If you drove by the Legion in Coldwater on April 9, you may have wondered why the flags at the Cenotaph and in front of the building were lowered to half-mast. Hopefully, many of you would have known already that April 9 marks the anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge, which branches of the Royal Canadian Legion across the country commemorate by lowering their flags. Members of the Coldwater branch also laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in memory of those who took part in the 1917 battle.
Earlier that day, a delegation from the branch had travelled to Canadian Forces Base Borden to take part in a ceremony commemorating the battle. The annual event, which began seven years ago, includes an early morning Remembrance service at the site of restored First World War trenches on base, followed by a Vimy Breakfast well attended by military personnel, veterans, and local dignitaries. More than 30,000 troops trained in the Borden trenches in the summer of 1916, before moving overseas to join the Canadian divisions in the field. Among those were dozens of soldiers from the Coldwater area.
According to many historians, the 1917 battle of Vimy Ridge unified the country by giving it a new sense of a national identity. It was a battle in which, for the first time, four Canadian army divisions (more than 100,000 men) fought side by side as a Canadian Corps, and came out victorious.
While Canadians suffered heavy casualties during the operation, they were successful in reaching and taking their heavily defended objectives on time, leaving the Allies in control of the high ground overlooking enemy positions. Together, the Canadian and British Corps had captured more ground, prisoners and artillery pieces than any previous British offensive of the war. But there was a cost to the battlefield victory. By the end of the battle, Canadians had suffered 10,600 casualties, 3,600 of them killed. Two soldiers from Coldwater, Private Andrew Durnford and George Maracle, were killed in action during the battle, and four more were killed within a few weeks in the ensuing fighting over the Vimy area. We will remember them.
Coldwater Branch President Betty-Jean Murray (left) prepares to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph on Vimy Ridge Day, April 9. Accompanying her are, left to right: Comrades Wayne Tutt; Tom Thompson; and Norm Marion.