Powerful day at the Vimy Centenary

There needs to be a word between sombre and celebratory to capture the feeling at the Vimy Centenary Sunday in Northern France. There were heavy moments that were visceral in there impact, such as a conversation I had with Eleanor Palmer. Her grandfather fought at Vimy and she couldn’t reveal her 100-year-old “family story” without succumbing to the emotional weight of the day. I felt it too. Then there was young Simon Herrera-Lassalina at Vimy on a school trip and there was a celebratory tone in his voice that oozed with pride. He was here to celebrate Canada’s history. Either way, there was a strong sense of Canadian pride here and I hope that resonates at home.


A soldier stands guard in front of the Breaking of the Sword statue at the Vimy Monument during centenary celebrations April 9, 2017. More than 25,000 people flocked to the monument sporting Canadian flags and Vimy apparel. 


Eleanor Palmer of Regina is at the Vimy Centenary for her grandfather, John Palmer, who fought with the 24th Battalion of the Victoria Rifles. He was critically injured at the battle of Hill 70 and spent nine months in hospital. He returned home a frail man but lived to the age of 96. “It’s very important for us to be here,” she said through tears. “It’s the family story.”


Simon Herrera-Lassalina of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia feels the weight of the moment at the Vimy Centenary Sunday, April 9, 2017. “I am proud of my country and what they did 100 years ago,” he said. “It shows how much we’ve changed and how far we’ve come even though we are fight in other parts of the world.”


Allan Bainbridge, who served as a UN Peacekeeper, is no stranger to conflict, but almost didn’t come to the Vimy Centenary Sunday, April 9, 2017. “My wife convinced me. It’s been a huge eye opener,” he said. “I feel a horrendous loss of life here.”


Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class Bryce Adams took time off his duties with Maritime Command in the UK to volunteer at the Vimy Centenary on Sunday, April 19, 2017. His 23 years of service has given him great respect for Canadians at Vimy. “In all our tactic logs, Vimy is the pinnacle of Canadian tactics,” he said. He was impressed with all the youth that turned out Sunday. It’s good for them to see we’re a nation built on sacrifice. 


Capt. Ken Piggott from the 110 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia came to the Vimy centenary celebration on April 9, 2017 to pay his respects at the battle that “birthed a nation”. For his cadets, “It’s an eye opener. They are getting a deeper respect for history. 

Vimy crowd 2

Soldiers lined the hills on the ridge at Vimy, overlooking more than 25,000 people – most of whom were Canadian – during the Vimy centenary on Sunday.


RCMP stood guard over the more 25,000 people who flocked to the Vimy Monument for the centenary celebration on Sunday, April 9, 2017. Officials had to close the gates once the grounds reached capacity, leaving many disappointed.


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