Hundreds gather at cenotaph to honour Battle of Vimy Ridge

In the wee hours of April 9, 1917 - Easter Monday - more than 20,000 Canadians who'd spent the night crouching in the mud and rainy cold finally left their trenches to advance on the ridge known as Vimy. "Their Royal Highnesses were joined by the Governor General of Canada, the President of France François Hollande and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau", the caption read. Three thousand, five hundred and ninety-eight Canadians were killed in the fighting.

Military boots symbolizing dead soldiers are seen at Canadian National Memorial in Vimy, France on Sunday. It was the first time all four Canadian divisions fought together in the First World War.

"We commemorate and thank those who gave of their lives, so that we can preserve the freedom of today", said Saracino. Almost 3600 Canadian soldiers died over the four brutal days of the battle, and over 7000 were wounded.

After the service came to a close, the parade marched to the Cloverdale Legion, where the cadets were served a lunch and community members were able to view a display of First World War items, which included barbed wire and a German helmet retrieved from the battle. The World War I battle was a costly victory for Canada, but one that helped shape the former British colony's national identity.

But the Canadians did, after four days of intense warfare, capture the ridge that both the French and British had previously failed to do.

Veterans Affairs Canada organized an evening of remembrance at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

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French President Francois Hollande said the "blue ghosts of Vimy" serve as a reminder, not just of what happened 100 years ago, but what "free peoples" even today must sometimes do to protect peace.

Vimy Ridge was an engagement during the Battle Of Arras itself, which lasted from 9 April to 16 May 1917 and claimed 18,000 Scottish lives - the highest concentration of Scots involved in any WW1 campaign. "We're never the same after the First World War".

The government of Canada hosted Sunday's somber ceremony of official speeches and performances by Canadian artists such as singer Loreena McKennitt.

To protect soldiers from shelling, they built miles of tunnels one of the war's great engineering feats allowing troops to pop up quickly into their positions.

The centre of the poppy is formed by a newly-unveiled sculpture of pairs of soldiers' feet by New Zealand artist Helen Pollock.

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