 8, 2017 10:00PM EDT
On August 15, 1917, the Canadian Corps began an assault in northern France that would solidify our country’s standing as a strong and independent military power. Nearly 100 years later, Canadians were back, this time armed with wreaths instead of rifles.
Known as the Battle of Hill 70, outnumbered Canadian soldiers wrested a heavily-fortified strategic hilltop from German troops near the French town of Lens.
After taking the hill, Canada successfully defended it against 21 counterattacks. Nearly 10,000 Canadians were killed or wounded during the 10-day battle. German casualties were almost triple that.
The battle was significant because it was the first time that Canadian troops fought under a Canadian commander in a Canadian-planned mission, proving that we were more than just call-ups from the colonies.
That commander was General Arthur Currie, whose great-grandson, Canadian Armed Forces member Cpl. Arthur Currie, was on-hand Saturday for the dedication of a new monument memorializing the historic battle.
"I can't believe that I'm actually here,” Cpl. Currie told CTV News on Saturday. “I'm standing where 100 years ago, hundreds of thousands of soldiers were fighting … Everyone here is speaking so highly of, not only the troops, but also of my great-grandfather.”
The recently-unveiled Battle of Hill 70 Memorial Park is centred around a towering obelisk. The path leading to the monument is stamped with 1,877 maple leafs -- one for each of the Canadians killed in the battle.
The battle, which occurred between the much-celebrated Vimy Ridge assault and the tragic bloodbath that was Passchendaele, is often overshadowed by these two more well-known battles.
"Too long, the Battle of Hill 70 and its significance have largely been forgotten,” Governor General David Johnston said during a speech at the monument on Saturday. “And so, today, we change that."
With a report from CTV News Atlantic Bureau Chief Todd Battis