Chilliwack and Vimy Ridge

A ridge in France bears the legacy of an event that defined Canada's role as a nation unto itself. The Canadian battle for Vimy Ridge, fought over three days, began April 9, 1917. Although the battle is nationally recognized as the story of a nation coming of age, the ridge with its memorial continues to perpetuate the individual sacrifice of officers and men of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Vimy Ridge became part of a 248-acre park ceded in perpetuity by the nation of France to Canada. Upon its slope, the memorial, designed by Canadian sculptor Walter Allward, rises above the horizon and from the Douai Plain below. Facing northeast towards Lens the memorial, constructed on Hill 145, is near the geographical feature known as the "Pimple". The stone walls of the memorial are inscribed with many thousands of names, commemorating Canadian soldiers recorded as missing in action in France. Further, the memorial's inscription records Canada's national sacrifice, "To the valour of their countrymen in the Great War and in memory of their sixty thousand dead this monument is raised by the people of Canada."

Fifteen Chilliwack soldiers recorded on the Chilliwack War Memorial are commemorated at Vimy. Those from Chilliwack reflect the earlier dates of battle in France from 1915 through to the last German offensive of March 1918. They are Harry Ayres, Louis James Barrett, Orville Hubert Boucher, Alfred Bunnett, Charles Edward Clapp, George Allan Evans, Trueman Hamilton, Geoffrey Hornby, Albert Leslie Knight, Samuel Andrew Love, Allen McDonnell, Alexander Robertson, James Stronach, Arend Van Der Knaap, and Hayward Vernon Wedrick.

In 1936 the Vimy Pilgrimage, organized by the Canadian Legion, left Canada bound for France to witness on July 26 the unveiling of the Vimy Memorial by King Edward VIII. It was estimated that over 8,000 individuals gathered at the ridge, including over 6,000 Canadian veterans. The Canadian government assisted the pilgrimage by granting free individual passports to the pilgrims who made the journey aboard several steamships that left Canada July 16 and arrived at ports in France and Belgium on July 25. For those veterans who were not able to make the pilgrimage, the unveiling ceremony was broadcast throughout Canada beginning at 5:30 AM Pacific Standard Time and heard locally on CHWK.

Pat Hall who was active with the Chilliwack Legion Vimy Pilgrimage Committee continued his duties overseas as part of "B" staff, that included 64 other representatives from across Canada. Hall and the others were given complete instructions of the pilgrimage itinerary that covered the pilgrim's movements in Canada, France and England. In Montreal, Hall met with all other selected representatives to review plans, receive new instructions and to provide an opportunity for all "B" Party staff to learn the layout of their assigned steamships. The pilgrims of the various ships were organized into 50 companies of 120 persons. Each company had a company leader and each ship a ship leader and an assistant ship leader. One other leader organized all of the clerical work of the ship's party.

About 20 individuals from Chilliwack registered for the pilgrimage and when the pilgrims left Chilliwack from the Canadian National Railway depot, about 500 individuals turned out to see them on their way. In France, apart from visits to many areas and towns that the veterans were familiar with during the war years they visited the tomb of France's Unknown Soldier in Paris.

At the unveiling Chilliwack was well represented, as Bruce Gleig was a member of the Guard of Honour at the unveiling and spoke briefly with King Edward VIII. Alderman Murdo MacLeod placed a wreath at the memorial on behalf of the City of Chilliwack.

Following their visit to France the pilgrims voyaged to England where they visited the gravesite of the Unknown Warrior in London, the cenotaph at Whitehall, and were entertained at Westminster Hall and attended a garden party in their honour at Buckingham Palace.

On arrival home, memories of the pilgrim's visit to the unveiling were presented at several places including the Canadian Legion Hall. Ex-servicemen, their wives and any next of kin of those who had made the "supreme sacrifice overseas" were invited to attend a Vimy Pilgrimage function advertised for September 29, 1936. Four presenters gave an intimate and interesting presentation of the unveiling. Victor Logan, Bruce Gleig, Miss Edrie Boucher and Robert Macnicol spoke and the later showed several reels of film to the audience.

Other presentations of the pilgrimage were made to the Chilliwack Women's Canadian Club, the Piper Richardson Chapter of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, Chilliwack Rotarians, Kinsmen, and in Agassiz at the Canadian Legion and at the annual banquet of the Women's Association of the United Church.

The 1936 Vimy Pilgrimage was a memorable journey for those that attended. Its memories must have burned brightly throughout the tour as the many veterans reminisced about both good and bad times. Eighteen years had passed since the end of the war and there may have been some speculation as to current events in Europe with the rise of the Nazis. Colonel W.W. Foster, a former CEF battalion commander, past president of Provincial Command of the Canadian Legion and then the Vancouver Police Chief, spoke about the pilgrimage to a women's organization in Chilliwack. Foster emphasized that Europe did not want war though some difficulties remained.

Peace was welcome after years of hardship during the Great War. However, a new menace loomed, one that would inevitably change the name of the Great War to the First World War. The Second World War was on the horizon and after six years of war, new memorials would be built to the sons and daughters of the veterans who had fought the "war to end all wars".




Chilliwack Museum and Archives 45820 Spadina Avenue, Chilliwack, BC, Canada V20 1T3 [604.795.5210]