'Glad it's remembered': Winnipeg veterans pay tribute to Canadians killed at Vimy Ridge
Cadets march from park to cenotaph in honour of 100th anniversary
Growing up, it was rare for Joseph Keeper to hear his father talk about the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
But that battle in France, which happened 100 years ago Sunday was in the spotlight as Canadians around the world remembered its anniversary and honoured it — something Keeper said he was very grateful for.
- Trudeau faces history and political legacy of Vimy
- 100 years later: Leaders pay homage to fallen soldiers at Vimy Ridge
"It's something that I hope never happens again. This was a terrible war," Keeper, 88, said after a ceremony at the Manitoba Legislature.
Keeper said his dad, who shares the first name as him, fought at Vimy Ridge in 1917. He was one of the lucky ones who returned home. Canada lost 3,600 soldiers and more than 7,000 were injured during the three-day battle.
The fight marked the first time all four Canadian divisions fought together side-by-side during the First World War, advancing together on the heavily fortified ridge.
- Manitobans honour family who fought in battle 100 years ago
- Commander's journals capture 'momentous' day for Canadians on Vimy Ridge
Earlier British and French attacks on the stronghold had failed to budge the defenders.
Keeper, who is from Norway House, Man., said his father was a decorated Indigenous veteran who won the Medal of Bravery.
He said about 40 men went to fight from Norway House and while his father's service to Canada was honoured, other Indigenous soldiers' time overseas weren't.
"They were never really given the type of recognition that I believe they should be."
'A contribution we can never repay'
Keeper said while his dad liked to keep to himself about Vimy he did share one story about a time when he crossed over a German line at night by mistake while carrying a message.
"He said he could hear someone say 'halt! halt!' so he took off pretty fast out of there."
Hundreds of cadets, several war veterans and at least a couple hundred other observers in Winnipeg braved the chilly afternoon Sunday to honour those who fought and served in the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Cadets lined up at noon and did drills in Vimy Ridge Park before marching down Portage Avenue toward a ceremony at the cenotaph on Memorial Boulevard. An RCAF plane, the CT-142 Dash-8, flew overhead as part of the ceremony.
Mayor Brian Bowman thanked the soldiers for their sacrifice and laid a wreath.
- 360 VIDEO | Explore the tunnels and trenches of Vimy Ridge
- Winnipeg students prepare for centennial Vimy Ridge trip
A trumpeter played Reveille and Last Post while a few veterans stood with flags with tears in their eyes.
Fred Coad is an air maintenance superintendent with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He got emotional talking about what Vimy means to him.
"It's a contribution that we can never repay," he said.
with files by Erin Brohman and The Canadian Press