Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Vimy - April 9th, 1917

Yesterday the Royal Canadian Legion in this small village held a ceremony and reception honouring the Canadians who took part in the Battle for Vimy Ridge on Easter Sunday, April 9th, 1917.

It was a windy day, and the breeze that blew out of the West was fair fit to send the small drummer with the large drum tumbling, - and the flag bearers sailing with unfurled flags.

Nevertheless, it was a fine turn out of both local people and visitors from the South Okanagan. Those present were at once reverent and enthusiastic in showing their regard for the Veterans of this famous Battle, where Canadians so significantly exhibited their metal, their dogged persistence and their incredible bravery.

There are only a few World War Two Veterans in the population of the Village, and certainly no World War One Veterans survive. They do live on - some in recent memory and some in the memories and the heritage of sons and daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Wreaths were laid, people brought pictures of Fathers and Grandfathers who served at
Vimy, at Arras, at Cambrai and other battlefields in that swath of destruction that swept across central France. One lady brought a copy of her Father's
letters from the Front.

I took pictures of our Dad, who did not arrive in England until June, after the April battle at Vimy, but who was wounded at Cambrai a month before the War ended in November, 1918.

A daughter of Piper Harry Lunan, who survived the horrors of the Battle of the Somme and was the Last Piper of the Great War, was there to honour her father.

The great Granddaughter of two of the men who were at Vimy, - one in the struggle on the ground and the other in the air overhead, spoke of her awakening awareness of Canada, and the part that Vimy played in making this country an independent Nation, - and of her pride in her heritage.

A small band of Cadet Pipers and Drummers sponsored by the B.C. Dragoons played during the ceremony, and the Pipe Major played the Lament.

As the Parade marched off they left 90 Red Candles, placed around the Cenotaph by Veterans and youth, to shine all night in silent vigil.

It was tribute organized by a young and enthusiastic member of the Legion, who realizes and appreciates the freedom we enjoy in this country, won at such great sacrifices.

And his caring helps to contradict the opinions of a gaggle of young historians who seek now to diminish the meaning and importance of Vimy, referring to it as a mythical Battle which has been glorified for political reasons. One wonders at the immaturity and cynicism of their opinions as they challenge the valour of the men who took part in Vimy and the meticulous planning and training instigated by Arthur Currie which made the Battle a brave and bloody success.

There is a certain leftist element in this country who would denigrate the fighting courage of the nation's past, and the determination it took to win the right to the Freedom they enjoy. Unfortunately in many cases this freedom is being used to re-write history and to make moral judgements without any criteria or sense of time, place and circumstances. I speak in particular about Brian McKenna, whose opinions of Bomber Command in the Second World War bore so little credibility in relation to the truth about this vital part of the victory. These opinions are saddening, especially to those of our generation who were so involved in these struggles and lost dear ones who did not survive the shells, the mud, the gassings and the terrible barrages.

There is another picture I remember well, - it hung above the fireplace of the rectory in the Parish we were part of when I was a child. The Rector had been a Padre in the First World War (as he was again in the Second World War.) The picture was of a Padre celebrating communion on a small hill with some soldiers, amongst a scene of carnage such as shown in the picture above.

The image has stayed with me all my life and left an eternal consciousness of the ultimate sacrifices .

My last memory is of Husband and I travelling up the coast of France from Falaise to The Moyland Woods, and singing Roses of Picardy as we passed through that portion of the country. My tears were for all of those, who like our Father, endured and for the many,many thousands who perished.

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