#100DaysofVimy – March 19th, 2017

Each Sunday we will share a story of Remembrance.

The Vimy Pilgrimage – Part I

The application form for the Vimy Pilgrimage. Pilgrims were required to be the immediate family of someone who had served.
Courtesy: The Canadian Centre for the Great War, 2017.

With the overwhelming success of the Canadian Corps Reunion in 1934, the preparations for a Vimy Pilgrimage were begun in earnest. By 1936, Walter Seymour Allward’s masterpiece atop Vimy Ridge was finally complete. Overseen by the Royal Canadian Legion, the Vimy Pilgrimage was an officially organized travel group, open to veterans and their immediate family, that would take them back to the battlefields of Europe on a three-and-a-half week whirlwind event.

The pilgrimage became a major social affair in Canada and many clamoured to be a part of the occasion. In charge of organizing the travel, the Thomas Cook & Son agency offered additional tour packages for Pilgrims who wished to see more of Europe once the official Pilgrimage was over. In addition to this, the French government stepped forward and offered an additional five days of touring France, completely free to those wishing to participate. Pilgrims were issued special Vimy Pilgrimage Canadian passports, colour-coded berets and buttons, a Vimy Pilgrimage medal,  a “Pilgrim’s haversack” and vast amounts of tickets and certificates pertaining to their meals, boat, train, and bus passage.

Assorted ephemera from the Vimy Pilgrimage, including boarding passes for the sea voyage and identification buttons. The letter envelope was officially “posted” from the crest of Vimy Ridge, at a temporary post office set up specifically for the occasion of the unveiling.
Courtesy: The Canadian Centre for the Great War, 2017.

In July 1936, over 6,200 Pilgrims departed the Montreal Harbour on Allan Line and Canadian Pacific steamships to the sounds of brass bands and cheering crowds, reminiscent of the war-time send-offs.

The packed decks of the Canadian Pacific Steamship, “Montrose”, littered with tickertape confeti, departing the port of Montreal for the Vimy Pilgrimage in June 1936. In the background is the Jacques Cartier Bridge.
Credit: Clifford M. Johnston / Library and Archives Canada / PA-056950.