The Victoria Cross of Canada
: Croix de Victoria
) is a military decoration
modelled on the original British Victoria Cross
—instituted in 1856—in both intent and appearance, with several small changes. Created in 1993, it and the original are the highest honours in the Canadian honours system
(though the latter is no longer presented to Canadians
), taking precedence over
all other orders, decorations, and medals. It is awarded by either the Canadian monarch
or his or her viceregal
representative, the Governor General of Canada
, to any member of the Canadian Forces
or allies serving under or with Canadian military command for extraordinary valour and devotion to duty while facing hostile forces. Whereas in many other Commonwealth
countries the Victoria Cross can only be awarded for actions against the enemy in a wartime setting, the Canadian government
has a broader definition of the term enemy
, and so the Victoria Cross can be awarded for action against armed mutineers, pirates, or other such hostile forces without war being officially declared. Recipients are entitled to use the post-nominal letters VC
(for both English
), and also to receive an annuity
The Victoria Cross is awarded for "the most conspicuous bravery, a daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty, in the presence of the enemy" at any point after 1 January 1993, may be presented posthumously, and, unlike its British counterpart, may be revoked. The main distinction between the Victoria Cross and the Cross of Valour is the specific reference to "the enemy", which the Canadian government has defined as a force hostile towards the Canadian Crown, including armed mutineers, rebels, rioters, and pirates, meaning that the Queen-in-Council does not officially have to declare war to give acknowledgement of the existence of a hostile force that fits the official description. Thus, a Canadian serving as part of a peacekeeping operation is eligible to be awarded the Victoria Cross if the service member fulfils the above criteria.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a military engagement fought primarily as part of the Battle of Arras, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, during the First World War. The main combatants were the Canadian Corps against three divisions of the German Sixth Army. The battle, which took place from 9 April to 12 April 1917, was part of the opening phase of the British-led Battle of Arras, a diversionary attack for the French Nivelle Offensive.
The objective of the Canadian Corps was to take control of the German-held high ground along an escarpment at the northernmost end of the Arras Offensive. This would ensure that the southern flank could advance without suffering German enfilade fire. Supported by a creeping barrage, the Canadian Corps captured most of the ridge during the first day of the attack.
The town of Thélus fell during the second day of the attack, as did the crest of the ridge once the Canadian Corps overcame a salient of considerable German resistance. The final objective, a fortified knoll located outside the town of Givenchy-en-Gohelle, fell to the Canadian Corps on 12 April. The German forces then retreated to the Oppy–Méricourt line.
The battle was the first occasion when all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force participated in a battle together, and thus became a Canadian nationalistic symbol of achievement and sacrifice. A 250-acre (100 ha) portion of the former battleground now serves as a preserved memorial park and site of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.