Battle of Vimy Ridge : speech by M. Dominique de Villepin ( 09.04.07)
Vimy, 9 April 2007
Prime Minister of Canada,
Members of Parliament and elected representatives,
Monsieur le Préfet,
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are gathered today at the monument to the Canadian soldiers killed at the battle of Vimy Ridge.
90 years ago, on Easter Monday 1917, an allied offensive attacked an enemy fortress here, a fortress defended by reinforced concrete, barbed wire, machine-gun nests, mines and trenches, and which had already cost the lives of more than 150,000 Entente troops.
[In English :] 90 years ago this Easter Monday, after a week of shelling the enemy lines, in driving sleet, 35,000 Canadian soldiers launched their assault. Beneath a deluge of fire, they advanced towards the German defences. By midnight on Tuesday, Vimy Ridge had fallen. 3,600 Canadian troops were dead and 11,000 wounded. By their courage and their spirit of sacrifice, those who fought at Vimy struck one of the first of the blows that opened the way to victory a year and a half later.
Altogether 66,000 Canadians, all volunteers, many of them so young, coming from all over Canada, were to give their lives for this war fought so far from home. They did so out of solidarity with Great Britain and with France, their brothers. That is why on 26 July 1936, King Edward VIII, your uncle, Ma’am, inaugurated this monument of commemoration and gratitude.
Your nation, Mr Prime Minister, displayed this same solidarity again at Dieppe on 19 August 1942, and on D-Day, when Canadian troops were in the front line on Juno Beach, paving the way for the Liberation of Europe.
[In French :] The heros of Vimy died to defend values which have constantly united us and brought us together : values of peace, freedom, tolerance and respect for man. Our democracies must go on defending these values throughout the world. This is why we are together involved in safeguarding peace in Bosnia, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Haiti and Afghanistan. It’s why I want, in France’s name, to pay a solemn tribute to the Canadian soldiers fallen on French soil. In my thoughts too are the six Canadian soldiers killed yesterday in the line of duty in Afghanistan.
To our British allies, I want to express our unfailing gratitude.
On this Artois soil which has suffered so much, and where our allies were our liberators, France says thank you to Canada. [In English :] Thank you Canada.
[In French :] To the Great War veterans, I want to express the whole nation’s heartfelt admiration and deep gratitude.
France honours the Canadian soldiers ! France honours Canada ! Long live the Republic ! Long live France !/.