2017 The Battle of Vimy Ridge 1oz Silver
In those few minutes, I witnessed the birth of a nation.
Brigadier-General Arthur Edward Ross
In April 1917, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps received the order to capture the heavily fortified Vimy Ridge in northern France. It was a historic moment for our young nation, for the Battle of Vimy Ridge was the first engagement in which Canada’s soldiers from across the nation fought side-by-side as one. After weeks of intense preparation and four days of heavy fighting, a victory at Vimy earned the Canadians a reputation as a tenacious offensive force, and intensified a nation’s sense of pride long after the war’s end.
Under the trusted command of Lieutenant-General Sir Julian Byng, the Canadian Corps—or “the Byng Boys,” as they called themselves—underwent intensive training after the hard-learned lessons of the Battle of the Somme. Taking cues from the French army, Canada’s troops adopted a new offensive strategy at Vimy—one forged by careful preparation and an emphasis on logistics.
Nothing was left to chance. Troops rehearsed tirelessly, using models and maps to familiarize themselves with the terrain and enemy positions. Tunnels were dug beneath No Man’s Land to facilitate the movement of troops and munitions, with some of them equipped with rail lines, water, electricity and large storage bunkers. Each soldier knew his task, for the infantry was assigned specialized roles such as grenade-throwers, riflemen and machine-gunners.
The week before the attack, Canadians launched a prolonged bombardment (dubbed the “Week of Suffering”) with more than a million shells pounding enemy positions. At 5:30 a.m. on April 9, 1917, the first attacking wave of 15,000 Canadians soldiers set out, under the cover of a “creeping barrage” which saw the infantrymen advance behind a line of unrelenting artillery fire aimed just ahead of them; all advanced at a precise rate that was timed to the minute. The strategy was a successful one: the rolling artillery barrage provided cover for the infantry and kept the enemy in their bunkers; by the time gunners moved to man the machine guns, Canadian troops were already upon them.
Within a half hour, Canadians had captured part of the front line; within the hour, they had also captured a portion of the second line and by noon, most of the ridge was in Allied hands. On April 10, a frontal bayonet charge allowed them to take Hill 145—the highest point, and the site of the Canadian National Vimy Monument since 1936. Two days later, Canadians took the other high point nicknamed “the Pimple” and the enemy retreated. Coupled with the British Corps’ concurrent efforts in Arras, the operations had yielded more ground and munitions than any other British-led offensive.
- Coin Metal: 9999 pure silver
- Coin Weight: 1oz (31.39g)
- Coin Finish: Proof
- Coin Denomination: $20
- Year of Issue: 2017
- Coin Mintage: 10,000
- Country of Issue: Canada
- Diameter: 38 mm
Designed by Canadian artist Pandora Young, your coin transports you back to April 1917 to the countryside in northern France where Canada’s soldiers launched their offensive on the heavily fortified escarpment known as Vimy Ridge. Using the battlefield as a backdrop, the design centres on a close view of a lone Canadian soldier, his face purposely omitted so as to represent any of the combatants during the Battle of Vimy Ridge (April 9-12, 1917). Selective gold plating adds a golden hue to the belted khaki jacket with detachable shoulder straps and a standup collar, which features the maple leaf insignia of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. This unknown soldier holds a steel trench helmet in his left hand; behind his left shoulder is one of the many 18-pound guns that provided the artillery fire used in the Canadians’ creeping barrage. Below the soldier is the winged figure of “Victory,” with selective gold plating used to recreate the bronze-hued Victory Medal awarded to Allied soldiers in 1919.
EFFIGY OF KING GEORGE V: In keeping with the historical theme, the obverse mimics that of all coins produced during the First World War period, with the effigy of King George V by Sir E. B. MacKennal.
Your coin is encapsulated and presented in a Royal Canadian Mint-branded maroon clamshell with a graphic beauty box.