Thursday, April 5, 2007

Vimy plaques riddled with errors

Vimy plaques riddled with errors: CBC April 05, 2007

The French-language plaques at Canada's newly restored Vimy Ridge memorial in France are riddled with grammatical errors, Radio-Canada reports.

The plaques, which are found in the visitor's centre of the memorial, contain mistakes stemming from a poor translation of their English counterparts, says the CBC's French-language service.

The mistakes include references to a landmine as "le mine" rather than "la mine" and numerous improperly conjugated verbs.

Veterans Affairs Canada is responsible for the monument.

According to Radio-Canada, the job of translating the plaques fell to volunteers.

Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson told the state broadcaster that he was unaware of the errors and promised to look into it.

On Monday, Harper and Queen Elizabeth are to attend the ceremony of remembrance and the official dedication of the recently renovated Vimy memorial. French President Jacques Chirac will also attend.

Many historians point to Vimy Ridge as a key point in Canada's history, as it was the first time Canadian soldiers fought together as a unit.

In all about 100,000 men, including four divisions making up the Canadian Corps, plus support troops fought in the battle. There were about 10,000 casualties, including 3,598 dead.Canadian Press

Dashing the myth of Vimy Though long a touchstone of national identity, a new look at the battle says its significance has been overstated
Richard Foot The Ottawa Citizen April 05, 2007

A new scholarly account of the Battle of Vimy Ridge says the battle does not deserve its iconic status as one of the First World War's most decisive victories, and that generations of Canadians have grown up on a carefully constructed myth that Canada "came of age" at Vimy.

Vimy Ridge, A Canadian Reassessment, a collection of essays based on new archival research by 16 historians, was released only days ago -- on the eve of lavish ceremonies in France and Canada to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the famous battle.

"We're saying that Canadians have mythologized Vimy too much," says Mike Bechthold, a military historian at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., and one of the contributors and co-editors of the book.

"The idea that Canada was somehow 'born' at Vimy Ridge is nice mythology, but I don't think it's any more than that ... so we're trying to shine a new light on the battle."

Mr. Bechthold acknowledges the capture of Vimy Ridge in northeast France after several days of fighting in April 1917 was a watershed for the Canadian army. For one thing, it came at a cost of 10,602 dead and wounded Canadian troops -- one of the highest casualty rates in the nation's history.

Vimy Ridge was also the first time the four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together in pursuit of a single objective. And it was Canada's first significant victory of the war.

But Mr. Bechthold and his colleagues point out that much of the credit for the victory should go to Britain. Not only was the Canadian Corps' commander, Sir Julian Byng, a British general, but Maj. Alan Brooke, the chief of staff to the Corps' artillery commander was also British, as were many other officers in the corps.

And while the bulk of the infantry that attacked Vimy Ridge was Canadian, they would not have been able to go up the slopes of the ridge that day if not for British artillery, engineers and supply units that supported them.

"Canadian nationalism has led to an exaggerated sense of the importance of the capture of Vimy Ridge, and the British elements of the force that fought in the battle have been airbrushed out of popular memory," British historian Gary Sheffield writes in one chapter.

The book argues that Canadians benefited from valuable lessons learned from earlier failed attempts by British and French troops to capture the ridge.

It explains, contrary to popular wisdom in Canada, that the victory was far from assured once the battle began, and that despite careful preparations, errors were made by Canadian troops that nearly lost them the battle.

The book also says that while Vimy Ridge itself was an important defensive position, the battle was of little overall strategic significance.

The Battle of Arras, a much wider Allied offensive of which Vimy was only a small part, has been largely forgotten by history, thanks to the attention heaped on Vimy by Canadian mythmakers, the book says.

"In terms of changing the course of the war," says Mr. Bechthold, "the capture of Vimy Ridge probably had very little effect, and not nearly the impact, for example, of the later Canadian victory at Amiens in 1918."

Yet, how many Canadians today know anything about the Battle of Amiens?

Mr. Sheffield argues that Vimy became famous purely because it fed Canada's hunger for a great deed to call its own on the world stage.

"It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that if Vimy Ridge had been captured by a British or French formation instead of the Canadian Corps, this action would not enjoy its current celebrity," Mr. Sheffield writes. "Vimy Ridge resonates largely because of its role in the growth of Canadian nationalism."

In one of the book's most interesting chapters, Jonathan Vance, a historian at the University of Western Ontario, shows how Canadian poets pounced on news of the Vimy victory in 1917, and almost immediately began spinning it into myth.

The fact that the battle was launched on Easter Monday made it even easier for mythmakers to say that the battle itself had religious significance.

"Once the battle was identified with the rebirth of Christ," writes Mr. Vance, "it was only a small step to connect Vimy with the birth of a nation. With the provinces represented by battalions from across the country working together in a painstakingly planned and carefully executed operation, the Canadian Corps became a metaphor for the nation itself."


Saskboy said...

Things like that with errors make me sad. It's hard to say where they pop in, as the engravers can be unfamiliar with what makes sense, or there can be a key pressed wrong, or proofreading can go overlooked.

My hometown had a plaque made for 2005, and it's still not up, presumably from some serious timeline errors engraved on it.

audacious said...

ya, one would think it proof-reading on a plaques would be an absolute priority. especially given we are a bilingual country.