Veterans Affairs Canada

Veterans Affairs Canada

July 12, 2007 13:40 ET

Canada's New Government Participates in Events Marking the 90th Anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - July 12, 2007) - The Honourable Greg Thompson, Minister of Veterans Affairs, today represented the Government of Canada at international events in Belgium marking the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele. Minister Thompson was joined for the events by the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Metis and Non-Status Indians; Ambassador Laurette Glasgow, Ambassador of Canada to the Kingdom of Belgium and to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg; and Vice-Admiral Glenn Davidson, military representative of Canada to NATO.

"The word Passchendaele means many different things to Canadians. It represents both triumph and sacrifice. It represents perseverance and bravery. And most of all, it represents true Canadian valour," said Minister Thompson. "On the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele, we honour those Canadians who have served our country during its times of greatest need. And we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending our freedom, democracy and the rule of law."

"Passchendaele will always be remembered as an important part of our Canadian history. There are so many stories to share," said Minister Prentice. "Corporal Francis Pegahmagabow, the most decorated aboriginal Canadian soldier, earned his first bar to the Military Medal at Passchendaele. Today, we remember Corporal Pegahmagabow and all the men who stepped on to the bloody fields of Passchendaele 90 years ago."

Earlier today, Minister Thompson and the Canadian representatives attended an international ceremony at Tyne Cot Cemetery where nearly 12,000 Commonwealth soldiers are buried. The group also attended a special commemorative ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the inauguration of Menin Gate. Etched on the stone of Menin Gate, along with the names of Allied comrades, are the names of 6,940 Canadian dead who have no known grave.

Tomorrow, the Canadian Embassy in Belgium will host a reception to preview a new exhibition designed by the Canadian War Museum entitled Bloody Victory: The Canadians at Passchendaele. The exhibit will be on display from July through November at Waterfields Farm, just steps away from where Canadians bravely served and died during the First World War.

The Battle of Passchendaele occupies a significant place in Canadian military history. The battle, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, would last over three grueling months under extremely harsh conditions. The Canadian Corps eventually captured the town of Passchendaele on November 10, 1917, but the price would be high - 12,000 Canadian soldiers were wounded and more than 4,000 lost their lives. The awarding of nine Victoria Crosses confirms the heroic determination and skill of Canadian soldiers in the bitter struggle for Passchendaele.

For more information on Canada's participation in the Battle of Passchendaele visit www.vac-acc.gc.ca

BACKGROUNDER

Tyne Cot Cemetery

Tyne Cot Cemetery, situated in the municipality of Zonnebeke, is the resting-place of nearly 12,000 soldiers of the Commonwealth Forces, making it the largest Commonwealth cemetery of the two Great Wars. There are 1,011 Canadians buried there, including Victoria Cross winner James Peter Robertson. Nearly 70 per cent of the cemetery's graves, including those of 560 Canadians, remain unidentified.

Because the Menin Gate Memorial was not large enough to include the names of all those with unknown graves who perished in the area, the remaining 34,984 names (representing United Kingdom deaths after August 15, 1917) were placed on the Tyne Cot Memorial. The memorial, a semicircular flint wall designed by Herbert Baker with sculptor F. V. Blundstone, stands to the rear of the cemetery. Only one Canadian name is recorded there, that of 2nd Lieutenant Harold George Barett of the Newfoundland Regiment, who was killed August 16, 1917.

The cemetery's name finds its roots in a nickname assigned by the British Army's Northumberland Fusiliers, who likened a cluster of German pillboxes located on the site to workers' cottages typical at the time in Tyneside, England - hence Tyne Cottages or Tyne Cotts. The cemetery is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Menin Gate Memorial

Inaugurated on July 24, 1927, ten years after the beginning of the Battle of Passchendaele, the Menin Gate Memorial bears the names of 55,896 soldiers of the British Commonwealth who fell in the Ypres Salient and whose final resting place is unknown. Among the names of these soldiers are 6,940 Canadians.

Designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and built by the British government, the Menin Gate Memorial stands on the site of what would have been the closest exit from Ypres to enemy lines.

Hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers passed by or over the Menin Gate bridge on their way to the front. Resembling a mausoleum, the memorial is open on both ends to allow pedestrian and motor vehicle passage. The majority of the engraved names are found on the walls of the main passage, called the Hall of Memories.

Today, the dead are remembered at the monument each day in a simple sunset ceremony. All traffic through the gateway is halted at 8:00 p.m. each evening and two buglers (on special occasions four) move to the centre of the Hall to sound the Last Post. Since November 11, 1929, the Last Post has been sounded at the Menin Gate Memorial every night and in all weather, with the exception of the Germans' four-year occupation of Ypres during the Second World War. In that case, the ceremony resumed on the very evening the city was liberated, in spite of heavy fighting in other parts of town.

This daily ritual, as well as other special ceremonies, are organized by the Last Post Association.

Contact Information

  • Veterans Affairs Canada
    Maude Desjardins
    Media Relations Advisor
    902-626-2453
    or
    Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs
    Richard Roik
    Director of Communications
    613-996-4649