Red Deerians showed their respect for the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge during a special event held at Veterans’ Park on Sunday morning.
Several speakers detailed the events of Vimy Ridge, while also showing how the pivotal battle was also a key, defining moment in Canadian history.
“The battle of Vimy Ridge is internationally recognized and respected as when Canada became our own sovereign nation,” said Mayor Tara Veer following the ceremony. “There is often reference to it – that it was really the birth of a nation. And that’s when the international community first recognized all that Canada had to offer on the international stage,” she said.
“There were 100,000 Canadian soldiers who served in the battle of Vimy Ridge, which gives us sense of the magnitude of it as a community today that numbers 100,000. You can picture that that is the equivalent of every man, woman and child in Red Deer.”
The cenotaph, located at Veterans’ Park, was unveiled in 1922 in recognition of all of those who had made sacrifices in the First World War as well, she said. “It was positioned in the heart of the community to daily remind Red Deerians about the sacrifices that were made in the Great War,” she said. “And it faces west to also remind us all of the democratic principles that the Allied forces were fighting for.”
According to City historian Michael Dawe, locally, 12 young men from Red Deer and area lost their lives in the first day assault on the Ridge. Sixteen more were killed during the rest of the battle.
Lloyd Lewis, master of ceremonies for the event and Honorary Lieut. Col. 41 Signal Regiment in Alberta, thanked the military members that were onhand for the ceremony and the public at large for taking part in the morning’s ceremony.
“We are here to commemorate the battle of Vimy Ridge 100 years ago. The battle raged in France from April 9th to April 12th of 1917. The battle is noteworthy for a number of reasons – including it being the first time when all four Canadian divisions fought together. Capturing Vimy Ridge from the Germans was in fact the largest territorial advance of any Allied force to that point in the war.
“When the four day battle was over, and Vimy Ridge was finally in Allied hands, it was a stunning but costly victory,” he said. “The fighting left 3,590 dead and another 7,000 wounded. There were an estimated 20,000 casualties on German side. Another 4,000 Germans were taken prisoner.
“It’s sobering to know that this represents a small fraction of the more than 66,000 Canadian soldiers who died in World War I,” he said.
“The victory of Vimy Ridge was greeted with much enthusiasm in Canada – after the war, the battle became a symbol of an awakening in Canadian pride and spirit,” he said. “One of the prime reasons is that soldiers from every region of Canada fighting together for the first time as a single force in the Canadian corps had taken the ridge together,” he said.
Bev Hanes, president of the Red Deer Legion branch, said that it was a time when a lot of Canadians enlisted and fought in that battle.
“In some communities, it was almost all of their young men,” she said. “Any time a country as large as ours gets together like that – all four divisions were in it – that is quite significant,” she said.
Dave Clemens, a Legion member from Olds who also serves as the branch’s historian, came to the ceremony to honour the event as well. He said he traveled to such historic sites overseas as Normandy and Flanders’ back in 2009, which made quite an impact on him as well.
“We spent about two and one-half weeks in that area,” he said. “Vimy was also one of the places we visited. It’s a very impressive monument, and the remains of trenches are still there. There’s a German trench that is maybe only 20 or 30 feet away – so close,” he said.
“Remembrance Day certainly means a whole more to us now.”