French town plastered with over 500 Canadian flags for Vimy Ridge anniversary

Click to play video: 'Sacrifice of Canadians not forgotten in France'
Sacrifice of Canadians not forgotten in France
Thousands of Canadians are travelling to France this week to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. For many, the First World War victory signified the birth of Canada. But for the tiny French village of Givenchy-En-Gohelle, the commemorations hit much closer to home. Jeff Semple reports – Apr 6, 2017

A tiny French village has transformed itself into a symbol of Canadiana to mark 100 years since the battle of Vimy Ridge.

Givenchy En-Gohelle — population 2,000 — has been blanketed in more than 500 Canadian flags, covering everything from garbage bins to beer bottles.

Givenchy resident Richard Bouzen spent months planting a memorial garden along with a Canadian flag in his backyard, which marks the spot where an Allied plane was shot down in the First World War.

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“It’s a tribute to all of the Canadians who died for France,” he said.

The village is home to Canada’s Vimy Memorial — a towering reminder of the sacrifice Canadians made here a century ago.

French warplanes fly over the Canadian National Vimy Memorial Monday, April 9, 2007 during the 90th anniversary of a breakthrough World War I victory by Canadian troops over the Germans in Vimy Ridge, Northern France. AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

During the war, the quaint village was utterly decimated and occupied for three years by the German army.

But its residents returned and rebuilt after the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

“For us, the (centenary) commemorations last much longer than a week,” says Givenchy’s Mayor Pierre Senechal.

The Canadian Maple Leaf covers everything from beer bottles to garbage bins in Givenchy En-Gohelle, France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Jeff Semple/Global News

Last year, he officially declared 2017 to be the “Year of Canada.”

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“Givenchy is a Canadian village. I hope Canadians who come here know that our home is their home,” he says.

Residents in Givenchy have spent many months preparing to welcome the thousands of Canadian visitors who are arriving for the centenary commemorations on April 9.

READ MORE: Londoners to attend 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France

The Godard family is one of dozens who opened their homes to complete strangers, offering Canadians a place to stay free of charge.

The family even took English language lessons for several months so they could converse with their Canadian guests.

“It means a lot,” says Luke Garwood, one of three Canadians staying at the Godard residence. Garwood’s great-grandfather fought at Vimy.

“It’s really nice to see an appreciation and a respect for our forefathers — people who did come over here and did die, trying to defend another country,” he says.

Givenchy resident Richard Bouzen erects a Canadian flag on his property. Jeff Semple/Global News

Canadian Valerie Bince-Stuart moved to Givenchy 17 years ago.

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She says local children grow up learning about Canada’s contribution.

“You could be driving your car in the area, and you’re going to be driving by three or four cemeteries with Canadian soldiers in them. So it’s part of our everyday lives.”

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