Ottawa Citizen

Ottawa Citizen>Blogs >News>Defence Watch

Canadian First World War Veterans Honoured On Saturday and Sunday in Ceremonies in Europe

October 21, 2011. 11:38 pm • Section: Defence Watch

                       

Posted by:
David Pugliese

Retired Brig.-Gen. Greg Young writes Defence Watch with details about two ceremonies taking place in Europe Saturday and Sunday to recognize the service and contributions of Canada’s soldiers in The Great War. Here is what he has to say:

“I wanted to bring to your attention two other ceremonies taking place the same week in Europe to recognize the service and contributions of Canada’s soldiers in The Great War. On 22 October on Observatory Ridge outside the City of Ypres (Ieper) in Belgium, the City of Ieper and The 15th Battalion C.E.F. Memorial Project (48th Highlanders of Canada) will jointly unveil and dedicate a memorial commemorating that Battalion’s participation on 03 June 1916 in the battle of Mount Sorrel. The next day on 23 October in France at Festubert, the Town of Festubert and the 15th Battalion C.E.F Memorial Project will jointly unveil and dedicate a second memorial commemorating the Battalion’s participation in the 20 May 1915 battle of Festubert.

 These memorials follow-on from the three memorials that were unveiled and dedicated in April 2010 at St Julien and Gravenstafel Ridge in Belgium commemorating the 2nd Battle of Ypres in 1915 and at Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt in France commemorating the August 1918 battle of the Drocurt-Queant Line.

 As we will be in the area following the dedication ceremony on 23 October conducting site surveys for future memorials, my Project Team has been invited to attend the reburial ceremony for Pte Alexander Johnson.

 So this October there are a number of events taking place to commemorate and preserve Canada’s Great War heritage.”

Here is the background on the Memorial Project that Brig.-Gen. Young included:

The 15th Battalion Memorial Project was initiated in 2007 with a simple objective: to commemorate all of the members of our Regiment who served, especially those who gave their lives, in the 15th Battalion C.E.F during The Great War 1914-1918.

As we approach the 100th anniversary of The First World War and the passing of that watershed event from memory to history, the Memorial Project is a vehicle to acknowledge the part that the 15th Battalion, and through it all Canadians, played in Canada’s contribution to the war effort on the battlefields of The Western Front. The Project proposes to do this through a series of memorials erected in locations where the 15th Battalion won a number of the 21 Battle Honours it was awarded for actions during the Great War. Although focused on one C.E.F Battalion, the work of the Memorial Project with the local governments, organizations and communities both in France and Belgium has contributed significantly to the awareness of the accomplishments and sacrifice of all Canadians during The Great War.  Although initially composed of members mainly from the Toronto area, by 1916 and through to the end of the war, the 15th Battalion was truly an ‘all-Canada’ unit with members from virtually every province and region of the country.

A standard bronze memorial plaque template has been designed which will be used at all memorial sites with only the narrative and map changing to reflect the historical particulars of each location. Following extensive historical research and thorough surveying of battlefield locations in Belgium and France, the first five memorial locations were identified. Raising funds; obtaining private and public authorization for land; acquiring the support and participation of local Municipal authorities and communities; and detailed review by historical authorities both in Canada and Europe necessitated the division of the first five memorial sites into two phases for execution over the period 2007-2011. Phase One was successfully completed on time and on budget in April 2010 with the unveiling and dedication of the first three memorials: two in Belgium at St Julian and Gravenstafel Ridge to commemorate the 1915 gas attack during the 24 April 1915 battle of Ypres; and, one in France at Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt to commemorate the 01 September 1918 capture of ‘The Crow’s Nest during the battle of The Drocourt-Queant Line. The lessons learned during Phase One facilitated the execution of Phase Two which will see the unveiling and dedication of two more memorials: one in Belgium on Observatory Ridge to commemorate the 03 June 1916 attack during the fighting for Mount Sorrel; and another in France to commemorate the 20 May 1915 battle at Festubert.

The Project Team, all volunteers, consists of retired Officers who at times during their careers in The Canadian Army were former serving members of the 48th Highlanders of Canada which was the Regiment that raised the 15th Battalion during The First World War. The project has been fortunate to receive significant support and assistance from individuals, organizations and local governments and communities in both Belgium and France. In particular, sites for the memorials have been graciously donated by individual landowners and municipal governments. All funds for the project have been raised in Canada from private donations.