This April 9, a little piece of Langley will take to the skies over France in memorial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Three aircraft from Langley, including two newly built replica Sopwith Pups, are in France to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle.
Volunteers at the Canadian Museum of Flight at the Langley Regional Airport built the planes over the last year. Though they have flown, the Sopwiths will be on the ground as a static display during the commemoration events this weekend. A Nieuport replica is expected to be airborne, and has already overflown the Vimy memorial once.
The trip to France is part of A Nation Soars, a multi-part event, including documentaries, marking the part early Canadian aviators played in the First World War.
Canadians can watch the commemorations in France on CBC TV and CBC News Network.
On the homefront
Meanwhile a host of Vimy-related events are also taking place around Langley.
The Canadian Museum of Flight will hold its own celebration to mark the anniversary on April 9, from noon to 3 p.m. at the museum.
Those gathered will see the unveiling of a new painting by Doby Dobrostanski called Victory at Vimy.
There will be a vintage aircraft flyby, and an update from the museum’s delegation at Vimy Ridge.
And Thursday, April 6, author Hugh Brewster will give a free talk called The Road to Vimy: Canadians in World War I, from 2 to 3 p.m. in the City of Langley Library.
Brewster, author of 14 books for children and adults, will draw on letters from soldiers and nurses, period songs, and archival images to bring the era to life.
His latest book is From Vimy to Victory: Canada’s Fight to the Finish in World War I.
Ceremony at the cenotaph
Royal Canadian Legion’s Langley branch will also remember the fallen with a wreath-laying ceremony on April 9, 11 a.m. at the cenotaph in Douglas Park.
The event will mark the sacrifices made during the battle.
Also on April 9, cadets, RCMP officers, and members of the Royal Canadian Legion will gather at the Cloverdale Cenotaph in remembrance of the fallen.
The service will start at 9:45 a.m., but spectators are recommended to come early to secure a spot in the plaza, at 17710 56A Avenue.
Afterwards, the community is welcome to follow the cadets to the Cloverdale Legion at 17567 57 Ave to view an anniversary display.
At the museum
The Langley Centennial Museum’s spring exhibit officially opens today, paying hommage to the First World War.
The show, called Sacrifice and Sorrow: Langley and the Great War, will open on Sunday April 9, the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The exhibit runs until July 16, and was organized in consultation with guest curator Warren Sommer.
The exhibit includes artifacts from numerous local museums, private collections, and military sources, most of which have never been gathered together under one roof before.
The exhibit will include everything from uniforms to a nail-studded “trench club” kept as a souvenir by a soldier.
This show examines what the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the Great War of 1914 to 1918 meant to the people of Langley.
In 1914, Langley was still largely-forested, its economy based on both agriculture and the lumber trade. The community had virtually no military heritage of its own, yet when Britain declared war against Germany, Langley’s young men – many of them recent immigrants from England and Scotland – streamed into Vancouver and New Westminster, hoping to join the First Canadian contingent, explained museum curator Kobi Christian.
“Sacrifice and Sorrow traces the men and women of Langley as they volunteered for service, made their way overseas, underwent training, and faced the enemy in the trenches of the Western Front. We also meet the soldiers’ families – proud but anxious parents, innocent younger brothers, and ingenuous little sisters – for the war involved not just soldiers fighting in Europe, but also those who remained at home. Men, women, and children joined forces to raise money, create and gather supplies for soldiers, and shoulder many of the farm duties that would otherwise have occupied their fathers and brothers,” she said.
Guests can discover the Great War through a collection of wartime uniforms, equipment, weapons, drawings and paintings, medals and decorations, letters, and memorabilia.
Witness restored archival film footage of British Columbian soldiers drilling and embarking for overseas as well as footage of The Battle of the Somme, released in 1916 and touted at the time as “the most remarkable moving picture which has ever been produced.” The exhibit also features a multimedia component prepared by Langley Fine Arts student Alex Houlihan.
Close to 400 young men and boys enlisted from Langley for service in uniform.
Of these, one in 10 would never return to their loved ones, their remains forever lying buried in the blood-stained soil of France or Flanders.
The exhibition concludes with a look at their memorials, whether it be a carefully manicured grave in a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery or as one of the thousands of names inscribed on memorials to the missing on the Menin Gate or at Vimy Ridge.
Today’s opening runs from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the museum, located at 9135 King St. in Fort Langley.
Nearby, Sommer is holding the launch of his book today, as well.
The official launch of Canucks in Khaki will take place on Sunday, April 9 at 1:30 p.m. at St. George’s Church Hall, 9160 Church St. in Fort Langley.