PARIS (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of the British royal family are among the dignitaries commemorating the centenary of the World War I battle of Vimy, in northern France.
About 20,000 people, including many Canadians, are expected to attend a ceremony remembering the day Canadian troops succeeded in taking a strategic post from the Germans where past British and French attempts had failed.
British royals Princes Charles, William and Harry.
Trudeau and French President Francois Hollande unveiled a “Poppy of Peace” monument on Sunday morning in the town of Arras, a few kilometers from Vimy. The monument consists of a red metallic base with sculptures of soldiers’ feet.
The government of Canada is hosted the ceremony, which will speeches from officials and performances by famous Canadian artists, including singer Loreena McKennitt. Princes Charles, William and Harry are expected to attend.
On April 9, 1917, the Canadians succeeded in taking the German’s strategic post on Vimy Ridge — where past British and French attempts had failed.
Canadian troops prepared carefully, learning from the mistakes of past attempts. 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 move cost 3,600 dead and over 7,000 injured in three days.
The battle has become an important part of Canada’s national identity, symbolizing the shift from a former British colony to a nation on its own.
Largely because of its military achievements, Canada was a separate signatory to the treaty that ended World War I.