More than a thousand Canadian students marched through the streets of London Friday to mark the upcoming 95th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge.

The 1,300 students — part of the largest Canadian student memorial parade to ever take place in Britain — followed the path of the 97,000 Canadian soldiers who fought at Vimy Ridge. 

With their red windbreakers, it was hard to miss the students as they walked by Buckingham Palace and through Canada Gate at Green Park. The gates there are opened only on rare occasions.

The First World War battle, which left 3,600 Canadian soldiers dead, has come to symbolize Canada's transformation from colony to independent nation. Four Canadian divisions fought as a single corps under a Canadian commander and they fought with a bravery and effectiveness that won them praise from Canada's allies.  

The students, who are from across Canada, are on a pilgrimage to honour Canada's war dead and to commemorate the formative battle. 

As many as 5,000 young Canadians are expected to be attend Vimy Ridge anniversary ceremonies on Monday.

Gov. Gen. David Johnston, who will also be in France for the ceremonies, said he looks forward to meeting the students.

Monday's ceremony will be the first major Vimy Ridge anniversary without a single living Canadian vet of the First World War. The last one died in 2010.

Johnston said that makes this commemoration even more poignant.

"It should be an even more vivid part of our history, because it is history if there's no witness standing," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC's Carolyn Dunn