Vimy Ridge is often identified by historians as a defining moment in Canadian history.
One of the reasons is because the four Canadian divisions fought together at one time, said Aimee Greenaway, Nanaimo museum interpretation curator.
“This was at a time when Canada was still really in the shadow of Britain,” said Greenaway.
It was during the Battle of Vimy Ridge that the Canadian troops earned the reputation as “formidable,” according to the Canadian War Museum’s website. But the victory came at a cost with more than 10,000 casualties, of which nearly 3,600 were fatal.
One of the soldiers wounded at Vimy Ridge was George Dorman. He was born in Vancouver but settled in Nanaimo after the war.
Prior to the battle, Dorman carved a picture frame made out of a piece from German plane.
The frame is currently on display at the Nanaimo museum along with information and other mementoes from Dorman as part of the Centennial stories exhibit.
Greenaway said it is an example of the kind of things soldiers would have done to keep themselves mentally occupied while preparations were being completed for the upcoming battle.
Dorman recovered from his Vimy Ridge injuries and returned to duty. He was injured again during the Battle of Cambrai. He had to wait 24 hours, injured on the front lines, to be extracted from the field.
It was during the recovery from his Cambrai injuries that he met his wife, Bridget O’Reilly, who worked as a nurse in the hospital he was sent to. After the war they were granted permission to marry and settled in Nanaimo.
Dorman’s sons founded the Brechin Sawmill in Nanaimo. The sawmill was ravaged by a fire in 1958.
Other memorabilia from Dorman and First World War are on display at the Vancouver Island Military museum.
The museum has Major General Arthur Currie’s riding crop. Currie was the commander of the First Canadian Division, serving under General Julian Byng, commander of the Canadian Corp.
Although Currie wasn’t from Vancouver Island, his batman – a soldier assigned to a commissioned officer as a personal servant – was from the mid Vancouver Island area. The riding crop was presented to his batman as a memento.
In 1936, the official dedication ceremony for the Vimy Ridge memorial was held. Nanaimo resident and war veteran Arthur Leighton and his wife Alice attended the ceremony. His pilgrimage medal is on display at the Nanaimo museum.
For more information about the Battle of Vimy Ridge, please visit www.warmuseum.ca.
Timeless Tales is the News Bulletin’s history series, which is published on the third Tuesday of every month.