The City of Peterborough Cenotaph will soon be adorned with 600 ceramic trilliums, created by volunteers at the Kawartha Potters Guild, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
The trilliums, part of a city initiative to honour area citizens who sacrificed their lives during the First World War, will be placed at the mound of the cenotaph in Confederation Square for a ceremonial service on Sunday, April 9th at 1:30 p.m.
“I am thrilled with the community’s support of this important commemoration,” says Deputy Mayor Henry Clarke, who is a Lieutenant Colonel with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment and Chairman of the Vimy 100 Committee. “We want to provide a visual vestige for people to be able to see at the cenotaph and remind them of what Canadians did 100 years ago.”
The Battle of Vimy Ridge is considered a defining moment for Canada as a nation, as it was the first time the four divisions of The Canadian Corps fought together as a unified fighting force.
The German army held the seven-kilometre ridge, located in northern France, which was heavily fortified with tunnels, artillery, machine-gun nests, barbed wire, and three rows of trenches. Previous attempts by British and French forces to seize the ridge had failed, resulting in more than 100,000 casualties.
Beginning on Easter Monday on April 9th, 1917, more than 15,000 Canadian infantry soldiers attacked the ridge. While the assault was meticulously planned, soldiers displayed incredible bravery and discipline as they moved forward 4,500 yards (4,115 metres) under heavy fire, even when their officers were killed. Canadian soldiers single-handedly charged machine-gun nests or forced the surrender of Germans in protective dugouts. By April 12th, 1917, stunned by the Canadians’ success, the Germans retreated and the Canadians held the ridge.
However, the victory came at a great cost, with 3,589 Canadian soldiers killed and another 7,104 wounded during the battle. During the entirety of the First World War, more than 60,000 Canadian soldiers were killed, including 11,285 in France who have no known graves.
Of the 600 ceramic trilliums to be placed at the Peterborough Cenotaph, 16 will be painted red to symbolize local lives lost at Vimy Ridge. The remaining 584 trilliums will be painted white to represent the number of people from the city and county of Peterborough and local First Nations who were killed during World War I.
The trilliums are available for purchase, or may be sponsored for $30 each. Those who sponsor trilliums will get a tax receipt, and the flower will remain available for others to purchase.
While many of the trilliums are already purchased, you can still sponsor one by calling City Hall at 705-742-7777 extension 1860 or emailing Bernadette Lawler at email@example.com.
Proceeds from ceramic trilliums will benefit two causes: half of the proceeds will be used to repair the masonry base at the war memorial, and the remainder will be used to enhance government treatment resources for veterans and their families.
The ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge will take place at the War Memorial in Confederation Square at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 9th.
Confirmed participants in the service include MC Graham Hart, representatives of local cadet and reserve units, representatives from First Nations, and local dignitaries including Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef, Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal, City Mayor Daryl Bennett and County Warden Joe Taylor.
VIDEO: volunteers with the Kawartha Potters Guild working on ceramic trilliums
Citizens will also read from letters and diaries of the Great War during the ceremony, and Deputy Mayor Clarke encourages people to email personal stories for the service to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We want to tell the story through living history of people who were there,” Clarke says. “Please look through your belongings for letters, diaries, scrapbooks or photos of the First World War.”
As well as the Peterborough ceremony, events will be held in France and in Ottawa to mark the 100th anniversary. A delegation of government officials will travel to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, located in northern France, to participate in the commemorative events there.
Prince Charles and his sons Prince William and Prince Harry will attend a ceremony for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France on April 9th.