How Much Do You Know About the Battle of Passchendaele?

Published November 11, 2017 at 1:10 am


The year 2017 marks the centenary of two significant battles of the First World War in which Canadian troops participated and half of Canadians (49 per cent) know that one of them is the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a new Ipsos survey for the Vimy Foundation finds, though only one in four (25 per cent) can identify Passchendaele as the other battle marking its 100th anniversary this year.

The survey also finds that awareness of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France has strengthened, in light of the increased attention paid to the battle on its centenary: two in ten Canadians (18 per cent) can correctly identify the monument from a photograph, without any written prompts or clues – a six-point increase from 2016.

By contrast, knowledge about the Battle of Passchendaele is less strong. Given a list of battles in different wars, only one in three (35 per cent) are able to identify that Passchendaele was fought in the First World War.

Knowledge about Passchendaele varies significantly by age, with Millennials (27 per cent)  being much less likely to associate it with the First World War than Gen X’ers (32 per cent) or Baby Boomers (44 per cent). The same holds true for awareness of the Centenary of Vimy (36 per cent of Millennials, vs. 46 per cent of Gen X’ers and 60 per cent of Boomers) and recognition of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial (16 per cent of Millennials, vs. 18 per cent of Gen X’ers and 21 per cent of Boomers), which demonstrates a trend of lower levels of awareness and knowledge of these historical battles among young adults.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on Nov. 10 regarding the 100th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Passchendaele:

“On this solemn anniversary, we honour the thousands of Canadians who fought and died there, and pay tribute to their great courage and sacrifice. The Battle of Passchendaele has come to be a symbol of the worst horrors of the First World War. It began in the summer of 1917, as Allied soldiers sought to open a path through Western Belgium to coastal enemy bases. For months, Allies and enemies alike fought in conditions many described as a living hell; a landscape already broken by years of warfare; mud that swallowed men and horses, but refused to bury the dead.

“The Canadians joined the battle in October of that year. For weeks, they endured incessant rain and shellfire – but by mid-November, they had taken the ridge.

“Our soldiers fought an impossible fight with perseverance, valour, and commitment to a greater cause. Nine Canadians would earn the Victoria Cross for their bravery. Yet the battle came at a devastating cost. 16,000 Canadians were killed or wounded – and thousands of families forever changed.

“On this solemn anniversary, we honour the great heroism and sacrifice of those who fought in the Battle of Passchendaele. Tomorrow, please pause to remember and honour those who have served, and continue to serve, so that we may live in peace.

“Lest we forget.”

Millineals are the most likely demographic to support the building of a memorial dedicated to Vimy in Toronto. Eight in ten (83 per cent)  agree (33 per cent strongly/50 per cent somewhat), as do 83 per cent of Gen X’ers, while support among Baby Boomers drops to 72 per cent  Millennials are also just as likely as older Canadians to say that one day they’d like to visit the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France: two in three (66 per cent) agree (24 per cent strongly/42 per cent somewhat), in line with 67 per cent of Gen X’ers and 68 per cent of Boomers.

There’s strong support for better maintenance of war memorials and graves, the survey finds.

Government of Canada auditors have found more than 45,000 grave markers require maintenance. Prior to 2003, the federal government allocated $5 million annually to the care of these grave markers. Since then, the budget has been reduced to $1.2M, where it remains today.

Most Canadians (76 per cent) support (31 per cent strongly/45 per cent somewhat) increasing budget for the maintenance of these sites, including majority of every demographic studied.

Many also perceive a need to restore war memorials at the community level: half (48 per cent of Canadians agree (10 per cent strongly/38 per cent somewhat) that the war cenotaph or memorial in their community is in need of repair and/or restoration.

This is up eight points since 2015.

Click here for more information on the Vimy Foundation.

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