Holding a picture of his grandfather in military uniform, Rob Porkka was one of hundreds who attended the Vimy Ridge Ceremony in downtown Red Deer.
The ceremony, held Sunday, featured soldiers from the 41st Signal Regiment and 78th Field Battery, 20th Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery parading in downtown Red Deer. They marched to the cenotaph on Ross Street and participated in a ceremony remembering the battle 100 years later.
Porkka’s grandfather, George Waddell, was a building contractor in Edmonton before the war.
After immigrating from England to Canada, he thought it was his duty to go. Waddell and his business partner signed up and went overseas.
The battle took place from April 9 to 12, 1917. It was the first time all four Canadian Expeditionary Force divisions fought together and their success has led the battle to be considered an important moment in the history of Canada’s national identity and nationhood.
“He was in the railway corp around Vimy Ridge and Arras,” said Porkka. “Their job was to build narrow-gauge railways to move armaments through the tunnels up towards the front lines.”
Woodall stayed until the end of the war and was discharged in 1919, his business partner was killed within three months of his arrival in the war.
Like his ancestor, Porkka has a connection to Vimy Ridge. The retired Red Deer teacher was behind a project to have a plaque and Lindsay Thurber High School bearing the names of high school students killed during the war.
“As a teacher I have been to Vimy Ridge 10 times,” he said. “This day has a lot of meaning to me.
“I’ve had the opportunity over the last 25 years to take students to Vimy Ridge and to have them look up some of the high school students who were killed at Vimy or in the First World War.”
The ceremony also featured an inspection of the soldiers, as well as the army, sea and air cadets, by Col. Eppo van Weelderen, the commander of the 41st Canadian Brigade Group.