On November 9, 2018, two days before the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the Vimy Foundation will open the gates to a modern living memorial in commemoration of the centenary of the armistice of the First World War, the first of its kind. The Vimy Foundation Centennial Park located adjacent to the Vimy Memorial at Vimy Ridge in France will welcome visitors to walk its paths of remembrance surrounded by over 100 Oak trees repatriated back to Vimy from Canada. Centennial benches, built in Canada and placed throughout the park, provide an opportunity for gathering, dialogue, and extended reflection, all essential elements to conflict resolution and peace that the monument inspires.
Built on private farmland purchased by the Vimy Foundation, the land has required extensive demining and preparation prior to creation of the park. Through the land preparation process, many artifacts were discovered including shells (some of which were still active), grenades, fuses and communications wires, as well as the remains of soldiers who fought at Vimy Ridge over 100 years ago and who have now been put to rest in an official military graveyard.
As a living memorial and park, the four-acre Vimy Foundation Centennial Park is both a public green space for neighbouring communities as well as a place for remembrance and education. The Park highlights the natural bonds between France and Canada, the desire for peace, our responsibility to remember and was designed by acclaimed Canadian Landscape Architect Linda Dicaire.
Some major components of the Vimy Foundation Centennial Park include, the repatriated Vimy Oaks (picked on the battlefield in 1917 by a Canadian soldier, grown in Canada, and now brought back to France) provided by the Vimy Oaks Legacy Group, and the Bugler Memorial Sculpture designed by renowned Canadian artist Marlene Hilton Moore and gifted by the City of Barrie and the communities surrounding Canadian Forces Base Bordon. The Borden Centennial Bugler is one of two, a twin statue stands at the entrance to CFB Borden. The buglers call out across generations, across geography to each other and to the now-empty trenches that once trained soldiers before they left for battle overseas.
“The Vimy Foundation Centennial Park is a truly unique place of remembrance and reflection on the lasting impact of the war on all the countries and people involved,” says Jeremy Diamond, Executive Director of the Vimy Foundation. “The park will have an impact on all who visit, and thanks to the generosity of our donors, who sponsored the many aspects of the park in remembrance of soldiers who fought for Canada over 100 years ago, it also has a very personal connection for many.”
100 years later, the First World War continues to demonstrate its ongoing impact, scarring the soil of the battlefields. The story of the creation of the Vimy Foundation Centennial Park showcases the devastating impact the First World War had not only for the soldiers and the countries involved, but also on the land where the battles took place.
The Vimy Foundation Centennial Park would not have been possible without the generous support of public and private organizations and individuals from across Canada, in particular lead sponsor The Province of British Columbia, Centennial Flagpole sponsor Molson Coors, and the sponsor of the Bugler Memorial Sculpture, CFB Borden.
Premier of British Columbia, John Horgan:
“It is a privilege to be able to provide a contribution on behalf of the people of British Columbia for the Vimy Foundation Centennial Park. It is a significant way that we can honour the brave Canadians who fought so hard here a century ago in order to preserve our rights and freedoms.”
Fred Landtmeters, President and CEO, Molson Coors:
“As Canada’s oldest brewer and a proud Canadian company, Molson Coors values the importance of paying tribute to Canada’s veterans and honouring the sacrifices of our brothers and sisters in the Armed Forces. By commemorating the service of Captain Percival Molson, M.C. through our donation of the Centennial Park flagpole, the Canadian flag can fly proudly for generations of visitors. We are honoured to play a part in preserving Canada’s First World War legacy.”
Honorary Colonel James G. Massie, CFB Borden:
“The Borden Centennial Bugler honours the 100th anniversaries of Canadian Forces Base Borden, The Battle of Vimy Ridge and the Armistice to end The Great War; recognizing the immense contribution of Canadian Forces Base Borden to the training of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and acknowledges the bonds of service and sacrifice that tie Canadian Forces Base Borden, the City of Barrie and the City of Arras across the great oceans of space and time.”