Historica Canada has a new teaching resource entitled “Think like a Historian: the Battle of Vimy Ridge” in English and “Pensez comme un historien” in French. Designed for middle and high school students, the materials are thoughtful, clear and engaging. They should be a useful support for teachers to explore the curricular concept of evidence with its videos and lesson plans for studying photographs, letters, and newspaper articles of the time.
They do not, however, support teaching the competing narratives and mythologizing of Vimy and World War One that were featured in the blog post last week. Each video begins with the statement “Many historians see the victory of the Canadian Corps at Vimy as a significant nation building event for Canada” and there is little else that suggests different interpretations.
In an article in the Toronto Star, however, Jamie Swift reminds us that the magnificent Vimy memorial was intended as an ode to peace. Sculptor Walter Allward described his monument as “a sermon against the futility of war.”
In 1936 when the memorial was finally completed, thousands of Canadian “pilgrims” attended the unveiling ceremony. Swift writes that “they listened to ‘The Peace Hymn.’ They heard ‘Guns,’ a poem by Geoffrey O’Hara with the line, ‘Crush out the hated curse of war.’”
It was Canada’s first Silver Cross mother who expressed this lesson of peace from Vimy most clearly. A Winnipeg mother, she lost five sons during World War One. At the 1936 ceremony she told King Edward VIII , “I just can’t figure out why our boys had to go through that.”
I continue to stumble across cool Vimy teaching resources. A Google Maps project lets you visit the Vimy Ridge memorial. Google visited the location twice to capture the images so that people can tour the memorial in street view, read the names etched on it, even “walk” the trenches and tunnels.