Plympton-Wyoming exhibit brings Vimy to life

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Don Poland can tell you just about anything you want to know about the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
But the Plympton-Wyoming Museum volunteer’s job has been made a lot easier with a donation from a regional military museum.
Poland, who can frequently be found at the Camlachie museum, recently went to the Royal Canadian Regimental Museum in London “scouring for artifacts for our Vimy exhibit.”
When he asked if there was anything he could use, museum staff showed him two tabletop models of the battlefield the young Canadians conquered in 1917. One is equipped with lights that show the movements of the soldiers and the artillery across the blood-soaked fields. The other gives a closer look at the trenches and tunnels that were built by the Canadians over a three-month period before the battle ever took place.
The intricate models, like the planning of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, took a lot of work to create and Poland is pleased they’ve found a home in Camlachie. “I think it is the most interesting exhibit for a little, local museum,” he says adding “but I’m biased.”
And the exhibits help him better illustrate what actually happened on that day 100 years ago.
Poland says the Canadians were called on to push the Germans off the ridge in France where they were protecting their industrial war complex. Others had failed. The French had already lost 140,000 men on the field.
But the Canadian army planned for months. Each soldier knew exactly what they were to do. An intricate system of tunnels was dug out of the ridge so the Germans wouldn’t see them coming.
For three weeks before the battle, the Canadians rained shells down on the Germans. Then, just before 5:30 am April 9, Poland says, they reset their guns and began the attack.
While 4,000 soldiers died, the Canadians accomplished what no one else could, he says. Eileen MacDiarmid and her daughter, Debora Chaban, listened intently. MacDiarmid’s father, Alan George Tracey, fought at Vimy long before she was born. He never talked about it and MacDiarmid only knew what she had read in books.
Chaban remembers playing with her grandfather’s artificial leg, but not knowing the story behind it. Seeing the models and hearing Poland recount the battle, made her think. “It kind of shocks you when you hear it.”
The pair are pleased the Plympton-Wyoming Museum has the exhibit to talk about what many believe was Canada’s defining moment as a nation.
The museum is open every Saturday from 9:30 am to 2 pm during the month of April to mark the 100th Anniversary of Vimy Ridge.