Canada’s only Battle of Hill 70 monument site to commemorate event’s 100th anniversary

The Battle of Hill 70 monument in Mountain, Ont., dates back to 1922-25. Smith photo, Nation Valley News

Memorial to take place in Mountain, North Dundas, on Aug. 27

Nelson Zandbergen and
Kelsey Smith

MOUNTAIN — North Dundas is set to reflect on the 9,000 Canadians killed or wounded in the Battle of Hill 70 during 100th anniversary commemorations at this country’s one and only domestic monument dedicated to the historic World War I battle.

The township, the Winchester Legion Branch No. 108 and the Mountain & District Lions Club will mark the battle’s centennial at 10478 Clark Road in Mountain, 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27.

MPP Jim McDonell, MP Guy Lauzon and North Dundas Mayor Eric Duncan are among the politicians slated to attend the site that, since the 1920s, has honoured the sacrifice and bloodshed that took place on Aug. 15-25, 1917.

The upcoming observance will be accompanied by historic artifacts and information concerning the Battle of Hill 70, so named for the height above sea level of the hill captured at great cost by Canadian troops outside Lens, France.  Noteworthy as the first battle in which Canadians fought under direct Canadian command, it’s sometimes described as the “forgotten” Vimy Ridge — the seminal battle on French soil that preceded Hill 70 by a few months.

Saplings descended from the oak trees at Vimy will be planted at the monument site in Mountain. A pipe band and soldiers will take part in the ceremony while dressed in traditional uniforms.

Originally set up as a simple rock inscribed with ‘1922’ plus a vintage machine gun and lantern atop a grassy mound, the Mountain Lions Club overhauled and modernized the monument several years ago. As part of that project, the Club erected granite tablets with the names all of the fallen soldiers and the story of the battle etched into the structures. The site was rededicated in November 2011.

The coming ceremony in North Dundas will be foreshadowed by the Aug. 22 reveal of a new Hill 70 monument near the actual battle site in France.

Paul ‘Smokie’ LeBlanc’ — one of the event organizers — said that two historians will be on hand in Mountain, one of them freshly returned from the overseas commemorations.

LeBlanc said those attending the local event can also look forward to the firing of a visiting Armed Forces of Canada artillery piece, to be accompanied by a military vehicle.

He added a number of military units present at the battle will be represented — among them the SD&G Highlanders, the Governor General’s Footguards, the Prince of Wales Regiment of Kingston, and Quebec’s ‘Van Doos.’

Local singer Marleen Fawcett is slated to sing at the occasion as well, and organizers continue to work out the menu and food available at the post-ceremony reception under a number tents that will be set up on the grounds of the community park in Mountain.

In the meantime, a travelling museum with information about the battle has been making the local rounds. Check out its next stop at the South Mountain Fair, Aug. 17-20.

 

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