April 9 marks a day to remember. One-hundred years ago, in the early morning hours, a bloody four day battle for Vimy Ridge began.
Almost 3,600 Canadians lost their lives and 7,000 more were wounded. The centenary anniversary held at Saskatoon’s Vimy Memorial in Kiwanis Park remembered those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“Democracy is not free and unfortunately there are Canadians who have laid down their lives for our freedom and democracy,” Royal Canadian Legion branch 63 president John Davidson explained.
“We have to keep the memory of those people alive. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have the lives that we do now.”
The Battle of Vimy Ridge is honored as a nation building moment for the country and a turning point for the Allies.
“We always think of Vimy as the birth of our nation because that was the first time we fought together as a group,” Legion branch 63 executive Rodney Holowaty said after Sunday’s ceremony.
Regiments from Saskatoon, Regina and Moose Jaw fought at Vimy and Royal Canadian Legion Branch 63 itself was formed by First World War and Vimy Ridge veterans.
The day was also celebrated at the University of Saskatchewan where two new exhibits opened at the Diefenbaker Canada Centre.
“It was a very difficult battle for us to win. At the time is was fought 300,000 French had already died trying to reclaim the territory,” Diefenbaker Canada Centre museum docent, Erin Isaac, explained on Friday.
“The Battle of Vimy Ridge was months and months in the making before we actually fought it. It was a very strategic battle.”
The exhibits will remain open until the new year, providing an in depth look at how the victory at Vimy has become such a powerful symbol of Canadian identity.