Sault Ste. Marie remembered the sacrifices made at Vimy Ridge 100 years ago today.
Thousands of young men from the Sault were enlisted , representing 25 per cent of the population of the city at the time. Thousands of Canadians lost their lives. 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge, that is often referred to as a defining moment in Canadian History. When the tally was taken the Canadians had suffered 10,603 casualties, 3,598 killed and 7,004 wounded. Many of those killed have no known grave as the battlefield swallowed them up.
The objective of the Canadian Corps was to take control of the German-held high ground along an escarpment at the northernmost end of the Arras Offensive. The battle was the first occasion when all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force participated in a battle together and it was made a symbol of Canadian national achievement and sacrifice.
A parade and ceremony was held downtown Sunday. Hundreds attended. Wreaths were laid by dignitaries that included, Terry Sheehan MP for Sault Ste Marie, Patrick Brown MPP Simcoe North (representing the Province of Ontario) Christian Provenzano Mayor City of Sault Ste Marie, Wayne Paulencu, President Branch 25 Royal Canadian Legion, Major Steve Lambert, 49th Field Regiment.
Cadet Sgt. Kenny recently experienced the Vimy Ridge battlefield and Canadian National Vimy Memorial which is marking the 100th Anniversary on April 09th. He stated, “I finally after waiting two years, got the opportunity to visit this historical site that represents the background of all Canadians”. Having worked part time and with a little help from his parents, saved the necessary funds to participate in a nine day battle field tour organized by EF Tours. Kenny is an Air Cadet in the 155 Borden Gray GC Squadron and took along the 155’s Mascot, Leading Air Cadet Bear for the historical experience and continued training project of the 155 Squadron. Also part of the nine day battle field tour were, Lt. Commander Rob Pihlaja Area Cadet Advisor, from Sault Ste Marie as well, Staff and Sea Cadets from 101 Tiger Sea Cadet Corps in Timmins.
While at Vimy Ridge the cadets heard about the one year
build up to the April 09th 1917 battle that saw for the first time all four Canadian Divisions fighting together in World War I. Where French and British forces had been unsuccessful, the Canadians after four days of fighting took and held this strategic high ground from the Germans. The cadets were lead through trenches and tunnels used by the Canadian Soldiers, by Canadian students that are employed as Tour Guides that detailed the challenges of living in them while constantly in the sights of the enemy. Kenny describes “this gives you the true meaning of what Canadian Soldiers sacrificed in order for us to enjoy our rights and freedoms in which we take for granted”.” Also to see some of the names of fallen hero’s that lived close to hope, opens that prospective even larger”.
After having the experience of seeing the names engraved on the Vimy monument, which are all of the Canadian Soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice during World War I. The cadets then got to see the commanding view of the landscape where you can see tens of kilometers in all directions. It is only then one can reflect on the importance of this high ground to those who occupied it or those that were trying to capture it.
From here the group went to Wellington Quarries. Kenny describes his experiences, “here we got to go 20 meters underground to find a series of tunnels dugout that were all connected together to form an underground city”. “This was used to surprise the enemy by popping up to the surface right next to the enemy” during the early stages of the fighting on April 09th.
Cabaret Rouge Cemetery was the next stop, “to conclude the day we went to this Cemetery that contained the remains of an unknown Canadian soldier”. “In 2000 this Canadian war hero was moved from this location to his final resting place at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa” said Kenny.
The next day the group went to another place that holds great significance to Canadians, Juno Beach. Kenny took a photo of “LAC Bear looking at the shoreline of Juno Beach which was the objective for the Canadians during the D-Day operation”, June 06th 1944.
Earlier in the tour the group was in London England and visited many important historical sites. On the last two days in France they toured Paris with a visit to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre art gallery. Kenny is glad to be back home and will be sharing his photos and experiences with his fellow air cadets, friends and family. He will be participating in the Vimy Parade on April 09th here in Sault Ste Marie and will likely have a very personal connection when the Last Post is played at the Cenotaph on Queen Street as part of Sundays ceremonies.
The 155 Squadron Air Cadet meets on Wednesday nights at the Pine Street Armoury from 6:30 pm till 9:30 pm, there is no fee to join or participate in regular aviation related training. Air Cadets are open to boys and girls aged 12 to 18 yrs. of age. To learn more about the 155 Squadron that is celebrating their 75th Anniversary this year please visit, www.155 Air Cadets.ca . The 155 is a member agency of the Sault Ste Marie and District United Way.