Apr. 9th, 2017

krpalmer: (smeat)
In eking this journal along through the ten-year mark (although I've just taken a step of a certain weight in switching off crossposting to the Livejournal it started as when new terms of service there, pushed at us instead of just sort of snuck by, raised a gut-level uneasiness), I have thought it'll get harder to make up "anniversary" posts. However, where there might not seem to be much of a difference between, say, "thirty years since" and "forty years since," there is one between "ninety years since" and "the centennial"...

I've been contemplating for a while the hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, but in taking note of what seems the general attempts these days to give it significance in the Canadian historical consciousness, I've got to wondering if Canada stands out by efforts to look back to the First World War singling out a "success." Just among the other Dominions brought into the war with Great Britain, my general understanding of Australia and New Zealand is that they focus on the futile struggles to break open a back door of the war at Gallipoli, and even Newfoundland, which wouldn't join the Canadian confederation until after the Second World War, looks back to the heavy losses of its small force at the Battle of the Somme.

There are risks in narrowing history to single moments in time. Capturing the ridge at Vimy was one operation in one more larger, inconclusive battle as crisis started really setting in for the Allies in 1917, and for all the mythologizing afterwards (although to say efforts to play up the battle only picked up in recent decades as its last survivors died do remind me I've seen a book from a Canadian centennial series that picked the battle as its "headline of that decade"), the war didn't help national unity so far as the conscription crisis pried apart English and French Canada. At the same time, I might have a weakness for "counter-counterarguments," and while making the Second World War "the good guys versus the bad guys" can neglect how much of it hinged on Germany turning to attack the Soviet Union and how much that reshaped the world afterwards, to the best of my understanding the First World War wasn't quite a matter of "the side scratching its head over why its flower of youth being fed into a grinder wasn't working somehow lasted long enough to declare victory"; to that extent at least Vimy could be seen as a step towards learning to get through the Western Front. I suppose, though, I've also thought that perhaps we've come to remember Vimy from the First World War because one specific moment that keeps coming to mind from the Second World War was the unsuccessful Dieppe raid.

July 2017

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