Vimy Ridge centennial sparks transatlantic bonds

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A statue representing the bond between France and Canada was presented over the weekend in remembrance of the First World War. It was part of a series of events that both Canadians and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members attended in France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

The “twin” statue of a First World War bugler made its voyage overseas and was presented to the city of Arras on April 8, the day before Vimy Ridge Day. Its sister statue can be found in Canada at the Borden Legacy Monument outside the entrance to CFB Borden.

Arras, the city closest to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, hosted thousands of Canadians who travelled to France for the 100th anniversary commemorative events. With the Mayor of Barrie, Jeff Lehman, and 180 Canadian students present, citizens of Arras accepted the tribute of friendship.

“It’s an expression of twinning the cities,” said Honorary Colonel James Massie, a key figure in the fundraising for the Borden bugler and the twin statue.

HCol Massie said he was inspired to have the second statue made for France following the unveiling of the Borden Legacy Monument last year as part of the base’s centennial.

“A component of the monument has a statue of a First World War bugler, which to me represents trying to go forward and rejuvenation, it’s a symbol of the friendship that exists between our communities,” he said.

The statue will remain in Arras until it moves to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in the fall.

Along with of the statue’s journey overseas to its new home, over 25 000 Canadians attended events in and around Arras. Vimy-related events were dedicated to the 3598 Canadians killed and 7000 Canadians wounded in the battle, and included a sound and light show in the town square, and a military concert with the Canadian Armed Forces band and La Musique de l’Infanterie.

The April 9 ceremony at the Canadian National War Memorial featured CAF members and a special First World War-era airplane fly-past as part of the civilian Vimy Flight initiative.

The CAF contingent’s Sergeant Major, Master Warrant Officer Bill King, noted it is especially important that Canadians continue to honour and recognize the sacrifices of their military during this special year marking the 100th anniversary of this historic battle.

“Vimy was the first time the Canadian Army fought together as a whole, with many of the regiments sharing the battle honour,” he said. “This is why it’s important to commemorate the battle and those who were lost when they forged our history 100 years ago.”

The Battle of Vimy Ridge took place from April 9-12, 1917, and was a defining moment in the history of Canada and its armed forces. As noted by Veterans Affairs Canada, at Vimy Ridge, regiments from coast to coast saw action together in a distinctly Canadian triumph. Canada’s military achievements during the war raised its international stature and helped the country earn a separate signature on the Treaty of Versailles that formally ended the war.

Today, on land granted to Canada for all time by France, sits the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. The monument is inscribed with the names of 11 285 Canadian soldiers who were listed as “missing, presumed dead” in France during the First World War.

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