Though there are no surviving veterans who fought at Vimy Ridge, Canadians across the country are making sure their legacy is not forgotten on the battle's centennial anniversary.
Those who were not among the 25,000 Canadians at the site of the battle in France on Sunday gathered in communities from coast to coast to remember those who risked or lost their lives in April 1917.
In Red Deer, hundreds gathered for a parade and remembrance ceremony at Veterans’ Park. The Red Deer Legion Pipe Band led soldiers from 41 Signal Regiment and 78 Field Battery, 20 Field Regiment, and Royal Canadian Artillery in the parade.
At the time of World War I, Red Deer was a city of about 2,200 people. Over 800 brave souls heeded the call to fight in The Great War, 118 did not return.
“We had the highest voluntary enlistment among Canadian soldiers,” Mayor Tara Veer notes regarding World War I.
“Our cenotaph was commemorated in 1922 in recognition of all those who made sacrifices in World War I, and it was positioned in the heart of the community to remind Red Deerians daily about the sacrifices that were made. It faces west to remind us all of the democratic principles the Allies were fighting for.”
Statement from Premier Rachel Notley:
“The battle of Vimy Ridge cost Canadians dearly: 3,598 lives lost and 7,000 wounded. On the German side, casualties are estimated at 20,000.
“Yet, it was a bright spot in a war that had few of them. The battle brought together all four Canadian divisions for the first time, alongside British troops, under British command. The Canadians, from all corners of the nation, made the difference.
“Seeing our soldiers excel in such a terrible task was a source of great pride. On this day, they were more than mere tools of the Empire – they were professionals who, through innovation, daring and dedicated preparation, managed to solve one of the most stubborn riddles of a hellish conflict.
“Vimy Ridge called Canadians to a greater sense of ourselves, helped give our nation a seat at the table at war’s end and loosened the colonial bonds.
“Albertans joined the effort in the First World War in a greater percentage than any other province: some 45,000 Albertans served overseas. There were many at Vimy; some remain there to this day.
“The soaring monument at Vimy Ridge stands at the site of a decisive victory. Let us not forget that it is dedicated to 11,285 Canadians who died in the First World War and have no known resting place.
“Today, we remember them and all who serve.”
Statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
statement for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge:
"One hundred years ago, on a gentle slope in France, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought for the first time as one. They were ordinary – yet extraordinary – men, from all corners of the country: Francophone, Anglophone, new Canadians, Indigenous Peoples.
"On Easter Monday, April 1917, battling through snow, sleet, and constant machine gun fire, they broke through an impregnable fortress and achieved a historic victory. They succeeded where other armies had failed – but at a great cost. Nearly 3,600 Canadians lost their lives. Over 7,000 more were wounded. The Battle of Vimy Ridge remains one of the bloodiest battles in Canada's history.
"Despite these losses, Canadian bravery and ingenuity won the day and led to one of the most decisive victories in the First World War. The innovative fighting techniques used so effectively by our soldiers at Vimy Ridge would contribute to the final Allied victory a year and a half later.
"Many of the soldiers wearing the Canadian uniform that day were immigrants to this country. People of many languages and backgrounds, representing every region in Canada, fought for the values we hold so dear: freedom, democracy, and peace. In the words of one veteran: 'We went up Vimy Ridge as Albertans and Nova Scotians. We came down as Canadians.'
"Today, as we gather to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, we remember the thousands of Canadians who gave their lives far from Canada's shores. We pay tribute to the 100th anniversary of a pivotal battle that has left an indelible mark on our history. And we thank every Canadian who has answered the call to serve for their selflessness and sacrifice.
"Lest we forget."
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