On Tuesday April 18th, the command team of the Seaforths traveled to Windsor Castle to meet Prince Philip, the regiments Commander in Chief.
After a private tour of the castle the Seaforths were given a 25 minute private audience with the Prince.
On Tuesday April 18th, the command team of the Seaforths traveled to Windsor Castle to meet Prince Philip, the regiments Commander in Chief.
RICHARD WATTS / TIMES COLONIST | APRIL 8, 2017
Of all the items at the Bay Street Armoury, soldiers of the Canadian Scottish Regiment salute only two: The Canadian flag and the original wooden Vimy Cross.
“We always tell our soldiers: ‘You are standing on the shoulders of the men who created history,’ ” said Lt. Col. Stephen Sawyer, commander of the Canadian Scottish. “This relic, this cross, is a reminder of that history.”
Members of the 16th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces erected the wooden cross in France during the days following April 12, 1917, regarded now as the conclusion of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
In 1938 the cross was brought to Victoria and erected in Pioneer Square. In 1951, after a stone cross was put in its place, the wooden Vimy Cross was brought inside the armoury and preserved behind glass in a prominent place of honour.
According to Sawyer and other regimental history buffs, the wooden cross was actually unofficial. During the First World War, it was typical for soldiers to erect monuments at the site of combat actions on their own initiative.
Also unofficial was the name “Canadian Scottish,” which was not inscribed on any uniform shoulder flashes, badges or buttons. Officially, the unit was called the 16th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
And on the April 9, 1917, the start of the battle, the 16th Battalion was just one part of the 1st Canadian Division, one of five divisions — four Canadian and one British — going into action.
But the name “Canadian Scottish” had sprung up and grown almost by itself. People referred to men of the unit as “The Canadian Scottish.” And by the start of the Vimy Ridge battle, the men of the unit were calling themselves “The Canadian Scottish.”
Michael Heppell, former regimental commander and one-time Victoria fire chief, said the name likely arose because the 16th Division was formed by the amalgamation of four Scottish regiments, all raised in Canada.
The Gordon Highlanders, raised in Victoria, joined the Seaforth Highlanders from Vancouver, the Cameron Highlanders from Winnipeg, and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders from Hamilton, Ont.
Army officialdom, lacking human flair, or perhaps not wanting to be seen favouring any one of the regiments, decided the new unit would be the 16th Battalion.
But Heppell thinks soldiers, being human, preferred names over numbers, so those four Scottish regiments raised in Canada were happy being “The Canadian Scottish.”
“Numbers are just not very inspiring, so guys would give themselves their own names,” said Heppell.
And when it came time to inscribe the wooden cross at the conclusion of the battle, the men simply painted the words “In Memory of officers, NCOs & Men Canadian Scottish who fell in action Vimy Ridge 9. 4. 17.”
Nevertheless, it took army officialdom until 1920, two years after the end of hostilities, to formally decree the reserve regiment raised in Victoria would be called “The Canadian Scottish.”
Now, if they happen to be in uniform and walk past the Vimy Cross, members of the Canadian Scottish will give the relic a salute.
And every Remembrance Day, following any parades or ceremonies, members of the Canadian Scottish will gather inside the Bay Street Armoury, facing the same wooden Vimy Cross.
Afterwards, they remove the poppies from their uniforms and affix them to a cushion, leaving them at the base of the Vimy Cross until the following year.
Lyall Knott | Vancouver Sun | Published on: April 10, 2017 | Last Updated: April 10, 2017 1:00 AM PDT
This month marks 100 years since Canadian troops climbed out of their muddy Great War trenches to take Vimy Ridge, a major turning point in the First World War, and a milestone for Canada as a country.
While every Canadian can celebrate the heroism and determination of those young Canadian troops, the legacy of Vimy Ridge is particularly poignant for local firms like ours whose founders fought there and survived to come home to help build a growing B.C.
Today, as a newly minted roster of law-school graduates begin their careers at Clark Wilson, we’ll be sure to tell them about two other young lawyers who did their duty on a foreign battlefield, and returned to build and brand the firm they’re joining.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge marked the first time that all four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together as one formation, with soldiers from every part of Canada fighting side-by-side. The Canadian victory, achieved at a high human cost and after years of failure by other forces, has come to mark Canada’s arrival on the international stage with its own independent identity.
When the Canadian Expeditionary Force was mobilized in 1915 as part of British efforts to replace mounting casualties and strengthen British-led forces in Europe, British Columbians were quick to volunteer. To prepare for combat in Europe, the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada underwent basic training at Hastings Park.
Marching from their training camp in April 1915, they were cheered on by more than 30,000 people, at a time when Vancouver’s population was just over 100,000. Led by then-Lt.-Col. Arthur Clark, a young 29-year-old Vancouver lawyer who had joined the Highlanders in 1910, the troops boarded trains for Halifax, before sailing to Liverpool, where they joined the 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade, of the 4th Canadian Division.
Within days of their arrival in Belgium, they were sent into action against enemy positions along the Western Front. By the time they were preparing for Vimy Ridge in early April 1917, they had already endured seven months of casualties, death, shelling, miserable weather, mud and disease.
When the attack on Vimy Ridge began, the Canadians advanced quickly, but the fighting lasted four days. When it was over, the Battle of Vimy Ridge had resulted in more than 10,000 casualties, with some 3,500 killed and more than 7,000 wounded.
The Highlanders and Canadian forces would continue to see action until the end of the war in November 1918. Clark would return to Vancouver as a general, and together with his good friend and second-in-command, Brig.-Gen. Alexander Wilson, they would embark on successful law careers, creating the firm of Clark Wilson, now one of B.C.’s oldest law firms with some 80 business and commercial lawyers among its ranks.
Since The War to End All Wars ended in 1918, thousands more Canadian troops have served our nation in conflicts and peacekeeping missions, with many of them making the ultimate sacrifice. Today, no veterans of the Great War remain to remind us of the valour our troops demonstrated at Vimy Ridge. But this year’s anniversary of that victory is also a fitting chance to honour the contributions of all the veterans who are no longer with us by thanking today’s vets and active service members.
Additionally, at firms like ours, and many others here in Vancouver and across B.C. that carry the names of some of those brave men who fought for King and country 100 years ago, remembering Vimy Ridge isn’t just about the past. It’s also about the incredible future they endowed to the generations who have passed through the firms they created on their return from France all those years ago.
Lyall Knott is a partner at Clark Wilson, the Vancouver law firm founded by generals and lifelong friends Arthur Clark and Alexander Wilson. He is also a former honorary captain of the Canadian Fleet Pacific, Royal Canadian Navy.
By Jessica Wallace - April 7, 2017 | Kamloops This week (KTW)
The ground to be covered was pockmarked by shell holes from three months of systematic artillery fire. The result was a vast expanse of small lakes linked up by the rims of shell craters. The 72nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders of Canada were given the left flank of the attack, a most dangerous position where they would be exposed to enfilade fire. Easter Monday, April 9, 1917, found the 72nd settled down in Gobron Tunnell near the front where they were supplied with hot soup and sandwiches just prior to the attack.
At 5:00 a.m., they filed from the tunnel and into the waiting trenches. The weather was bad, a combination of sleet and snow which fortunately blew toward the enemy lines. At 5:30 a.m., protected by a tremendous artillery barrage, the Canadians, with the 72nd on the left, moved out, weaving their way through a maze of shell holes, some 20 to 30 feet across and six to seven feet deep. On the 72nd Battalion front, two heavy mines were blown under the first German line and this was taken before the enemy could recover.
Meanwhile, Lt. Desmond Vicars left with a small hand of men on special mission to outflank the German’s’ second line. Even though most of his men had become casualties, Lt. Vicars, Sgt. J. McWhinney and Cpl. H. Matthews proceeded to attack the 400-yard length of German trench.
— Vicars’ family records
* * * * *
Desmond Vicars didn’t talk much about the war. His boys knew he was a good shot from their hunting excursions together and they knew his caved-in chest was the result of a battle wound that nearly killed him — but otherwise, it was largely a “no-go subject.”
“On the other hand, us kids didn’t ask,” said Tom Vicars, the 67-year-old son of the First World War hero. “We just didn’t pay attention. Simple and easy. Now, at this point in life, I’d like to pepper him with all sorts of stuff. It doesn’t mean he would say a lot. Think of it. At 19, you go through those things, you see all that, I’m sure you’re somewhat scarred. He didn’t show it. But I’m sure there’s times where you’d wake up in the middle of the night and think, you know, how lucky I am to even be alive. Let alone everything else that came with it.”
About 3,600 Canadians died a century ago during the battle of Vimy Ridge, including 12 men from Kamloops. The iconic battle during the First World War is a point of national pride, marking the first time all four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought as one formation.
Then-19-year-old Desmond was among the lucky to return home to Kamloops. On Nov. 17, 1917, he became the youngest officer to receive the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.), an honour rarely seen among his rank and second only to the Victoria Cross.
“He would have had to do something very, very special,” local war historian Jeff Lodge told KTW.
The D.S.O. medal is behind glass in Desmond’s former house, which is on a street bearing his family’s name in Valleyview. The home at 167 Vicars Rd. now belongs to Tom and his wife Val, who moved in after Tom’s parents died.
While Desmond may not have revealed many details about Vimy Ridge and what led to him being presented a medal by King George V, his boys — son Patrick, 64, also lives in the city — have compiled numerous records over the years and KTW dug into newspaper articles at the Kamloops Museum and Archives, with help from archivist Scott Owens and Lodge, to help tell the story.
The news arrived in Kamloops on June 15, 1917, buried on page eight of the Kamloops Daily Standard-Sentinel:
A cable from Col. Vicars received this week by Mrs. Vicars, conveys the gratifying news that her son, Lieut. Desmond Vicars, has been awarded the D.S.O. by King George. Lieut. Vicars is at present in hospital at Calais, but his many friends and admirers are pleased to know that he is on the road to recovery.
Having grown up in a military family — the Rocky Mountain Rangers eventually named their armoury on McGill Road in honour of Desmond’s father, John — Desmond was active and keen for experience at a young age. He enlisted at 17, joined the 172nd battalion of which his father was commander and was eventually drafted overseas with the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders of Canada in Vancouver to join the battle of Vimy Ridge.
The Highlanders were part of the 4th Canadian Infantry Division. Its goal was to capture Hill 145, the highest point. A book on the regiment, compiled by Bernard McEvoy and Capt. A. H. Finlay and published in 1920, recounts Desmond’s heroism:
The battle in which the Battalion was now bearing its part, facing the long and sinister slope of Vimy Ridge was a very comprehensive and tremendous assault in which there were roughly 120,000 men in the storming line with 40,000 advancing behind them. But it will be worth while just here to record the gallant exploit of Lieut. D. O. Vicars, D.S.O., and Pte. McWhinney . . .
Vicars and McWhinney together with a mere handful of men worked around to the right flank of Clutch trench. Almost all of Lieut. Vicars’ men were casualties by the time he reached the trench, but Vicars, accompanied by McWhinney and Cpl. “Hat” Matthews began what was one of the most memorable flats in the Battalion’s history. Armed chiefly with bombs which they manipulated with unerring efficiency, the three proceeded to take, unaided, about 400 yards of the strongly held German support line.
Slipping from traverse to traverse along the trench, the dauntless trio advanced, clearing or partially clearing each bay by throwing bombs into it before entering and finishing the job with revolver and cold steel. Time after time Boches [German soldiers] braver and more cunning than the rest attempted to waylay them by lying in wait in the doorways of their dugouts, only to be met by a courage and resource more dealing than their own.
Pushing the now thoroughly demoralized Boches before them, the three continued their advance until practically the whole trench on the Battalion front was cleared. Aided by the arrival of the frontal attacking troops, they drove the completely routed Bavarians to their destruction in the heavy ‘standing barrage,’ which was protecting the left flank of the attack. This is but an example of what was done on that glorious and eventful day. Of the heroic work of the rest of the Battalion, no praise can be too laudatory.
Desmond was wounded on May 1, 1917, when shrapnel from an airburst caught him, injuring his left arm, chest and upper back. His sons debunked a report indicating his injuries were due to gunshot wounds. Apparently left for dead at the casualty-clearing station, Desmond endured a long recovery before returning to Kamloops in December 1917.
“And he still had some shrapnel left in him until the day he died,” Tom said.
Back at the hospital, Edmonton Journal foreign correspondent Anne Merrill interviewed Desmond. Her article was published in the Standard-Sentinel on Nov. 23, 1917, before he returned to Kamloops, and included the following excerpt:
“How old are you?”
“Twenty . . . according to the militia.”
But really, I insisted.
Shyly, he confessed to 19.
“As far as the army knew, he was 20, but realistically? No,” Tom said. “Very young when you think about it.”
Questioned about the D.S.O., Desmond told the Journal he had “nothing to say.”
. . . all the particulars I can give you are the few meagre lines from the Gazette, Merrill wrote. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion in operations. On reaching the objective only two of his platoon remained, but with the greatest coolness he attacked about 50 of the enemy, bayoneting several himself causing numerous casualties and taking eight prisoners, driving the rest away. His conduct was magnificent throughout.
Another piece of information you won’t find in the papers was Desmond’s regard for First Nations soldiers, Patrick said.
“Dad held them in high regard as soldiers and he said they never really got — they were treated as equals when they were there, but when they came back, it was never the same thing,” Patrick said.
Upon return, Desmond followed in his father’s footsteps, eventually taking charge of the Rocky Mountain Rangers. He trained soldiers in England during the Second World War. Desmond married twice. His first wife, Katherine Johnstone, died of tuberculosis, then he married Constance Clark and, while in his 50s, fathered Tom and Patrick. Desmond went on to live out the rest of his life in Kamloops before dying in 1985, in his late 80s, “primarily of old age,” Tom said.
“When you look back on it, for his injuries, he was lucky to make it that long,” he said.
Generations have passed and Desmond’s descendants, including great grandchildren, remain in the area.
“We’d be one of the very few direct descendants,” Patrick said.
“Not many people have kids at 50,” Tom added.
Vicars’ family in France
Desmond’s sons will be among thousands of Canadians travelling to Vimy Ridge for a memorial service on Sunday, April 9, to mark 100 years since the historic battle. The Canadian government is leading a delegation to France, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of the Royal Family.
“We all thought, well, it’s dad’s one big highlight in life, one accomplishment, great accomplishment at that time,” Tom said. “We thought, well why not?”
They plan to retrace their dad’s footsteps, having learned the memorial service will be six kilometres from where Desmond was wounded.
“When we go to Vimy, I’d like to know exactly where he was,” Tom said. “Because where they were fighting, it was the fourth division, is right where the Vimy Ridge Memorial is. It’s right in there.”
Desmond returned to the site in 1968, among the youngest in a group of about 50.
“There’s a bit of a funny story with that one,” Patrick said. “He applied for his passport and they wouldn’t give him one. They said, we have no record of you being born in Canada. Len Marchand was the MP for local area. He went and looked after it for dad. Dad says, you know, I was in both wars for them and everything else, but I guess [back then] they didn’t do any birth certificates, so there wasn’t anything official.”
While Tom’s never been to the site of the battle, Patrick has visited Vimy Ridge and discussed it with his father before he died.
“One of dad’s comments when he was there in the ‘60s was he didn’t realize how close they were to each other in the trenches . . . how little the distance was,” Patrick said. “I noticed that.”
The family was required to apply through the Canadian government to attend the ceremony.
David Carrigg | Vancouver Sun | Published on: April 9, 2017 | Last Updated: April 9, 2017 1:42 PM PDT
VIMY RIDGE, France — Caden Ward carried John Bullock up Vimy Ridge on Sunday. Two young Canadians separated by a century, one full of hope and promise, the other long forgotten until this warm spring day in France when again he travelled uphill on ground pocked by shell holes and surrounded by thousands of youths on the same path forward.
At least half of the 25,000 people who attended the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in Northern France on Sunday were students. They sat in groups on freshly cut grass, eating baguettes, braiding one another’s hair, under the watchful gaze of Canada Bereft, the standing centrepiece of this massive limestone monument to the fallen. In the background, non stop, the names of Canada’s war dead were read out until finally a guitar played and an afternoon of entertainment began before the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Amid this scene, Ward, 17, of Vancouver, held tight the neatly folded gravestone rubbing, made from charcoal and paper, taken a day ago from a cemetery near Arras: It reads 775007 Private John Bullock 38 Battalion Canadian Inf. 9th April 1917.
“I got to see my soldier (yesterday),” Ward said.
“I didn’t know him (Bullock), he’s not a relative. But I feel connected. We are not so different,” said the tall dark-haired boy, who was among a 40-strong group from Vancouver’s Fraser Academy for children with language-based learning disabilities.
Ward, who spoke clearly and with passion on this day, noted that he was on a foreign adventure, as was Bullock, but with drastically different reasons and outcome.
“This could have been me 100 years ago. He enlisted at 18 and died at 19. I feel like he was lost and I’m so glad to bring him back to life.”
The four-day attack began early on Easter Monday with all four Canadian divisions confronted by the best defended stretch of the German line at the point and was brilliantly prepared and executed. It occurred in the 50th year of Canada’s confederation and is now marked by the finest war memorial on the Western Front. Therefore, fact, timing and the memorial itself make this battle a defining moment for Canada — amid so many other acts of war its men undertook during the three years and nine months the Canadians were active in France.
Ward learned that Bullock was among the first to attack that snowy day, but was part of the 12th brigade of the 4th Division which due to a tactical error had its men charge toward machine-guns that had not been taken out by artillery and they were easily cut down.
Visiting graves to connect with individual soldiers from this foul, bloody, war was a highlight and seemed at the core of the experiences of several students interviewed by Postmedia News on Sunday.
None spoke of the glory of war, nor did they want to be soldiers. They simply wanted to breathe life into others of similar age and from the same places, who by chance or destiny, died in unspeakable ways on this rich dirt many miles from home.
Julia Maunber, 17, of South Delta Secondary, was emotional.
“It’s incredible,” she said. “It’s the memorial, but it’s also the environment created thinking about the soldiers a hundred years ago. How selfless they were.”
She hopes to take those feelings back home with her. “I’m going to try and be more selfless and create more peace and love in a small way.”
Keith Donaldson, a Delta teacher partly responsible for the 100 Grade 10-12 students from the Delta school district, said the group would visit the Faubourg d’ Amiens Commonwealth War Grave near Arras and repeat Ward’s work, having spent the past weeks studying a Canadian soldier from that cemetery.
Donaldson has been assigned Private Alexander Maxwell, from Vancouver’s 72nd Battalion (the Seaforth Highlanders), a conscript who was killed by shellfire while working as a stretcher bearer on Sept. 9, 1918, less than nine months after conscription. The 28-year-old was born in Toronto but was conscripted while working as a machinist in Penticton.
Donaldson also has a deeply personal connection to the First World War through his great grandfather, Joseph Smyth Donaldson, who survived the war, along the way winning a Military Medal on the first day of the Battle of Hill 70 in August, 1917, and later a Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Joseph Donaldson joined up in April, 1916 and arrived in England the following month and was at the front in France two months later. The short turnaround was an indicator of the dire need for men during a bad year for the Allies. Donaldson — who rose from private to Company sergeant major — won his medal in a classic First World War way. As a private, he took command of his platoon during the attack on Hill 70, used a rifle grenade to clear 75-yards of trench, then encountered 25 Germans, killed five and took the rest prisoner. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal in Sept., 1918 and returned to Canada in April 1919.
Other B.C. groups at Sunday’s event included 60 from Vancouver’s Seaforth Highlanders Regiment, cadets, soldiers and families of the fallen.
Seaforth’s spokesman Hon. Lt. Col. Rod Hoffmeister (son of Bert Hoffmeister, one of the regiment’s Second World War commanders) said the group walked through fields earlier in the day that were the exact same that First World War Seaforths crossed one hundred years ago.
For Ward, he plans to take his gravestone rubbing home to Vancouver where he will continue to research the short and ultimately violent life of John Bullock — who like Ward had brown eyes and dark hair — and hopes to find a family member to whom Ward can say, “He was not forgotten”.