Rev. Andrea Harrison of St. Andrew’s United Church and Reserve Force Chaplain of the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders Regiment. (Alycia Douglass/TC Media)
WILLIAMSTOWN, Ontario - Regiment and church gathered at St. Andrew’s United Church in honour of the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge.
The first instance all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought together, the battle came to represent national success and sacrifice. Falling on Palm Sunday, the service focused heavily on the theme of sacrifice in the Bible, as well as in battle.
“This is a sacred space that has that military connection – it was built by loyalists, as well as a number of the Nor ’Westers,” said Rev. Andrea Harrison. “On this Sunday, we remember that 100 years ago, at 5:30 in the morning, our soldiers went knowingly into an arena of death,”
Before kids went off to Sunday School, Rev. Harrison turned their attention to he Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders, who were seated behind them asking those who had been deployed in war or peace keeping missions to stand.
‘Why is mom standing?’ asked one child. The congregation laughed, and Rev. Harrison explained that ‘mom went to Afghanistan before you were born.’
Curator of the SD&G Highlanders Museum, Leon Chamois was also in attendance, presenting several garments which would have been worn at Vimy Ridge, including a woolen service dress tunic, cotton webbing, as well as a great deal of knowledge.
Also present was Master Warrant Officer Richard Corneau from Kingston, who spoke of the vast amount of young men who fought in the battle.
To put it into perspective, Canada’s four divisions were made up of nearly 100,000 soldiers, while the current Canadian Army has one division with roughly 15,000 soldiers.
“It’s almost unfathomable how many people were there, and how they could have organized this,” said MWO Corneau.
Discussing the mentality of a soldier, he emphasized the tremendous amount of bravery the young men demonstrated at Vimy Ridge.
“What makes them get out of that trench? What makes them walk forward? Once you get to the field, any ideology you had is gone,” said MWO Corneau. “You’re not fighting anymore for King and Country, you’re fighting for the man beside you.”