Events in Williams Lake commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Army taking Vimy Ridge in France during the First World War will include both solemn ceremonies and opportunities for camaraderie at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139.
The original Canadian Red Ensign flag will fly over Williams Lake for six days to commemorate the anniversary.
Flags will be lowered to half mast and the Red Ensign will replace the City of Williams Lake flag during a sunset ceremony set for 6 p.m. Friday, April 7 at the Cenotaph next to city hall, says Captain William Sheridan, Commanding Officer of the 3064 Rocky Mountain Ranger Army Cadets.
The original Red Ensign flew over Canada from 1868 to 1921 and was in place during the Battle of Vimy Ridge on the Douai Plain in the French countryside from April 9 to April 12, 1917, Sheridan says.
“It was here that 170,000 Canadian soldiers from all four Canadian Army divisions fought together for the first time,” Sheridan says.
Following the sunset ceremony the public is invited to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139 for fellowship and refreshments.
The fellowship surrounding the formal ceremonies will continue with a roast beef and yorkshire pudding dinner at the legion on Saturday, April 8.
The dinner starts at 5 p.m. and will be followed by dancing to the music of the Cariboo Gold Dance Band, says event organizer retired Sgt. James Way CD, veterans liaison officer with the legion in Williams Lake.
The Cariboo Men’s Choir will also be performing that evening.
Dinner tickets are free for all veterans and $15 for guests and civilians.
Friday and Saturday the legion members are also holding a silent auction to raise money for a new roof on the legion hall, Way says.
The silent auction will be held on Friday, April 7 from 6 p.m. until closing and on Saturday, April 8, from 2 p.m. until 10 p.m.
Among the items on the auction block is a beautiful watch valued at $500 donated by Woodland Jewellers.
The Red Ensign flag, which Way says he had to order from Germany, along with a letter from the Governor General will also be among the auction items.
On Sunday, April 9, the same day in 1917 that Canadian troops began the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France, at 5:30 a.m. under skies of sleet and snow, Sheridan says Williams Lake will mark the anniversary with a parade and wreath laying ceremony at the Cenotaph next to city hall.
The colour party, Williams Lake Pipe Band, veterans, legionnaires, and 3064 Rocky Mountain Ranger Army Cadets and others will gather in the parking lot behind the Cariboo Memorial Complex at 1 p.m. then march down Borland Street to the Cenotaph for the ceremonies.
The commemoration will include Angela Sommer’s Just for Fun Choir singing O’Canada and God Save the Queen, reveille, two minutes of silence, and the Lament by piper Doug White.
After the ceremony at the Cenotaph, the parade will proceed to the legion for camaraderie and refreshments.
The Williams Lake Community Band will give a performance during the afternoon.
The Red Ensign will remain flying over Williams Lake until 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 12, the day in 1917 when the Battle for Vimy Ridge ended leaving 3,598 Canadians dead and another 7,000 wounded, Sheridan says.
A ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. on April 12 at the Cenotaph to lower the Red Ensign and once again raise the City of Williams Lake and Canadian Maple Leaf flags.