It’s often been called a watershed moment in Canadian history.
With the country approaching its 50th birthday, four divisions of the Canadian Corps emerged with a key allied victory in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, giving Canada its “coming of age” moment, according to many historians.
In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the April 1917 battle, Fort Rodd Hill is hosting a commemoration event to remember the thousands killed or wounded.
“The battle was a success, but at the same time it had a huge cost to Canadians … I think it’s important to not forget the sacrifices of the men and women at the Battle of Vimy Ridge and during the First World War,” said Robyn Sealy, the fort’s acting interpretation co-ordinator.
Beginning at 6 p.m. on Saturday (April 8), the national historic site will host interpretative activities and programs, a campfire, and music from the band of the 5th (B.C.) Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery.
The formal part of the event begins at 7:30 with a Royal Canadian Legion colour party and words from regional dignitaries, including Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke MP Randall Garrison.
A plaque will also be unveiled for Sir Arthur Currie, a major-general during the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Currie has a strong connection to Fort Rodd Hill and Victoria, having been a teacher at Vic High and received his military start with the 5th Field Artillery Regiment out of the Bay Street Armoury.
He participated in and later led numerous field exercises, or mock battles, at Fort Rodd Hill and Langford Plains.
After the ceremonies at Fort Rodd Hill comes what Sealy called the “pièce de résistance” of the event, beginning at 8:30. In France it will be 5:30 a.m. – the exact time when the first shots rang out in the Vimy battle 100 years ago.
“At that moment we’ll have everyone gathered on the lower battery cliff at Fort Rodd Hill and below us on the beach there will be guns (fired) from the 5th Field Regiment, so the same type of guns that they would have had at Vimy,” she said. “It will be twilight and Fisgard Lighthouse will be a stunning backdrop for the unforgettable 100-round rapid fire barrage.”
As is the case all year in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, admission to the Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites is free. Overflow parking will be available at the Juan de Fuca park and ride, with a shuttle taking attendees to and from the site.
The 5th Field Regiment will also host an open house at the Bay Street Armoury the following day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.