April 9 marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, where great bravery and greater sacrifice took place as Canadian soldiers did what previous armies could not, seizing the Vimy Ridge back from the Germans.
British and French forces had tried to recapture the heavily fortified seven-kilometre ridge during the previous three years, but were unable to break through losing over 100,000 men in the process.
Canada answered the call and we punched well above our weight.
The capture of Vimy was more than just an important battlefield win. For the first time in the history of our young nation, all four Canadian divisions attacked together: men from all regions of Canada took part in the siege.
Following the battle, Brig.-Gen. A.E. Ross famously declared: “In those few minutes, I witnessed the birth of a nation.”
During those four fateful days in April, our triumph did not come without cost as 3,600 Canadians were killed and more than 7,000 wounded.
I am honoured to be attending commemoration services this year in Vimy in my capacity as the Official Opposition Critic for Veterans Affairs and as part of the Canadian Delegation travelling to France. To visit the site of what was arguably the greatest victory in the history of our military, and during the 100th anniversary no less, is a distinct honour.
Camp Borden played a major role in training tens of thousands of soldiers for The Great War. Many who took part in the Battle of Vimy and other important campaigns.
The Barrie and Collingwood companies of the 157th Battalion Simcoe Foresters Canadian Expeditionary Force, now known as the Grey and Simcoe Foresters, helped clear the land at Borden in 1916 and by that summer four battalions were training there.
It was at Camp Borden where tunnels stretching over 18 kilometres were dug to simulate the trenches of the battlegrounds that lay ahead for the troops overseas.
It is a privilege to have the base in such close proximity to the greater Barrie area. Throughout its rich 101-year history, CFB Borden has been essential in preparing our troops for the dangers they face in the name of freedom.
I am so pleased that students from Barrie-Innisfil high schools such as St. Peter’s, Bear Creek, Innisdale, Nantyr Shores and St. Joan of Arc are taking the opportunity to travel to France this year and experience firsthand the sentiment that has long endured since the historic battle took place. I applaud them for making it a priority to educate themselves on the significance of this event, and the direct impact it continues to have on Canadians.
In 1922, the French government ceded to Canada in perpetuity Vimy Ridge, and the land surrounding it. The gleaming white marble and haunting sculptures of the Vimy Memorial, unveiled in 1936, stand as a terrible and poignant reminder of the 11,285 Canadian soldiers killed in France who have no known graves. It also serves as an iconic symbol of Canadian pride, bravery, determination and sacrifice.
Lest we forget.