Charlottetown ceremonies to commemorate Battle of Vimy Ridge

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Charlottetown ceremonies to commemorate Battle of Vimy Ridge

Two separate ceremonies in Charlottetown Sunday will commemorate the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which was fought April 9-12, 1917.

The victory over the Germans holding the ridge was the first time Canadian forces came together to fight as a nation.

"It was the first time the four divisions came together as a newly-formed corps to take on a job which was considered, literally, impossible," said Col. Jim Spears, who will take a lead part in the commemorations.

Previous French and British efforts to take Vimy had previously failed, at a cost of 200,000 casualties.

The Canadians suffered 10,500 casualties over the four days of the battle, including 3,598 killed.

A personal connection

There were 2,000 Prince Edward Islanders at Vimy. The Island contingent had 65 casualties, including 31 deaths.

One of the soldiers at the battle was Spears's father, who was at the time a 17-year-old machine gunner. Spears has had the opportunity to visit the Vimy Memorial, and see where his father fought.

"You have to be there. It's so ethereal," he said.

"When you come up on the ridge line and see that white limestone monument crested against the sky, it's just amazing."

Spears said it is shocking to view the graves of those who died, and see how young they were.

"It's amazing how many of them you see, 15, 16, 17 years old," he said.

"We've done a very poor job of making people aware of our history and the devastation that war brings and the importance of avoiding it if at all possible. It seems to be something that is missing."

Commemoration starts at 5 a.m.

The first of two ceremonies Sunday will start at 5 a.m. It will be a candle-lit ceremony with 31 Island cadets present, one representing each Islander who died in the battle.

The second ceremony will start with a formal parade to the cenotaph from Queen Charlotte Armouries starting at 1:40 p.m., arriving at the cenotaph at 1:55 p.m.

The Prince Edward Island Cadet Corps provided this list of the Islanders who were killed at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

- Patrick Raymond Arsenault, Private, age 20, Summerside.

- Samuel Beairstro, Corporal, age 26, 70276, Alma.

- George Edward Bell , Sergeant, age 31, Summerside.

- H.T. Carbonell, Private, age 28, Charlottetown.

- William Chaisson, Private, age unknown, Rollo Bay.

- Stephen Francis Cherry, Private, age unknown, Georgetown.

- Harry Leslie Currie, Private, age unknown, Charlottetown.

- John Pendergast Dalton, Private, age 18, Georgetown.

- Eddie Doucette, Private, age unknown, St. Louis.

- J. P. Finlayson, Private, age 19, Peake's Road.

- Archibald Gallant, Private, age unknown, Fifteen Points.

- Frederick Eugene Hall, Private, age 20, Breadalbane.

- James Francis Kelly, Lieutenant, age 27, Tracadie.

- Peter Knockwood, Private, age 33 , Lennox Island.

- John Fairchild Leslie, Private, age 24, Morell.

- Merril Augustus Marshall, Private, age 21, Covehead.

- J.M. MacKay, Private, age 34, Summerside.

- George Hugh McAulay, Private, age unknown, St Peter's Bay.

- Peter Adolphus McAuley, Private, age unknown, Souris.

- Frank McCormack, Private, age 20, North St Eleanors.

- Malcolm James McDonald, Private, age 36, Kinross.

- Roy Angus McDonald, Private, age 21, Peters Road.

- Joseph Amias McIsaac, Private, age 24, St. Peters Bay.

- Alexander McKenzie, Private, age 25, Fredericton.

- Alexander Daniel McKinnon, Private, age 33, New Annan.

- Daniel Newton McKinnon, Private, age 19, Milltown Cross.

- Charles Edward McQuillan, L/Sergeant, age 35, Charlottetown.

- Alexander Roderick McRae, Private, age 21, Point Prim.

- Hector Murray, Private, age 18, Clyde River.

- Frederick Rice, Private, age 35, Charlottetown.

- Philip Walsh, Private, age 23, Tignish.

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