Winnipeg veterans march to remember Vimy Ridge on 100th anniversary

PARIS (AP) — More than 20,000 people, a lot of them Canadians, attended a solemn ceremony Sunday to commemorate a World War I battle in northern France that remains indelibly etched on Canada's national identity 100 years after it happened.

The Prince of Wales described the efforts of Canadian troops who fought at the Battle of Vimy Ridge, launched 100 years ago to the day, as setting "an extraordinary example of selflessness for our future generations".

"They tell us what free peoples are capable of when the essential is at stake", he said in French.

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.

And despite suffering frightful casualties during the four-day battle, with 3,598 dead and more than 7,000 wounded, they would succeed where the British and French had failed by capturing the ridge.

Around 20,000 Canadians made the journey to their country's memorial in northern France to mark the centenary, turning the former battlefield into a sea of the red and white of their country's flag.

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. "So for the battle of Vimy Ridge, we say on behalf of all Canadians, thank you, you will not be forgotten".

With all of those who fought not only at Vimy, but the Great War, now gone, it fell to other ways to remember them and their stories. People of many languages and backgrounds, representing every region in Canada, fought for the values we hold so dear: freedom, democracy, and peace.

The battle is fundamental in the history of Canada as on a snow-swept French hillside four military divisions from the nation attacked together for the first time as the Canadian Corps, and their bravery in breaking German defences earned them the respect of the world.

The centennial of a Canadian war battle was marked during a solemn occasion in Vernon Sunday. Let us remember those soldiers who sacrificed so much and let us strive always for a better understanding of our history and for peace. We came down as Canadians'. It's a tradition that was repeated in the Second World War and other conflicts.

  • Salvatore Jensen