This year marks the 100th anniversary of three major battles of the First World War in which Canadians were prominent — Vimy Ridge, Hill 70 and Passchendaele.
The assault on Vimy Ridge lasted from April 9 to 12, 1917. All four divisions of the Canadian Corps were united as one unit for the first time. Using a mixture of technical and tactical innovation, coupled with meticulous planning and countless acts of sacrifice, the Canadians captured the high ground on Vimy Ridge. Four Victoria Crosses were awarded to Canadian soldiers. There was a sense of national pride and awareness in this great accomplishment. Subsequently Sir. Arthur Currie, with strong connections to Victoria’s militia, went on to command the Canadian Corps, for Hill 70 and to the end of the war, the first Canadian to do so.
Many of the troops went on to fight in the battle of Passchendaele, a large and complicated Allied campaign, that lasted from July to November. The battle ended in November when the Canadian Corps, relieving exhausted New Zealand and Australian troops, captured Passchendaele. The victory once again demonstrated the tenacity and skill of the Canadians who were by this point in the war considered to be elite fighters. But both battles touched the lives of families from Esquimalt.
Fireman Arthur Walton, son of Leonard and Sarah Walton, was born on December 4, 1894 in Esquimalt District. He enlisted in Victoria on December 6, 1915 and left for the Western Front with the 103rd Battalion — The Vancouver Island Timer wolves. By 1917, he was a member of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles (British Columbia Regiment). He was killed on the very first day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and is buried in Canadian Cemetery No.2 at Pas de Calais.
Douglas Neil McIntyre Sr. came to Esquimalt in the mid-1890s. In 1910, he and his wife Susan purchased 844 Dunsmuir Road and by 1912 he was deputy provincial commissioner of fisheries for the federal government. When the First World War broke out he joined the 88th Regiment Victoria Fusiliers and transferred in the field to the Canadian Infantry Manitoba Regiment. Sadly he was killed on his first day in action at Passchendaele.
On Sunday, April 9th, the Battle of Vimy Ridge will be commemorated at a special event to be held at the Bay Street Armoury.