Vimy Ridge centennial stirring strong response in Sarnia

The Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France bears the names of 28 soldiers from Sarnia killed with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. Submitted Photo

Journal Staff

It is the stuff of legend, with echoes of sacrifice, heroism and anguish.

The 100th Anniversary of the famous First World War Battle of Vimy Ridge will be marked on April 9. The epic fight has gone down in history as “The Battle that Forged a Nation” for the sense of pride and confidence it instilled in Canadians.

It was the first major Allied victory on the blood-soaked Western Front. It also took the lives of 3,598 Canadians, including four young men who called Sarnia home.

On Sunday, April 2, a ceremony will be held at the Sarnia Cenotaph in Veterans’ Park to honour Frederick Johnson, David Montgomery, David Kerr and Roy Lumley, with multiple agencies laying wreaths beginning at 4 p.m.

Vimy was the bloodiest day in Canadian military history, and also the most inspiring and victorious. Yet many Sarnians know little about it.

But that’s changing as the 100th anniversary approaches. For the past ten months, the Sarnia Historical Society and Vimy Foundation have worked together to increase knowledge about the battle.

To date, a remarkable 3,200 Vimy Memorial Pins have been sold in the city. What’s more, every ticket to a 190-seat Vimy Dinner planned for April 2 sold out in two weeks.

The Vimy Foundation, a charitable organization created to promote remembrance of the battle, is overwhelmed by the local response.

“Clearly, Sarnia is a community where the sacrifices and legacy of the First World War will not be forgotten,” said executive director Jeremy Diamond.

“We are very impressed by the people of Sarnia for their outstanding support of the Vimy Pin initiative and have been proud to partner with the Sarnia Historical Society.”

Both organizations are asking Canadians to wear the Vimy Pin until the anniversary date on April 9th and then every April thereafter. Historical Society members have been speaking in churches across the city each Sunday as well as civic organizations and service clubs.

The Vimy Pin is available for $6 or two for $10 at The Book Keeper at Northgate Plaza and at Poppies Gift Shop at Bluewater Health.

Historical Society president Ron Realesmith said proceeds from the pin campaign support both the Foundation and the Society’s ongoing projects.

“We’ve been gratified by the number of Sarnians who have approached us after our talks about Vimy Ridge to thank us … and to lament the fact that they didn’t learn more about the significance of Vimy Ridge at school,” he said.

The Vimy Memorial contains the names of 28 Sarnia soldiers who died fighting in France for Canada.