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Estevan Legion marked 102nd anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge

The anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge was marked in Estevan on April 6 and 7 this year.

The anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge was marked in Estevan on April 6 and 7 this year.

The Estevan branch of the Royal Canadian Legion and Estevan Elks, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Army Cadet Corps marked the 102nd anniversary of the battle. The day started with the historical presentation at the Legion Hall.

Captain Craig Bird, who is the commanding officer for the local No. 2901 Estevan Army Cadets, told guests about the history and importance of the battle, which began at 5:30 a.m. on April 9, 1917 on the fields of France.

Vimy Ridge
Captain Craig Bird talked about on the Battle of Vimy Ridge and people who fought there. He also read off the dairy of Sergeant Frank Abbot of Souris, Man., who was a part of 8th Battalion CEF Winnipeg Rifles, and after the war moved to Estevan. His uniform and picture were displayed on stage during the presentation. Photo by Anastasiia Bykhovskaia

“The first wave of 15,000-20,000 Canadian soldiers, many heavily laden with equipment, attacked through the wind-driven snow and sleet into the face of deadly machine gun fire,” said Bird.

Closely following the line of explosions, the Canadian infantrymen captured German positions in the critical moment after the barrage moved to the next target, but before the enemy soldiers could emerge from their underground bunkers.

With relatively few dead and wounded, the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) and the Canadian corps achieved their objective, thus imprinting the Battle of Vimy Ridge into history as one of the Canadian finest military hours and a triumph for PPCLI.

Vimy Ridge
Gas masks as the ones displayed at the contemporary military museum were used at the times of the Great War during gas attacks. Photo by Anastasiia Bykhovskaia

“The Patricias saw 83 killed at Vimy Ridge, with another 139 listed as casualties, while the other attacking companies of the Canadian Corps’ 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions sustained 3,598 killed in the two-and-a-half day battle, and 7,004 wounded,” said Bird.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a success that was hard-won. Abot 100,000 Canadians fought there.

“At Vimy Ridge, regiments from coast to coast saw action together in a distinctly Canadian triumph, helping create a new and stronger sense of national identity in our country,” said Bird.

The demonstration of the Vimy Ridge: Heaven to Hell documentary, uncovering a lot of technical and strategic details about the battle, was a part of the activities in Estevan.

Bird also introduced the 152nd (Estevan/Weyburn) Battalion's flags that were displayed at the Legion for the first time and talked about the history of the unit and meaning of colours.

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Master Warrant Officer Darson Gunnlaugson, left, and Warrant Officer Owen Gudmundson were examining a machine gun displayed at the miniature military museum set up at the legion for the Vimy Ridge anniversary. Photo by Anastasiia Bykhovskaia

As well, there was a military museum organized at the legion over the weekend of the Battle of Vimy Ridge anniversary celebration. Jeff Gudmundson, Larry Mass and Bird provided historical artifacts and various items from personal collections to be displayed at the miniature museum and also answered questions related to the exhibition. 

The day came to an end with the official wreath-laying ceremony at the cenotaph. Despite the pouring rain, all traditions were followed to pay the tribute to the memory of those who served the country in the conflict and paid a price to help ensure the peace and freedom we enjoy today.