Back row from left, Kellen Snelgrove, Robert Snelgrove, Her Honour, the Honourable Lois E. Mitchell,Melissa Guenthner, Barb Snelgrove, and Aaron Snelgrove.Front row, Luke Guenthner. Photo submitted
To celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 11 is hosting a ceremony at the Vermilion cenotaph at 3:45 p.m. on April 9.
Legion members will be marching from the Legion to the Cenotaph followed by a moment of silence and wreath laying. Robert Snelgrove has had two replica flags made for the 151st Battalion that will be presented to the Anglican Church on April 9 at 10: 30 a.m, and to the Legion during the afternoon ceremony. The Snelgroves are also eager to watch their upcoming documentary at 7 p.m.
“April 9, 1917, is the most important day in Canadian military history because it inspired the making of a nation. It was the first time Canadian forces had fought as Canadians with troops from coast to coast fighting in a cohesive formation. Both French and English attempts to take the ridge had failed, but the Canadians had devised a fantastic plan and took the hill opening up the western front. It turned things around during WWI, setting the allies on the course to victory. Though victory was achieved and international respect was earned, the battle suffered 10,602 Canadian causalities; with 3,598 killed and 7004 wounded,” said Poppy Chairman, Marcel Lefebvre.
Vermilion area WWI Veteran, Thomas Alban Snelgrove was one of the men listed as one of the 11,285 missing soldiers on the Vimy Ridge Memorial in France. Breakthrough Entertainment’s documentary, ‘Searching For Vimy’s Lost Soldiers’ will feature his story and local relatives airing on the History Channel Canada at 7 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on April 9.
“He whom this scroll commemorates was numbered among those who, at the call of King and Country, left all that was dear to them, endured hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty and self-sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in freedom. Let those who come after see to it that his name be not forgotten,” stated a scroll centered on the memorial display addressing Private Thomas Alban Snelgrove accompanied by a gold-leafed letter of condolence stamped from Buckingham Palace, along with his King George and Victory service medals, a memorial plaque, the silver cross, and his only known photograph.
Her Honour the Honourable Lois E.Mitchell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta invited Vermilion’s Robert Snelgrove and Melissa Guenthner as two of the 100 guests to attend the Spirit of Vimy Luncheon on March 25. Other members of the Snelgrove family also met with the Lieutenant Governor and toured the exhibit, ‘Alberta and the Great War,’ at the Federal Building in Edmonton.
The primary purpose of the luncheon was to honour young Albertans who had created videos promoting the spirit of Vimy. Contestants were challenged to incorporate personal or community connections to the battle while describing how sportsmanship, perseverance, integrity, resiliency, inspiration, and teamwork may have attributed to their success. Multi-medium submissions featured video essays, visual arts, creative writing, music composition, and choreography as a way to keep the Spirit of Vimy alive. Categories were divided between those aged 14 - 17 and 18 - 24, and winners were awarded trips to Vimy Ridge. To view the Spirit of Vimy contest videos, you can visit www.lieutenantgovernor.ab.ca/home/cfm/.
Robert described the luncheon as a poignant celebration with centerpieces featuring army boots full of flowers.
“For us watching the selection of submissions was unique because we had already seen the Vimy Memorial and fields still covered in shells first hand. It was special to see the carvings featured that we had previously experienced. One display had a replica of the Vimy Memorial built entirely out of Lego," said Snelgrove.
According to Snelgrove, fellow guest and Author of ‘Victory at Vimy,’ Ted Barris, had written a descriptive account of the battle, and mentioned not yet having been in the tunnels. He also referenced the night before the luncheon having met a lady in the hallway who’s great aunt had been the model for the Mother Canada Statue on the Vimy Memorial.
“The video nominees at the luncheon were young Albertans realizing not only that there was glory in the victory, but that the men serving at Vimy were near their age. The tribute they paid to those who died was very real, and I think they understood that the victory came at a tremendous cost,” said Snelgrove.
“I connected to their unrelenting spirit and to the core values they displayed that forged our country in the fire of war, and continue to persist in our nature of peace. These values are what make Canada the best country in the world, and the brave men that exemplified these values better than anyone (WWI soldiers) - they were true Canadians,” said Spirit of Vimy (14 - 17 category) Winner, Lloyd Templeton, in his video.
Templeton continued to share that the qualities they displayed through their valiant efforts were universal; that all Canadians can connect whether grandchildren of soldiers or newcomers to Canada, that they are universally Canadian.
“Vimy lives beyond the borders of France,” said (18 - 24 category) Runner Up, Valentina Fajardo, in her Spirit of Vimy video.
With local connections, it is not just pertinent to the community, but to all Canadians to gather together in keeping the Spirit of Vimy alive. If you are looking for opportunities to join the nation in celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, consider attending the Vermilion Legion Ceremony at 3:45 p.m. at the Vermilion Cenotaph on April 9, and then watching the ‘Searching For Vimy’s Lost Soldiers’ on the History Channel Canada at 7 p.m. You could also view the Spirit of Vimy submissions online.
“One of the ways Canadians can appreciate what happened in Vimy is simply by being thankful for what these soldiers did for us so that we can live the way we do today. It is impossible to say enough about the young men who fought and died for the freedom we have now,” said Sergeant At Arms, Jim Bristowe.