Plans underway for Vimy Ridge celebration
Cape Bretoner played key role in First World War battle
Plans are well underway for local commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
The 85th Battalion Nova Scotia Highlanders captured Hill 145 where the Canadian National Vimy Memorial now stands. Givenchy en Gohelle has also designated 2017 the Year of Canada and plans are underway for the twinning of the region with District 8 of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. The efforts of the Highlanders will be marked and tribute will be paid to Maj. Percival Anderson with the events that will take place in Cape Breton and France between the end of March and beginning of April. Anderson of Big Baddeck served as commanding officer of companies “C” and “D” of the 85th Battalion.
It has yet to be confirmed, but plans are being worked on to twin the French Municipality of Givenchy en Gohelle with the CBRM’s District 8, noted Antoine Hirsch, the representative of the French Municipality of Givenchy en Gohelle (Vimy Ridge) in Canada. Both regions share common history, coal-mining traditions and folklore and some school exchanges have already begun between the two regions.
“In Port Morien, you have got the first coal mine in North America, dating from 1720, Givenchy en Gohelle-Vimy Ridge is just in the middle of a coal mine region, which means that the two regions are sharing 300 years of coal-mining traditions, they are also sharing about 300 years of history with the Fortress of Louisbourg,” Hirsch said. “They are sharing folklore traditions.”
He noted he is working with CBRM Dist. 8 Coun. Amanda McDougall on that initiative.
A number of historians and some descendants of the veterans of the 85th Battalion from the Canadian association will be present at Vimy Ridge in April to tell the story of the battalion. During that conference, two copies of the map stained with Vimy Ridge mud used by Anderson during the attack of Hill 145, which is now the site of the Canadian national Vimy Memorial, will be presented to the new visitors centre in Givenchy en Gohelle and to the Municipality of Givenchy en Gohelle. A digitized copy of the map made by the Nova Scotia Community College will be available for download by all visitors to the Vimy Memorial.
“It will give an exposure to Cape Breton really on almost a worldwide basis,” Hirsch said.
He stressed that that the French group is completely independent from the Canadian efforts.
The French delegation is expected to be in Cape Breton, March 19-25.
“They will be walking from Cheticamp to District 8,”said Hirsch, who added that those plans will be dependent on weather conditions. “There are (plans for) symbolic walks and symbolic visits between Cheticamp, Baddeck, Sydney-Glace Bay, Glace Bay-Port Morien, Port Morien-Main-A-Dieu … then Louisbourg … I know they have organized visits to the different legions on the way.”
The companies led by Anderson were comprised mostly of men from Cape Breton and mainland Nova Scotia. Anderson became a major after Vimy, but he died in the battle of Passchendale in October 1917.
Antoine Hirsch, the representative of the French Municipality of Givenchy en Gohelle (Vimy Ridge) in Canada, speaks during a conference held at the Bell museum in Baddeck last year, recognizing Percival Anderson of Big Baddeck, who served as commanding officer of companies “C” and “D” of the 85th Battalion of “Overseas” Nova Scotia Highlanders who took Hill 145, where the Canadian Vimy memorial now stands.