A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Vimy, Pierre Berton & The Re-Education of An "American"
Wednesday, April 04, 2007

One chill Easter dawn in 1917, a blizzard blowing in their faces, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps in France went over the top of a muddy scarp knows as Vimy Ridge. Within hours, they held in their grasp what had eluded both British and French armies in over two years of fighting: they had seized the best-defended German bastion on the Western Front.

Even though I arrived with my wife and two daughters in 1975 I did not read a Canadian book until 1986. It was Pierre Berton's Vimy. My ignorance about Canada was appalling because I had mostly received an American based education in American schools in Argentina, Mexico and the US. World War I had not been won until the American Doughboys fought at Chateau-Thierry. And, of course, in WWII the Russians had not existed. John Hodiak had singlehandedly won it in William Wellman's 1950 Battleground.

So Pierre Berton's account of the Canadian involvement at Vimy Ridge that Easter of 1917 was shocking to me. It was then when I attempted to modify my American education. I have become proudly (almost fiercely ) Canadian and it was with lots of satisfaction that I was able to photograph my enlightener at the Meridien Hotel on October of 1984. I told Berton my story and with a warm smile on his face he said, "That should teach you."


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