John Babcock, shown in a 1920 photo, was Canada's last known First World War veteran. ((Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press))

The federal government will hold a national commemorative ceremony in April to honour Canadians and Newfoundlanders who served during the First World War, Veteran Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn announced on Tuesday.

Newfoundland, then a separate dominion before it became a Canadian province, sent thousands of troops to fight in the war. More than 1,200 of them died.

The ceremony, to be held April 9 on Vimy Ridge Day at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, follows the death of Canada's last known First World War veteran.

John Babcock, who died last month at age 109, was the last link to the 650,000 Canadian men and women who served in the First World War, Prime Minister Stephen Harper remarked upon his death.

Babcock's death marked the end of an era, Blackburn told CBC-TV's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon.

"When Mr. Babcock died … we thought it was important to take the opportunity of this occasion to remind Canadians what those 650,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders have done for [us] in this great war," he said.

"And we should realize 68,000 of those Canadians have lost their lives. They have done the great sacrifice for us to have a better life. And also 170,000 Canadians in the first war came back with injuries."

Other ceremonies will take place across Canada, along with events at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France and the Canada Memorial at Green Park, in London, England.

The government is also providing "books of reflection" for the public to sign to pay their respects. An online version will also be available at the Veterans Affairs Canada website.