The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada are Vancouver’s infantry regiment, based in Vancouver, British Columbia. As a reserve force in the Canadian Forces, The Seaforth Highlanders have served in times of war, humanitarian and disaster relief and in peacemaking efforts abroad, and during times of civil emergency at home.  The Regiment is comprised of volunteer soldiers who offer their time, their commitment to serve, their skills and their ever-lasting dedication to achieving the Canadian freedoms we enjoy today.

Vimy Ridge memorial cross restored to fine fettle for Seaforths

Kent Spencer | Published on: March 16, 2017 | Last Updated: March 21, 2017 3:54 PM PDT

As the 100th anniversary of Canada’s victory at Vimy Ridge approaches, the Seaforth Highlanders regiment is doing its bit to preserve a rare memorial cross that was first erected on the site of its bloody battle to take the high ground.

The wooden cross is three-metres high and was put up as a memorial on the Ersatz Crater where 206 Seaforths were killed, wounded or went missing on April 9, 1917.

For years the cross was little seen at Seaforth headquarters on Burrard Street in Vancouver, a forgotten relic from a forgotten time, worn out, rickety and tucked away in a closet.

But, in recent years, people like museum director Rod Hoffmeister — son of Second World War Major-Gen. Bert Hoffmeister — have realized the cross is one of the most valuable artifacts the regiment possesses.

“For years it was kind of ignored around the armoury. We never appreciated it for what it was — a significant artifact in our regimental history,” he said.

It has been restored to full fettle by a Surrey firm that specializes in art conservation, and was presented to the Seaforths in a ceremony at their parade ground Thursday.

“The cross is back in its real place. It’s where it should have been all along,” said Hoffmeister.

Vimy Ridge was the first time that a four-division body of Canadian troops fought together on the Western Front in the First World War; the action was part of a larger Allied offensive. It was a huge victory following a bloody stalemate.

“In those few minutes,” said Canadian Brigadier-Gen. A.E. Ross of Vimy, “I witnessed the birth of a nation.”

In the four-day struggle, 3,598 Canadians died and another 7,004 were wounded, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia.

Casualties were horrific among the 262 Seaforths who charged the hill. Afterwards, the survivors of several Canadian formations put together memorial crosses to mark the occasion and remember their comrades. Material was cobbled together from ammunition crates, bits of wood and even a French newspaper.

Names of the fallen were inscribed in black and for several years the cross served as a sentinel on the fields of northern France. The Seaforths’ is one of the few such Canadian crosses to have survived.

Surrey art conservator Sarah Spafford-Ricci, who spent five months making sure the paint and boards will last for a long time, said it was probably the most important artifact she’s ever worked on.

“We were overwhelmed by what it represents, and it’s 100 years later,” she said. “It’s so sad. A lot of these men were probably boys 19 years old — the same age as my son. It’s not just pieces of wood. Nothing has ever been so sentimental, historical and important.”

The aim was to preserve history, not add lustre.

“The Seaforths did not want the cross to look new,” she said.

The process involved consolidating the white paint so it won’t vanish, replacing busted nails and bolstering the structure internally.

“We made it stronger and straighter. It’s definitely more healthy because we removed some mould and dead insects,” she said.

Through a technique called raking — shining light from the side — she discovered that some of the names of the deceased were covered over when a coat of white paint was added over the original varnish in the 1920s.

One mystery presented itself when three bullet holes were discovered on the base and the shells found lodged in the wood. Inspection showed it to be .22-calibre ammunition, nothing like the type that was used in northern France. The experts’ best guess is that vandals took pot shots when the cross was on display for a time at the Mountain View cemetery.

The bullets were left inside, because she said, they too are part of the cross’s history.


Canada 150: Seaforths commander Bert Hoffmeister rode in tank named Vancouver


Maj-Gen. Bertram Meryl Hoffmeister

Maj-Gen. Bertram Meryl Hoffmeister

To mark Canada’s 150th birthday, we are counting down to Canada Day with profiles of 150 noteworthy British Columbians.

This former Seaforth Highlanders cadet was perhaps the best combat commander Canada ever produced. Bert Hoffmeister’s men told an apocryphal story that Hoffmeister’s batman was recommended for a Victoria Cross just for following him around the battlefield.

He commanded from the front in a Sherman tank named “Vancouver” and drove the elite Nazi paratroop regiments from the Italian city of Ortona. It was brutal show-no-quarter street fighting at close quarters. He broke the Adolf Hitler Line. Then broke the Gothic Line, forcing large-scale German retreats. Later, his 5th Canadian Armoured Division led a breakout from the besieged Arnhem bridgehead to cut off a whole German army. When his advance headquarters came under attack, his staff calmly killed 48 of the advancing enemy and took more than 100 prisoners despite heavy small arms and mortar fire.

Born in Vancouver on May 15, 1907, to Louis and Flora Hoffmeister, he joined the Seaforth Highlanders as a cadet at 12, later joined the militia, and worked at a forestry company between the wars. In 1939, he was assigned a company of the Seaforths with a reputation for sloppiness. He made it a crack unit.

Some analysts say he developed a new approach to battle — exploiting the fluidity of modern warfare by avoiding fixed positions. Former Vancouver city councillor Harry Rankin, who fought up the Italian peninsula, once told the CBC that when German tanks were deployed, Canadians rapidly retreated, then flooded back in to occupy territory when the tanks moved on.

“Hoffmeister had a real talent for war,” historian J.L. Granatstein wrote. “He would always make sure he knew thoroughly in what conditions his men were to live and fight. Intelligent and a good listener, a trusted leader, he was attuned to his officer’s ideas and led through consensus rather than sheer authority. His men were proud to be part of ‘Hoffy’s Mighty Maroon Machine,’ as his elite division was known on account of the colour of its arm patches.”

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, the Order of the British Empire and Order of Canada. On his return to civilian life, he became president of MacMillan-Bloedel. Later, he chaired the iconic forest company’s board. He was B.C.’s agent general in London, chaired the Council of Forest Industries, and late in life turned from cutting trees to saving them as founding chair of the Nature Trust of B.C.


100th Annual Vimy Memorial Service and Seaforth Reunion Dinner

Hello Fellow Seaforths,

This year marks a very special anniversary for the Seaforths and for Canada. One hundred years has passed since the Canadian Corps achieved what others had failed to do, defeating the Germans at the battle of Vimy Ridge.

After the battle members of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada built a memorial and held a service to remember the sacrifice of their comrades. Every year since Seaforths have gathered at the beginning of April to remember those who gave their lives in this and many other battles since.

The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada Regimental Association invites you to participate in an act of remembrance around that very monument made in France one hundred years ago. After months of restoration, the Vimy Cross will be returning to the Seaforth Armoury to mark the centenary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

The 100th Annual Vimy Memorial Service will take place at the Seaforth Armoury on April 1st, 2017 and will be followed by the Vimy Dinner. Please see the invitation below for more details.

We hope you will attend.

Cabar Feidh


Patrick Farrell


Seaforth Highlanders of Canada

Regimental Association

The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada