A Commemorative Amateur Radio Special Event

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Vimy Ridge, a WWI battle site,  is an escarpment 7 km in length and rising 60 m. above the adjacent Douai Plains in the north east corner of France. This was part of the “Western Front”, the main theater of battle in WWI which stretched from the North Sea to the Swiss border at the south end. Vimy Ridge, despite its small size, was of huge strategic importance. It commanded a great field of fire and blocked advances up the adjacent broad valleys  towards important mining and industrial sites visible from the ridge. Occupied by German forces after 1914, attempts by the French and British forces to take the Ridge had repeatedly failed with casualties numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

In April of 1917, four Canadian Divisions, fighting as a unified force, using new tactics derived  from the recent Battle of the Somme, captured the main part of the Ridge on the first day of combat and completely occupied the entire ground in four days. Vimy Ridge remained in Allied hands for the rest of the war and served as the base for the wireless operations of the Canadian Corps of Signals. The Vimy success was welcome news to war-weary Canada and it stirred a new sense of nationhood that some historians describe as the “moment when Canada leapt in spirit from colony to nation”

Map of North Western Europe during First World War Courtesy Canadian War Museum website

Western Europe during WWI
Courtesy Canadian War Museum

In 1922 France ceded to Canada 100 hectares at the summit of Vimy Ridge to be used as a park for the monument pictured. Every year, thousands of Canadians make an emotional journey past huge shell holes, preserved trenches and tunnels to stand in front of the monument, known as “Mother Canada”. Inscribed around the base are the names of the Canadian soldiers who were lost or missing and who have no known graves.The centenary of the Battle will be marked in April, 2017 by  formal ceremonies to be held at the base of the monument which will be attended by Heads of State.

The centenary of the Battle will be marked in April, 2017 by  formal ceremonies to be held at the base of the monument which will be attended by Heads of State.

Approximately 2 km away, but still at summit level, a commemorative amateur radio station with the call sign VE100VIMY, will operate from  April 1 to April 9, 2017.  There will be two stations and appropriate antennas working on a 24 hour basis. The event is being organized by the Vimy Commemorative Station Society, a registered in British Columbia Society, in coordination with a number of leading Canadian amateurs.

The Vimy site has been visited on three recent occasions by members of the VIMY Commemorative Station Society Executive for purposes of logistics planning and antenna siting. Radio noise levels were assessed in April of 2015 and found to be low. Present plans are to cover 160-10 meters using CW, RTTY and SSB. Special efforts will be made to aim good signals at Canada which lies at a somewhat unfavorable bearing from the QTH.

For security reasons the shack will not be open to the public nor to visiting amateurs. Contact will have to be made the hard way – on HF.

The organizers are recruiting operators with good contest or Dxing skills from as wide a cross section of Canada as is practical. Additionally, CFARS  (the Canadian Forces Affiliate Radio System) has been invited to nominate licensed active service personnel to be guest operators. Interested amateurs should contact the organizers at ve100vimy@rac.ca.