MPP Dufferin-Caledon

Weekly Column – 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge

This Sunday, April 9th, 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge in France. The significant World War 1 battle marked the first time four Canadian divisions fought together as a unified force and many historians believe it was a significant part of Canada becoming a nation.  The last Canadian infantry soldier who survived the battle of Vimy was Charles Reaper of Winnipeg, who died in 2003 at the age of 103. So significant were the contributions of the Canadian military at Vimy and throughout France that Canada was granted 91 hectares of land at Vimy Ridge to be used as a battlefield memorial. The site is one of only two Canadian National Historic Sites outside Canada and both are located in France. The two large towers that overlook Vimy Ridge bears the inscribed names of the 11,168 missing Canadians, killed in action in France and are further memorialized by being featured on our twenty dollar bill.

The three-day battle for Vimy, against what was considered a stronghold of German defences, was fierce and Canadian casualties numbered more than 10,000 with 3,598 killed in battle. I was pleased to hear that students from three high schools in Dufferin-Caledon spent their March break this year on a European battlefields tour that included a trip to the memorial at Vimy Ridge to recognize this significant anniversary. In preparation, students researched the names of soldiers, those who survived to return home, and those who died in defence of Canada. Another group of students and Veterans from our community are in France for the commemoration events this Sunday.

In the century that has passed since the battle of Vimy Ridge, we are left only with the stories of the battle as it was recorded. Canada’s victory came with a heavy toll in losses but many battlefield tactics that were used during the fighting at Vimy provided plans and tactics that were used in additional battles and successes that followed.

More than 700,000 visitors annually walk the memorial site, tour the tunnels and learn about the significance of Vimy Ridge. Let’s hope that the words inscribed at the base of the memorial at Vimy Ridge remain significant for another 100 years; “TO THE VALOUR OF THE COUNTRYMEN IN THE GREAT WAR AND IN MEMORY OF THE SIXTY THOUSAND DEAD THIS MONUMENT IS RAISED BY THE PEOPLE OF CANADA.”

In recognition of the 100th anniversary, members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 233 will be holding a commemoration with the laying of wreaths at the Orangeville Legion on John Street at 1pm on Sunday April 9th. Lest we forget.

 

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