Orangeville Legion commemorates 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge

April 13, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Jasen Obermeyer

This past Sunday (April 9), the Orangeville’s Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 233, commemorated the 100-year anniversary of the World War 1 battle of Vimy Ridge, along with the unveiling of the new cairn outside the branch.

Members of the community, the legion, veterans, and local dignitaries all came by to commemorate this special anniversary. The commemoration began with the unveiling of the cairn, and placing wreaths and crosses in front. Chris Skalozub, legion president, said the cairn, by placing rocks together, is designed for “perpetual remembrance” to those who fought and died in battle.

MP David Tilson and MPP Sylvia Jones both spoke at the commemoration, Mr. Tilson thanked everyone for attending, offering a prayer and a moment of silence for those who took part in Vimy Ridge, as well as those currently in battle. Ms. Jones said when she thinks of the battle, she thinks of the courage and sacrifice of the young soldiers, putting themselves at risk ahead of others.

Mr. Skalozub gave a brief history of the battle, and explained the overall importance, not just to the war, but also for Canada. “We must remember them, we need to remember them.”

The battle of Vimy Ridge took place from April 9 1917 to April 12. The objective was to capture German-held high ground along an escarpment, in Vimy, Pas-de-Calais, France. The battle, a victory for the allies, brought technical and tactical innovation, with the Canadians supported by a creeping barrage, where soldiers kept pace with artillery, giving the Germans little time to prepare for a defense. Canada though suffered over 10’000 casualties, including 3500 dead.

Though it was a military victory, it was more of a patriotic victory for Canada. Vimy Ridge is seen as the “birth of a nation,” the first time where all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), made up of soldiers from across the country, under a Canadian-born commander, fought together, making it making it a symbol of Canadian independence, national achievement, unity and sacrifice.

Canadian soldiers were eventually being called “storm troopers” by the Germans, for their strong and efficient combativeness. Both allies and Germans eventually regarded the CEF as one of the most effective allied military formations on the Western Front.

Mr. Skalozub said the battle was important for our county, because after it, we were “treated as Canadians now, not just the British Commonwealth. To prove a country its worthiness; that’s us.”

He said the legion and its members are keepers of remembrance, and they continuously go out in the community and express what remembrance is about.

Orangeville Mayor Jeremy Williams said Vimy Ridge “helped forge a country into what it is today.” He said it’s easy to forget these battles, “far away in time and space and not really relevant,” but when he mentioned his wife being at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France at the time he was speaking, it “really brought home” how close the battle really is in time and space.

Asked about how veterans from the battle would feel if there were any still, Mr. Skalozub said they would be grateful, but it’s something they don’t want to talk about. “That part of their era … it was a nasty thing, and a lot of people don’t talk because they don’t need to be reminded of the horror of war.”

In regards to the new cairn, which was first built in 1949, Mayor Williams said it was showing it’s age and needed to be fixed. “It’s super important that that kind of memorial is kept in the best conditions, because if we let stuff like that fall apart, how are we remembering?”

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.