The annual Remembrance Day ceremony at Millennium Place will pay special tribute this year to two important centennials – the start of the First World War and the founding of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI).
The First World War started on August 4, 1914, with Canadians seeing their first action in April 1915 in Ypres, Belgium. Lt.-Col. John McCrae wrote the well known poem In Flanders Fields after losing a friend in that battle. Canadians were heavily involved in many other major battles including Somme, Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele.
By the time the fighting ceased on Nov. 11, 1918, more than 66,000 Canadians had given their lives and 172,000 had been wounded. In total, 650,000 men and women from across Canada and Newfoundland (which was not yet part of Canada) served in the war. Approximately 4,000 Aboriginal Canadians enlisted during the war and more than 2,800 Canadian Nursing Sisters served with the Canadian Army Medical Corps.
PPCLI was founded at the outbreak of the war after Capt. Andrew Hamilton Gault of Montreal offered $100,000 (roughly $2.1 million in 2014 dollars) to equip a battalion to be sent to serve overseas. The Canadian government accepted the offer and just days later the charter for the new regiment was signed. The regiment was named after Princess Patricia of Connaught, who was the daughter of Prince Arthur, who was Canada’s Governor General at the time.
The newly formed regiment played an important role at the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a battle which is known as one of the defining moments in Canada’s young history. During the Second World War, the Patricias were key in battles in Sicily and on Italy’s mainland. After the Italian campaign, they helped liberate the Netherlands. The Patricias also served in the Korean War, in peacekeeping missions in Cyprus in the 1960s and in the Balkans during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. They were the first regiment deployed in Afghanistan in 2002 where their missions ranged from combat to stability operations. The regiment also oversaw the transition of operations from US to NATO control.
The two centennial anniversaries will be recognized in a video during the ceremony. All guests are asked to be seated by 10:30 a.m. There will be a parade led by a pipe band, followed by speeches, wreath laying and a moment of silence.
The event is being organized by the Sherwood Park Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans (ANAVETS), which has done so since the local Royal Canadian Legion closed its doors.
After the ceremony, there will be a luncheon at Wye Community Hall for seniors and veterans.
Organizer Hank Penner of ANAVETS stressed how important it is to continue to honour the sacrifices made by Canadian war veterans.
“It is important at all times, regardless of the recent events, to recognize veterans for what they stood for and for all of those who paid the supreme sacrifice over the years,” he said.
The ceremony will take place on Field 1 at Millennium Place. It will start at 10:30 a.m. sharp.
This article, written by Edmonton freelance writer Dave S. Clark was originally published in Sherwood Park News.