A commemoration of the 101st anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge took place Sunday morning at the Surrey Centre Cemetery in Cloverdale.
— Sam Anderson (@sam_andrsn) April 8, 2018
On April 9, 1917, the four Canadian army divisions fought as a unified force for the first time, accomplishing what was thought impossible by the British and French forces – they captured the heavily fortified Vimy Ridge, 175 km north of Paris, France. The battle lasted four days and more than 10,600 Canadian soldiers were wounded or killed. Thousands more went missing and were presumed dead.
More than 100 army, air and navy cadets braved the rain to participate in the ceremony on Sunday morning, as well as members of the Cloverdale Legion and dignitaries from Surrey and Langley.
Cadet Mason Wright was one of a handful of speakers at the ceremony. He told those gathered of his recent trip to France to see the Vimy Memorial.
The effects of the Battle of Vimy Ridge are still visible today at the site, said Cadet Wright, “like a scab on a wound, the damage was hiding just beneath the rough surface… the earth is still healing, and we, as a nation, are still healing.”
He described the journey he and his fellow cadets took. They toured the tunnels beneath the battlefield, where the “air felt heavy and wet,” he said. “I cannot imagine what it would have been like as a soldier hiding in those tunnels waiting for what seemed like certain death.”
After emerging from the tunnels, the cadets were led into nearby trenches.
“I was surprised to see how close they were [to the tunnels], and how deep the craters caused by underground explosions were even after a century,” he said.
The cadets then walked up the incline towards the Vimy Memorial itself. Wright explained it was the same ground Canadian troops would have covered during the battle. “In my mind, I could clearly see them. Stumbling over bodies, shellholes and seas of barbed wire.”
“We soon reached the top of the hill, where the trees parted and revealed the Vimy monument before us. It’s awe-inspiring to see it standing there. Proud, majestic and isolated,” he said.
The group of cadets was given time to explore the memorial on their own. On the return trip from the site, Wright said he remembered “the dead silence of nobody speaking for the entire ride… It seemed everyone was taking a moment to reflect on the magnitude of this hallowed place.”