Hollande, Trudeau Pay Tribute to Canada's WWI Casualties

War Museum Vimy Beyond the Battle exhibition

"Today, as people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean gather to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, there will be hard memories of loss and of suffering, but also memories of many heroic acts of bravery and of sacrifice on the part of those who served".

Kamloops Mountain Rangers Regiment Lieutenant-Colonel Normand Dionne and retired Canadian Armed Forces soldier George Dursch recounted the events of the three-day battle and spoke of the sacrifices Canadian soldiers made to make Canada the free and democratic society it is today.

He came to remember his grandfather who was severely injured during the battle at Vimy Ridge.

On April 9, 1917, the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles - predecessor of the B.C. Dragoons - took part in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. "For the first time, all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought together, under the command of a Canadian", said Premier Christy Clark in a statement. The site, which in 1922 became a piece of Canadian territory on French soil, is a revered national symbol, one featured on the back of Canada's $20 bill to this day.

"It was important just as a symbol of bringing everyone together", said Jeremy Diamond, president of the Vimy Foundation, the mission of which is to promote and preserve Canada's First World War legacy.

Numerous crowd were teenagers like Jacob Woodgate, 17, from Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Millions more are expected to watch and listen by radio and TV, or attend local commemorative ceremonies. "We had Brits fighting side-by-side with Canadians, and it's only appropriate that they're here with us today". "It really hits you when you think that some of the soldiers who died were my age".

Trudeau and French President Francois Hollande unveiled a separate "Poppy of Peace" monument on Sunday morning in the town of Arras, a few kilometers from Vimy.

An ocean away from home, spilling their blood on a remote ridge in the muddied battlefields of northern France a century ago, many would argue that Canadians earned nationhood.

"Vimy is often shorthand for the First World War", says military historian and author Tim Cook, whose most recent book is entitled "Vimy: The Battle and the Legend".

Canada would gain political quasi-autonomy only in 1931.

"The battle of Vimy Ridge was a pivotal moment for our military and for our country".

Tim Cook, of the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, said however its importance could not be underestimated.

"We're here to remember those men who really helped change what was a colony into an autonomous sovereign nation, Canada, and it's a huge privilege for British soldiers to be allowed to come here and join this parade", said Col. Marcus Evans, British Army Training Unit Suffield.

Princes William and Harry will each lay a pair of wooden feet at the memorial, representing the Canadians who died in the battle. Vimy School was build in 1930 to commemorate those courageous men who fought and gave their lives at Vimy Ridge so that we can preserve the freedom and democracy that we all enjoy today.

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