Story and photos by Bradley McIlwain
You could hear the trill of the drumbeat reverberating on Centre Street as members of Oshawa’s 1913 Ontario Regiment Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps rallied to the Cenotaph at Memorial Park in unison on the morning of April 8, venerating First World War Veterans who perished in the attack on Vimy Ridge that began on April 9, 1917, marking the 95th anniversary of this significant event in Canadian history.
“It has often been said that Canada’s sons left their homes as young colonials, but returned home as Canadians,” said the regiment’s Commanding Officer, Major D. Haylock in his address to his cadets and onlookers at the growing public assembly. “Vimy is the birthplace of Canadian Nationhood – and the price was heavy – 10,500 causalities, including 3,598 dead.”
It was the first time that all four divisions of the Canadian Corps were joined in a collective front to capture the German occupied ground, which was located to the North of Arras in Northern France. “The French and the British couldn’t do it, and now it was up to the Canadians to go in, and secure grounds,” commented 26-year old Whitby resident and national history enthusiast David Tabuas, who was born the day of the famous battle. “A lot of young men died trying to take a small piece of land, and it was a turning point for the world a lot of people forget about.”
The battle for Vimy Ridge commenced in the early hours on Easter Monday, sending the first wave of 20,000 Canadian men into the line of fire that would rage for four weary driven days until they broke down German defenses, dramatically capturing the ridge on April 12, proving to be a decisive allied victory.
Billy Bishop, the infamous fighter pilot from Owen Sound won a Military Cross for his effort of shooting down an observation balloon prior to the attack on April 7.
Nearly 150,000 French and British soldiers were sacrificed in effort to secure the ridge from German opposing forces. “Our cadets came out to commemorate those veterans that lost their lives, and uphold the freedom and the peace,” said RSM Larkin of the 1913 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps.
“Its nice that we are able to do this,” added Master Corporal Crawford about the parade, “we don’t do it every year, and its good to be invited to take part in the anniversary.”
Secretary of the Ontario Regiment Association Captain D. Stam said, “it’s good to raise awareness and honour our veterans who fought in the First World War. It brings a connection to our cadets and a commitment to our veterans so we can acknowledge their sacrifice they made for this country.”
Each year on the eve of Remembrance Day, the cadets have held an overnight vigil for the past four years in the memory of veterans from all wars. There are 130 members within the Corps from across Oshawa and Durham Region between the ages of 12-18.