The Kanata Legion will host a gala fundraiser to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge on April 8.
Retired commodore Robert Hamilton will speak on how Vimy Ridge became an iconic symbol for many Canadians.
“It’s easy to stand up and speak about the battle itself and where it’s situated in the larger picture of conflict,” said Hamilton, vice-president of the Friends of the Canadian War Museum. “My interest is in how did this take root as a meaningful event.”
Hamilton was a naval officer who later became the vice-president of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre and then a federal government auditor. Specializing in logistics, finance and accounting, he’s always had an interest in history.
While serving in Belgium in the late seventies and early eighties, Hamilton was a frequent visitor to the Vimy Ridge memorial in France.
“It’s an awesome thing to see,” said the Kingston resident who has a second residence in Ottawa. “It’s monumental in the fact that it’s enormous. It’s situated in the midst of really large parkland that pretty much covers the whole area of the Vimy battle.”
The monument is one of the reasons why the battle has become so iconic, he said.
“I think the reason it’s become as meaningful as it has is largely attributable to two things. First, it was the first particular success of the Canadian Corps in the First World War. It was a tactical success,” he said.
“I also think the building of the memorial in Vimy, which took place between 1922 and 1936, the memorial itself contributed a great deal to our making this a focus for memory.”
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was the first major victory for Canada in the First World War, but it came at an enormous cost. Almost 10,600 Canadians were killed or wounded in the battle that took place from April 9 to 12, 1917, he said.
In 1922, the government of France ceded the land surrounding Vimy Ridge to Canada. Despite the challenges and pressures of the time — including the Depression years and an artist who was a perfectionist, said Hamilton — a monument was finally unveiled in 1936.
“Canada needed some kind of a symbol. The monument offered that opportunity,” he said. “We need to move beyond the sacrifice and ask ourselves, ‘Did it serve a greater purpose?’ For me, the answer is yes.”
That greater purpose includes the ability for people to think about the future, their hopes and aspirations thanks to the sacrifice of others, he said, adding the monument builds on that capacity.
“It doesn’t really celebrate battles; it’s bigger than that,” he said. “The main statue, called Canada Bereaved, really does talk to us about sacrifice and memory and so on. The two tall structures that stand behind it, it elevates our thinking to greater purpose.
“The monument lifts our thinking to perhaps inspire us with hope for the future.”
Hamilton’s talk is only one part of the gala dinner being held April 8 at the Kanata Legion to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Vimy.
Proceeds from the evening will go to the Legion’s poppy trust fund, which supports a number of veterans programs, youth education and bursaries, and organizations serving the local community.
The evening will feature a reception at 5:30 p.m. followed by a dinner of beef or salmon Wellington at 6:15 p.m.
The Governor General’s Foot Guards Jazz Combo will provide live entertainment. Attire is black tie or business suit and registration is a minimum donation of $50 per person.
Reservations must be made on or before April 1. For tickets or more details, call 613-591-5570, email email@example.com or visit kanatabr638.ca.