Canada commemorates the centenary of the Vimy WWI battle

About 20,000 people, including many Canadians, are expected to attend the ceremony Sunday, including French President Francois Hollande and British royals Princes Charles, William and Harry.

But the Canadians did, after four days of intense warfare, capture the ridge that both the French and British had previously failed to do.

Canadian troops fought under Canadian command as a united force for the first time there, defeating the German forces in just three days, although they paid a heavy price with 3,600 Canadians killed and 7,000 wounded.

One pair of empty black combat boots for each of the men who died fighting for the ridge was placed atop the monument or on the vibrant green grass of the surrounding ridge. In the words of one veteran: 'We went up Vimy Ridge as Albertans and Nova Scotians. And we must believe it: "Never again".

The government of Canada is hosted the ceremony, which will speeches from officials and performances by famous Canadian artists, including singer Loreena McKennitt.

But he saved a special thanks for Canada, telling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the hundreds of others assembled that the Canadians' actions at Vimy was a turning point for the city - and for all of France. "They stand for justice and hope".

"On April 9th we remember and honour the many Canadians who fought and died for the freedom of our nation and did what no other force was able to accomplish, to liberate France".

William, Harry and the Prince of Wales will walk in the trenches of the former battlefield before taking part in the memorial.

"However, victory came at an unbearably heavy cost".

The ferociously bloody battle for the Vimy high ground has become the stuff of legend for many Canadians.

"Yet Canadians displayed a strength of character and commitment to one another that is still evident today".

Legion branches from the Royal Canadian Legion's E2 zone will march shoulder to shoulder with cadets from the Queen's York Rangers in Aurora and Base Borden, alongside members of York Regional Police's mounted unit and Upper Canada Cavalry, and in solidarity with emergency services personnel and members of the Chippewas of Georgina Island.

The Battle for Vimy Ridge was a distinctly Canadian effort from the beginning, a true demonstration of all the best qualities that Canada represents: individual initiative; esprit de corps; gumption; enthusiasm.

Arras Mayor Frederic Leturque thanked those other countries whose soldiers participated in the battle a century ago: Australians and British, New Zealanders and South Africans.


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