By Sonya Anderson
The June 29 grand opening of Memorial Square, at Barrie, was marked with the unveiling of a new monument to hold an urn with sacred soil from the Vimy Ridge battlefield that had been repatriated to Canada by a contingent of more than 75 military personnel and local residents, including Mayor Jeff Lehman, in June 2015.
At the time, two urns of the sacred soil were collected with the first instalment placed in the Borden Legacy Memorial by the Prime Minister in June 2016 to commemorate Canadian Forces Base Borden’s centennial year. The second urn was awaiting its final resting place in the new monument.
The ceremony began with a military parade that included fly-overs by Second World War vintage aircraft, perfectly timed to the moment the ark carrying the bronze ceremonial urn was placed in a 100-year-old gun carriage that transported the soil to its final resting place.
Honorary Colonel Jamie Massie, a leading member of the Borden Legacy Project, whose efforts over the past five years have culminated in the ceremony, shared a quote from General Arthur Currie to his troops during the Vimy campaign.
“To those who fall I say, ‘You will not die, but step into immortality. Your mothers will not lament your fate, but will have been proud to have borne such sons. Your names will be revered forever and ever by your grateful country, and God will take you unto Himself.’”
“Today marks the completion of the Soldier’s Journey which began in 1916,” added Massie. “We’ve now laid to rest in this beautiful park the second urn of soil patriated from the battlefields of Vimy Ridge and we have answered General Currie’s call that your grateful nation will remember you.”
Mayor Lehman recalled the strong relationship the City of Barrie has had with Base Borden over the past 102 years and continues to have going forward. He shared a quote from Pierre Burton about the importance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
“Through their victory a colony became a nation.”
Lehman emphasized the relationship the city has with la Ville d’Arras in northern France and the fact that no other place in Canada has repatriated sacred soil from Arras to be memorialized for future generations to honor through the legacy project. He also noted four trees have been planted in Memorial Square to represent the four Canadian military divisions that fought together for the first time at Vimy Ridge. Each is lit up at night with the colours of their respective division.
The inscription on the monument reads, “This urn holds sacred soil from the April 9th, 1917 battlefields of Vimy Ridge; soil that symbolically contains the DNA of Canadian soldiers that lived and fought in the fields and trenches of Vimy. Many were wounded, many died and many came home. All are remembered.”
Main photo: Second World War aircraft fly over as ark is loaded into a 100-year-old gun carriage.
Inset photo: Steckley-Gooderham’s Jeff Scott and Susanne Pretty oversee the urn at its final resting place in Barrie’s Memorial Square.