The local newspaper, the Creston Review, often published letters sent from soldiers at the front to friends and family at home. It also printed lengthy obituaries about those killed in action, and ads and editorials about the war and the efforts to support it. Read more articles here.
The Vimy Project has links to detailed accounts of the battle, including maps and war diaries of the units involved in it, making it an excellent resource for exploring how the battle unfolded moment-by-moment.
The Regimental Rogue has a comprehensive guide to researching soldiers from the First World War, including links to online databases of soldiers and war diaries.
Local photographs and documents are posted on the “Photographs and Documents” tab in this section. For maps and photographs of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in general, try the McMaster University Library or Library and Archives’ Canada Vimy Ridge album. The Canadian War Museum resource package linked above is also a good source.
1) A Curious Request:
Wikipedia’s account of the Battle of Vimy Ridge states that one reason for the 4th Division’s difficulties is the fact that a commanding officer of one of the attacking Canadian battalions had requested that one section of the enemy trenches be left undamaged by the artillery barrage that preceded the battle. Can you find any original sources that confirm this request? What was that commanding officer’s reason for leaving that section of trench intact? If you cannot find sources that explain it, what do you think his reasons might have been? Do you feel he was justified in those reasons? Why or why not?
2) For King and Country:
You’ve undoubtedly read that Canadian participation in the First World War was an act of patriotism and loyalty to Britain, as many of the recruits had only recently emigrated from Britain. How does the list of local soldiers at Vimy Ridge reflect this? Are there any surprises? If you have access to census records and similar documents, try to determine how long some of these soldiers had been in Canada. Does the speed with which they enlisted change with the length of time they had been in Canada? What other factors might have influenced a young man’s willingness to enlist? Can you explain your findings?
3) Innovative Tactics:
We’ve briefly outlined a number of factors that contributed to the Canadian success at Vimy Ridge – the creeping barrage, better communications, extensive planning involving lower ranks, etc. Are you aware of any other tactics, strategies, or technologies that helped? Find further details on these factors. Was Vimy Ridge the first time they had been used, or was it an opportunity to improve on existing strategy? Which one do you feel was the most significant? Why?
4) Debating Significance:
In March 2015, Legion Magazine published a debate between two historians over whether Vimy Ridge really was Canada’s greatest military victory. Which of these viewpoints do you feel is the most valid? Why? If you feel neither is valid, what is your own viewpoint? Why?
5) Service Record Details:
The amount of detail we have on these soldiers varies greatly. New records are being constantly released on the Library and Archives Canada online database. Can you add any detail to these soldiers’ records? If the unit in which they served is known, can you identify which part of the battlefield they were on, and what role they might have played?
6) Camp Lister:
Horace Wright returned to the Creston Valley after the war, taking up land in Camp Lister. Investigate this further: What was Camp Lister? When and why was it established? What was its history? What challenges did the soldiers there face?
7) Conscription and Canadian Unity:
What have you learned about the debate over Conscription? How did it impact Canadian unity? How do the documents included here align with national trends – or do they align?
8) Life at the Front:
We’ve included several documents detailing life at the front for the Creston Valley’s soldiers. What do these documents tell you about what it was like to be a soldier in the Great War? In what ways does this impression agree or disagree with other sources you have read? In what ways did the absence, wounding, or death of local soldiers impact those at home?
9) The 107th East Kootenay Regiment:
Several of the local soldiers who fought at Vimy Ridge had previous military experience with the 107th East Kootenay Regiment. What can you find out about this regiment? What was its purpose?
10) Military Hospitals:
The list of local soldiers includes accounts of many who were wounded and spent months in military hospitals. Can you find details about these soldiers’ wounds? What form of treatment did it take, and why did it take so long? What does this tell you about conditions on the battlefields, in the forward dressing stations, and in the military hospitals?