The long journey home: Sacred soil from Vimy Ridge repatriated in Ontario
By Warrant Officer Philip R. Rochon, Canadian Forces Health Services Training Centre
They left their homes over one hundred years ago to defend freedom and liberty; on June 29, they symbolically came home.
Hundreds of Canadian Armed Forces members participated in a ceremony to mark the repatriation of sacred soil from the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and the rededication of the cenotaph in Barrie, Ontario, on June 29.
The climax of the event was the arrival on horse drawn carriage of the urn containing the Sacred Soil at the newly revitalized Memorial Square, located in the heart of Barrie.
After a quiet moment of reflection, the urn was deposited into the wall by Honorary Colonel Massie, Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman, Veteran Representative Dr. Jim McPhee, and Padre Hoy. In the skies above, the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team flew a Missing Man formation honouring the fallen.
The cenotaph is the central point of the revitalized Memorial Square, with four trees flanking the column and statue. These trees represent the four Canadian Divisions that fought at Vimy Ridge. At night, the trees are illuminated in coloured lights matching each division’s patch.
The wall containing the sacred soil is engraved with the words of General Sir Arthur Currie, Commander of the Canadian Corps: “To those of you that fall I say: you will not die, but step into immortality. Your mothers will not lament your fate but will be proud to have borne such sons. Your names will be revered forever and ever by your grateful country, and God will take you unto himself.”
Colonel Atherton, CFB Borden Commander, highlighted the bond between the City of Barrie and CFB Borden: “The Sacred Soil that is placed in this wall also resides in the Borden Legacy Wall and serves as a permanent reminder of our past and inspiration for our future.”
Honorary Colonel Massie, whose leadership in this project played an important role, noted during his speech that “This urn will stand in this memorial square honouring not only all those who have served, but as a tribute to the incredible relationship the City of Barrie and CFB Borden have enjoyed over the last 101 years.”
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