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Vimy Ridge Centennial

Calgary Military Museums to commemorate WWI battles

SAIT legal assistant student, Jenn Hall, in front of the Mural of Honour at the Military Museum. Hall has visited Vimy Ridge in France and had grandparents who fought in the battle. Photo by Chelsea Kemp

SAIT legal assistant student, Jenn Hall, in front of the Mural of Honour at the Military Museum. Hall has visited Vimy Ridge in France and had grandparents who fought in the battle. Photo by Chelsea Kemp

The Calgary Military Museums will be commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the historic First World War Battle of Vimy Ridge on Sunday, April 9.

“[Vimy Ridge] was a major achievement for us as Canadians,” said Rory Cory, senior curator at the Military Museums.

The anniversary of Vimy Ridge will mark the launch of the exhibit War Stories: 1917.

The event will commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the First World War battles including Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele and Hill 70.

The museums will have special events running on April 9 including two-for-one admission, lectures, musical performances, re-enactors in First World War uniforms and more.

“It’s going to be a personality focused exhibit,” said Cory.

“We’re going to talk about the people that were part of the battles and tell the stories of battles through their eyes.”

The Military Museum has a bottle of champagne that was gifted to the 50th Battalion of Canada from liberated French peasants, with the intent of popping the cork on the 100-year anniversary.

“I don’t know if they are actually going to drink it. It may be vinegar,” said Cory.

After the champagne is popped, the bottle will join other pieces of personal memorabilia in the 4000 square foot War Stories: 1917 exhibit.

The artifacts included in the exhibition have been provided by The Military Museums, the Glenbow Museum, the Canada Science and Technology Museum, private collections, the Canadian War Museum and the Imperial War Museum in England.

Vimy Ridge, located in Northern France, marks an important part of Canadian history. The Canadian Corps were able to capture a strategic area of the front line in the First World War from the Germans when other allied forces had failed.

The attack took place over two days and resulted in the Canadian Corps and allies achieving victory at the cost of over 10,600 casualties.

France gifted the land where the Battle of Vimy took place to Canada after the First World War. The Canadian National Vimy Memorial was constructed on this area in July 1936.

“It’s a stunning piece of architecture. It really speaks to the sacrifice that Canada made during the First World War,” said Cory.

The memorial was able to survive the Second World War even though battles were fought in Northern France. Vimy Ridge is the only place where Canadian land was occupied during the world wars.

“[The Germans] left the Vimy memorial alone because it was a memorial to peace,” said Cory, explaining why the monument was left undamaged in the Second World War.

Cory said that he wants people to honour Vimy Ridge, while also acknowledging that a number of battles took place during the First World War. The Military Museums still has upcoming commemorations planned for 2017.

“I think it’s important to remember because [Vimy] was a battle where all Canadian divisions came together and fought as one,” said Jennifer Hall, a SAIT Continuing Education student.

Hall, who visited Vimy Ridge in 2009, said that Vimy is an important part of Canadian History because it helped Canada gain international respect. The SAIT student also had grandparents who fought in Vimy.

“It’s symbolic that we all kind of came together and it’s where we got our identity as Canadians not just being a part of the British Army,” said Hall, who plans to attend the Vimy memorial.

The War Stories: 1917 exhibit, located in the Founder’s Gallery of the Military Museums, will run from April 9 to August 25 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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