Dragoons to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge

Prime Minster Justin Trudeau was among the dignitaries to speak at the ceremony at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in northern France.

To protect soldiers from shelling, they built miles of tunnels one of the war's great engineering feats allowing troops to pop up quickly into their positions.

"It was important just as a symbol of bringing everyone together", said Jeremy Diamond, president of the Vimy Foundation, the mission of which is to promote and preserve Canada's First World War legacy.

On April 9, 1917, the four Canadian army divisions fought as a unified force for the first time, accomplishing what was thought impossible by the British and French forces - they captured the heavily fortified Vimy Ridge, 175 km north of Paris, France.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of citizens from the French city of Arras turned out in a heartfelt display of thanks to Canada and the thousands of Canadian soldiers who fought and died at nearby Vimy Ridge. Canada's military achievements during the war raised our country's worldwide stature and helped earn Canada a signature of its own, separate from England, on the Treaty of Versailles that formally ended the war.

The ceremony was held at the grand war memorial that marks the site of the battle and is a revered national symbol, is on the back of Canada's $20 bill to this day.

Vimy Ridge was an engagement during the Battle Of Arras itself, which lasted from 9 April to 16 May 1917 and claimed 18,000 Scottish lives - the highest concentration of Scots involved in any WW1 campaign.

"As we honour such great bravery and sacrifice, we should honour the fearless men and women of the Canadian Forces, who risk their lives to carry on this proud tradition of service - and keep us all safe".

The Canadian National Vimy Memorial serves as a lasting tribute to the memory and sacrifice of our service members who died in the war, including the 11,285 Canadians who lost their lives in France and have no known graves. "Let's renew our commitment to remember their heroism in the face of suffering and fear". The illumination was projected on the National War Memorial and adjacent screens.

The ceremony, hosted by the Canadian government, included recitations of stories from soldiers and eyewitnesses to the battle, and performances by Canadian singers such as Johnny Reid and Loreena McKennitt.

The centre of the poppy is formed by a newly-unveiled sculpture of pairs of soldiers' feet by New Zealand artist Helen Pollock.

Instead, rain and sleet and artillery shells had lashed what then was a muddy, bloody battlefield as 30,000 Canadian soldiers huddled in trenches and waited for the assault to kick off.

Vimy, however, was seen - or at least came to be seen over the passing decades - as the moment in time when Canada emerged from the shadow of its British colony status to earn its place on the world stage as a strong, independent nation.

Trudeau is scheduled to visit Juno Beach on Monday, where he will mark Canada's contributions during the Second World War.

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