They say in order to be a true Canadian you have to visit Vimy Ridge and the most spectacular WW1 Memorial there is in France. I and former Horse Guards Officer Mr. Robert McTaggert took the opportunity to visit after 2 days of watching the re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo. Waterloo and the 200th Anniversary activities were nothing short of amazing. Over 6000 re-enactors taking part from all over the world, which included a fife and drum band from Toronto. During the short time spent in Belgium we met fellow Canadians, all taking their part in their own way, and their pilgrimages to Vimy.
On a glorious sunny day we arrived at the little town of Vimy, eventually finding the small military cemetery of Le Chaudière. We split up with Mr. McTaggert taking the right and I the left, it did not take me long to find the grave of Pte Frederick McTaggert, 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles, who died on the 9th April 1917 whilst his unit attempted to take the ridge with the 3rd Division . This cemetery has thirteen members of 4CMR resting within. I left Bob to reflect and moved slowly within the ranks, finding quite a few 116th Battalion men and two from Toronto`s 3rd. (My Great Grandfathers unit, he fought at Vimy Ridge with the 1st Division and survived). While walking around we laid poppies on many of the Graves, eventually finishing at the main gate. We were then approached by an elderly French gentleman, who in his best English attempted to talk to us. He gave us a British WW1 fuse and some small shot (balls of lead) and a couple of German bullets. I in return gave him a hand full of Canadian pins from Canada, Ontario and Clarington. I now find myself involved in a project involving 4CMR, something I am looking forward to doing. Thank you Bob for the opportunity.
Prior to our visit to Vimy we called into the small French village of Baralle where the 3rd Battalion’s Head Quarters was bombed on the 15th September 1918. Sergeant A4147 Pakenham was killed and 5 men wounded, which included Pte 171637 William Lees Johnson, my Great Grandfather. I laid a wreath on behalf of Canada his family and his Regiment at the Church`s War memorial to their war dead. It was only meters away from the bombing site on a dusty crossroads.
The Baralle Site
We did visit various cemeteries in and around Arras and took many, many pictures of the head stones of the fallen. Bob and I intend on visiting the Menin Gate, at Ypres next year. I cannot wait.
“Lest We Forget”
Johnny Johnson in Old Colwyn, N. Wales