Greater Victoria to mark 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge

Battle of the First World War seen as Canada’s ‘coming of age’ on the world stage.

The Vimy Ridge Memorial.

The Vimy Ridge Memorial.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge is sometimes referred to as a significant moment in the uniting of Canada as a nation.

While there is debate over whether that message came after the First World War ended, one thing is for certain, however, is that the battle marked the first time Canadian soldiers worked together and were commanded by Canadians, rather than British officers.

It also helped solidify the battle as a national event, as the Canadians did in approximately three days, what the British and French could not do from 1914 to 1916.

On April 9, 1917, the combined Canadian Corps including soldiers from the Greater Victoria area attacked the ridge, held by German forces. After days in artillery shelling, and following a creeping barrage of artillery fire, the troops advanced on Vimy Ridge and pushed the Germans out.

Captain Steve Green of the Canadian Scottish Regiment in Victoria says the battle not only significant for the Canadian component was unique at the time for the degree of planning and original thinking that went into it. British Lieutenant-General Sir Julian Byng placed the control of the Canadian Corps into the hands of Division Commander Sir Arthur Currie (a Sidney resident), who set the stage for extensive training and rehearsals prior to the attack a tactic employed by the Canadian Forces to this day.

The Canadian Corps included soldiers from the 50th Gordon Highlanders and 88th Victoria Fusiliers, said Green, forming the 16th Battalion. Made up of mostly Highland units, Green said the battalion was known informally during training in England as “the Canadian Scottish”, which is what Vancouver Island’s infantry reserve regiment in known as today.

Green said preparations for the attack at Vimy included plans for the rolling artillery barrage, as well as engineers (sappers) digging tunnels under German trenches, setting explosives to help clear the way.

“We did our thing,” Green said, “we thought outside of the box.”

The Canadian succeeded in taking and holding the ridge, yet more than 3,500 soldiers died and 7,000 were wounded. During the action, Private William Johnstone Milne of the 16th (Canadian Scottish) was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration awarded to British and Commonwealth forces for valour. He died at the ridge, after taking out enemy machine guns.

Milne’s sacrifice and that of his fellow soldiers, to take Vimy Ridge, is part of the reason behind 100th anniversary events in Victoria April 8 and 9.

John Azar of the Pacific Coast Branch of the Western Front Association, says the two days of events marking 100 years since the battle is an attempt to connect that past with present-day military service and link the community with its troops once again.

“We want to make the past relevant,” Azar said. “The sacrifice (soldiers) made (in the First World War) was so much more than in the Second World War.

“The experience of the people who served, during and after Vimy Ridge, and for those who survive, still resonates to this day.”

On Saturday, April 8 at 11 a.m. soldiers of the Canadian Scottish Regiment will march to Victoria City Hall and seek renewal of the Freedom of the City they earned in 1974. That ceremony will end at the Parliament Building lawn.

That evening, at 6:30 p.m. the 5th Field Artillery will be set up at Fort Rodd Hill National Park. At 8:30 p.m., their guns will fire a 100-round barrage to coincide with the start of the Battle of Vimy Ridge 100 years ago.

On April 9, the Bay Street Armoury hosts displays and a music program. Azar said there will be 30 to 35 different groups from local museums to community and military organizations on site from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The music portion of the day starts at 3 p.m.

The day of events is set to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the battle, taking place in France at the Canadian memorial at the top of the ridge.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mayor Rob Martin and Costa Canna president Phil Floucault cut the ribbon on Colwood’s first cannabis retail store. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Cowichan Tribes’ Costa Canna cannabis store opens in Colwood

Cowichan Tribes has one-year deal to grow, sell cannabis

Gordon English, construction manager of the Habitat for Humanity project in North Saanich, shows off the current interior of a townhouse part of the affordable housing project. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Families set to move in to affordable housing project in North Saanich by spring

Pending completion of Habitat for Humanity project comes against backdrop of new housing report

A rainbow graces the departure of CCGS John Cabot as it leaves Victoria Jan. 7. (Canadian Coast Guard/Facebook)
Follow a coast guard ship’s trip from Victoria to Halifax, through Panama Canal

Canadian Coast Guard Ship John Cabot left for St. Johns on Jan. 7

Seattle Mariners field coordinator Carson Vitale before a game at T-Mobile Park during the 2020 season. Vitale, who grew up in Victoria, has pledged to run 10 miles a day for 2021 and to donate 50 cents per mile to the United Way of King County. (Ben Van Houten/Seattle Mariners)
Mariners coach running 10 miles a day for United Way

Saanich-raised Carson Vitale, Seattle Mariners field coordinator, plans to run 3,650 miles in 2021

A fire sparked at an encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue early Thursday morning. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Residents of Pat Bay Highway encampment to be relocated after early morning fire, site secured for clean up

Eviction notice issued in 2020, not enforced to allow BC Housing to connect with campers

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

A northern resident killer whale shows injuries sustained by a collision with a vessel in B.C. waters. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Coast Guard ramps up protections for B.C. whales

First-ever Marine Mammal Desk will enhance cetacean reporting and enforcement

Most Read