100 years ago today, my great-grandfather, Russell Emerson Poste, joined 100,000 other Canadians in capturing Vimy Ridge.
Early in the morning on Easter Monday, April 9, 1917, the Battle of Vimy Ridge began. For the first time in the First World War, all four Canadian divisions fought on the same battlefield. They progressed quickly, and by April 12, the entire ridge was under Allied control. With the capture of Hill 145, the highest feature on the ridge, the operation was considered a resounding success. The ridge remained in Allied hands for the duration of the war. The victory at Vimy Ridge did not come without cost: Canadian casualties reached 10,602, of which 3,598 were killed.
Russell Emerson Poste had enlisted in the 18th Western Ontario Battalion when he was only 17 years old. He fought in the trenches alongside his brothers, Ernest and Arthur. Unlike so many, all three came out of the battle unscathed. Afterwards, my great-grandfather was there when His Majesty King George V came to speak to the troops and commend them for the great victory they had achieved at Vimy Ridge.
Russell and his brothers continued in the fight, only to be seriously wounded and gassed at Passchendaele. Unlike so many others though, they made it back home to Canada. My great-grandfather married Edith Poste in 1920, and they went on to have 11 children (including my fabulous grandmother Mary). Russell’s wartime service must have made an impression, for his four oldest sons would go on to serve in the Second World War.
100 years on from the beginning of this iconic Canadian battle, today is a day to reflect and remember the Canadians who served, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice from their country. And to them, I say thank you.