Below is the full text of Governor General David Johnston’s address at the Vimy Memorial commemoration of the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, as prepared for delivery.
On this day a century ago, as dawn broke over Vimy Ridge, the morning air suddenly exploded with an unholy roar.
The noise has been compared to a physical assault, shattering the quiet of daybreak.
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It was the deafening sound of a thousand howitzers, field guns, mortars and mines firing together, in unison.
It was the sound of 15 000 Canadians charging into battle from tunnels, from trenches and dugouts.
“Chaps, you shall go over exactly like a railroad train, on time, or you shall be annihilated,” General Byng had told them.
They did exactly that.
Fighting together for the first time as one, facing an entrenched, determined enemy, the Canadian Corps took Vimy Ridge.
Victory was achieved through incredible struggle, determination and bravery.
Through months of careful planning and surveillance.
Through technological and social innovation in warfare.
Through learning the hard lessons of war.
Victory was achieved because a sense of trust existed within the ranks.
Despite all these advantages, the outcome was uncertain, the cost of victory very high.
Three thousand, five hundred and ninety-eight Canadians were killed in the fighting.
Seven thousand were wounded.
Today, one hundred years later, we honour their eternal sacrifice.
We mourn their loss.
And we remember them.
We remember their loved ones back home, bereft in the absence of sons, grandsons, husbands, fathers, friends.
And we mourn the generations of Canadians unborn because of their loss.
Above and behind me, extending high into the sky over us, behold the towering twin pylons of the Vimy Monument.
See how they soar so boldly above us.
Those spires symbolize the enduring friendship between Canada and France, underscored by the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who helped liberate this country in war.
Those spires stand for peace and for freedom.
They stand for justice and hope.
And they remind us that one cannot exist without the other.
Without freedom, there can be no peace. Because freedom without peace is agony, and peace without freedom is slavery.
Nor can justice and hope be separated. Justice is owed to every human being, and hope is the oxygen of the human spirit.
On both sides of the Atlantic today, we gather to remember those who fought at Vimy. We reflect on their service and sacrifice.
Today, a century later, there are no remaining veterans of the First World War.
That means it’s up to us to remember what happened, and to honour them.
Today, one hundred years after the Battle of Vimy Ridge, let us remember the fallen.
And let us work together for justice, for hope, for freedom and for peace.
Lest we forget.
Check out archival images from the battle:
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- Why Google mapped Vimy Ridge
- Vimy Ridge Myth #1: Only Canadians fought in the defining battle
- Vimy Ridge Myth #2: Vimy won the war
- Vimy Ridge Myth #3: Canadians scaled a cliff at Vimy
- Vimy Ridge Myth #4: Canada became a nation at Vimy
- How Canada’s bloodiest day at Vimy defined Great War sacrifice
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- From the archives: From 1924: With a vagabond around Vimy
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