The two Canadian historical monuments that are not in Canada

The equivalent in Canada to what in Spain is called National hystoric monument there bears the name of National Historic Site (national historic site). These are monuments or places that have been officially designated by the government with that title, due to their importance and significance in the country’s history.

Curiously, there are two historical places so designated by the Canadian government that are not located in its own territory. Or to be more exact, yes they are Canadian territory but they are not in North America but in France.

These are two commemorative monuments to the Canadian fallen in the First World War, located on territory ceded in perpetuity by the French government. For this reason they are ceremonially considered as Canadian territory, although they do not enjoy extraterritoriality, that is, they are subject to the laws of the French state.

The first is the Beaumont-Hamel Memorial, located about 9 kilometers north of the town of Albert and near the village of the same name, in an area where there are also many other commemorative monuments and war cemeteries, all related to the Battle of the Somme, which took place nearby in 1916.

The land in question was acquired by the citizens of the Dominion of Newfoundland in 1921, to whose soldiers it is dedicated, which existed as an independent country from September 26, 1907 until the year 1949 when it joined Canada (in the middle, in 1934 they had renounced self-government to return to depend on the United Kingdom).

The monument is a bronze caribou (American reindeer) bearing the emblem of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, standing on a granite plinth brought from the estate, its head raised in defiance. It is about 15 meters above sea level and surrounded by native Newfoundland plants. At the base of the monument, three bronze tablets bear the names of 820 soldiers, whose final resting place is unknown. It was inaugurated on June 7, 1925.

The place has a visitor center that exposes the history of the Royal Regiment, and offers guides to visit the battlefield.

The other is the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, located near the town of the same name in the Pas-de-Calais area, and in the center of the present park of the Vimy Hill Battlefield. In it, between April 9 and 12, 1917, the four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force faced three divisions of the German Sixth Army, who finally, before the Canadian push, had to withdraw, handing over the hill.

Front of the Vimy Memorial / photo Carcharoth on Wikimedia Commons

The 100 hectares of the Vimy memorial were ceded by the French state to Canada in perpetuity in 1922. The site is still riddled with tunnels, trenches, craters and unexploded ordnance, so most of it is closed to the public, although you can visit some of the trenches.

The monument was designed by Canadian sculptor Walter Seymour Allward, who described it as a sermon against the futility of wars. It took 11 years to complete, opening on July 26, 1936.

It consists of a large wall more than 7 meters high that represents an impenetrable defensive wall, on whose sides are two groups of human figures. On it two large pillars 30 meters high represent Canada and France. Inscribed on the monument are the names of the 11,285 Canadian soldiers who died in World War I and have no known grave.

On June 2, 1940, Hitler visited the memorial and toured the trenches, assigning special Waffen SS units for its protection from possible destruction and vandalism by regular Wehrmacht troops, who were not prevented from razing other French war memorials. .

According to historian Serge Durflinger, Hitler admired the monument because it did not display any message of triumph over Germany, and for this reason the Germans respected it throughout World War II.