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Using Primary Sources

How do we know what we know?    Example: Vimy Ridge

Pack horses taking up ammunition to the guns of the 20th Battery Canadian Field Artillery, Neuville St. Vaast, April 1917. 

Silent News Reel -- Canadians Capture Vimy Ridge 

Video - Donald Fraser - We were there

"This government-made film was made shortly after the battle for Vimy Ridge and was probably circulated to movie theatres across Canada. It uses some elaborate animation to dramatize Canadian troop movements. Since actual battle footage was rarely available, most scenes commonly seen in First World War documentaries are from staged re-enactments.
Library and Archives Canada
Graphic Consultants Collection
Can 4252, 4251"

The Pimple, Evening by

Alexander Young Jackson
Beaverbrook Collection of War Art
CVM 19710261-0198

The Crest of Vimy Ridge by Gyrth RussellBeaverbrook Collection of War Art CVM 19710261-0617Memorial

The Taking of Vimy Ridge, Easter Monday 1917

by Richard Jack
Beaverbrook Collection of War Art
CWM 19710261-0160

A Cemetery on Vimy Ridge by Lieutenant Frederick Thwaites Bush. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art CVM 19710261-0116

"This map shows Vimy Ridge and surrounding areas in January-February 1917 with British trenches in blue and German trenches in red. Note the complexity of the trench systems by this point in the war, and the density of opposing lines around Givenchy to the north.

George Metcalf Archival Collection. CWM 19890227-021" (This description is taken from the Canadian War Museum site.)

"This hand-drawn map indicates some of the hundreds of trenches that crisscrossed Vimy Ridge. These trenches lay in the 4th Division's sector n the left (north) of the Canadian lines. Although the trenches would have had German names (since they built them) the Canadians renamed the trenches under an easy-to-remember system where they all begin with "R". Other sectors would have had trenches identified beginning with different letters. These hand-drawn maps, although crude, were important for soldiers to situate themselves in the chaos of battle, and often as they advanced through the underground trenches, and therefore without the benefit of a birds-eye view of the battlefield.

George Metcalf Archival Collection. CWM 19810903-001" (This description is taken from the Canadian War Museum site.)


  • 940. 431 BRE   At Vimy Ridge: Canada’s Greatest World War I Victory by Hugh Brewster 

                                  Lots of good photo and quotes from leaders and servicemen, maps

  • 940 .48 MAC    A Soldier’s Diary by Donald Stuart MacPherson 

                                  Diary includes Vimy

  • 940 .431 CHR  Winning the Ridge: The Canadians at Vimy Ridge, 1917 by N.M. Christie 

                                  An account of the war including quotes and diary entries

  • 971 .062 NEL   A Nation is Born: World War I and Independence 1910-1929 by Sheila Nelson 

                                  Nice blend of the details of Vimy/WWI and activities and sentiments on the homefront.

  • 971 .06 KIR       Canada at War by Dylan Kirk 

                                  Brief pages but some good photos, cartoons, etc.

  • 971 .061 CRA   The Years of Agony 1910/1920 by John Craig.

                                  One volume of Canada’s Illustrated Heritage series by decade. Very good series for primary source materials.


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