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VIDEO: Aldergrove Legion keeps candles burning to mark Vimy Ridge date

‘Spur of the moment’ decision expected to become a tradition

A last-minute decision kept 120 candles burning for several days at the Royal Canadian Legion Aldergrove branch to mark the anniversary of Vimy Ridge.

Organizer Shaun Francis said the decision, made at the Sunday, April 7 ceremony, “was kind of spur of the moment, leaving it right through to the actual battle date.”

READ ALSO: A candlelight ceremony at Aldergrove Legion to remember the fallen

He said anybody travelling along the Fraser Highway would have seen the candles flickering, from the day of the ceremony to Wednesday, April 9, the date when the first wave of Canadian soldiers attacked German lines 107 years ago during the First World War.

Canada’s forces won, at the cost of 10,600 casualties, nearly 3,600 of which were fatal.

It was the first time so many candles had been lit at the cenotaph at 26607 Fraser Hwy. to mark the anniversary of Vimy Ridge and to honour the 120 soldiers whose names are listed on the memorial.

“It’s very important that the 120 names are read out loud,” Francis explained. “If you say their name, they’re not truly forgotten.”

It marked the start of a new tradition, to be held every year on the Sunday before April 9 to honour the fallen, and Francis expects the decision to keep the candles burning will be part of it.

READ ALSO: Langley’s Normandy veteran turns 100

A 103-year-old Second World War veteran from Langley, Harold “Bud” Freeston, placed the first candle.

The Walnut Grove resident is a former member of the Black Watch, known in the past as the Royal Highland Regiment of Canada. Members fought some of the bloodiest battles of the war, in northern France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Highlighted at the service was Lieutenant Robert Hazelette Simonds, a 20-year-old Murrayville resident who died in the first day of fighting at Vimy Ridge in the First World War.

Simonds, who went by his high school nickname of “Hazy”, had survived many battles of the First World War as a member of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, all without a scratch.

His death came two years to the day from when he joined up at the age of 18.

He was laid to rest in La Chaudiere cemetery in Pas de Calais, France, on the northwest outskirts of Vimy.

Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Best recognized for my resemblance to St. Nick, I’m the guy you’ll often see out at community events and happenings around town.
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