100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge
One hundred years ago, on April 9, 1917, more than 100,000 Canadian soldiers embarked on one of the bloodiest and most significant battles in our country’s history. The capturing of Vimy Ridge in France was a major turning point in the First World War, and a defining moment in our history.
For the first time, all four divisions of the Canadian Corps attacked together, with individuals from all regions of the country present at the battle. Brigadier-General A.E. Ross would declare following the war that, “in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation.”
This moment in our history is inextricably linked to Parliament, as the original Parliament building had been destroyed by fire in 1916 and the new structure was being built during war time. Daily updates from the front were given in the Chamber and Canadians would pay a heavy price for the victory at Vimy: 3,598 Canadians were killed and another 7,000 wounded.
The words “Vimy Ridge 1917-04-09” were anonymously carved into a block in the exterior west wall of Centre Block while it was under construction. While the exact origin of this inscription is lost to history, the architect of the current Centre Block, John A. Pearson, saw fit that this tribute should remain.
On July 2, 1917, a simple but heartfelt ceremony marked the dedication of the new Parliament building, then still under construction, in memory of the Fathers of Confederation, as well as all those still serving at the front. In the words of Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, the new building was to symbolize “the splendid achievement of the past and the still more glorious hope of the future.”
A special carillon recital will take place at noon on Friday, April 7 to honour those who paid the ultimate price, those who lie in unmarked graves in France and those who came home but were never again the same. The Dominion Carillonneur, Dr. Andrea McCrady, will also play before and after the commemoration ceremony at the National War Memorial on Sunday, April 9.
In the Memorial Chamber you will find the First World War Book of Remembrance that lists the names of the 3,598 Canadians lost at Vimy Ridge, along with those of the tens of thousands of Canadian soldiers who perished during the Great War. Their actions shaped us as a nation and their enormous sacrifices ensured the freedom we enjoy today. Lest we forget.