“As the years drift from the war, people forget how significant an impact the war was on the nation,” Boyle said.
Frank Maxsted doesn’t often take his grandfather’s wooden cross out of his Calgary home but on Sunday, he brought the precious marker to the Legion for the event.
Maxsted’s grandfather James Bedford Bell was killed at Vimy Ridge.
“Those guys got wiped out. They didn’t get a chance. So how can you say that it was good?” Maxsted said. “They all went through hell. You look at those tunnels they had to live in.”
Maxsted said he was appreciative for the opportunity to have a place to honor his grandfather.
“I was absolutely astounded that they cared. I just wanted to honour my grandpa a little bit and what they did here today was just totally fantastic,” Maxsted said.
Bill Bethell’s father Percy fought in several World War I battles and suffered the agony of gas poisoning at Vimy Ridge, resulting in a collapsed esophagus. The Calgary man remembers his father struggling long after the war ended.
“Not only pain, but the embarrassment and not getting proper food,” Bethell said.
It was the recent chemical attack in Syria that made him think of his father and the cruelty humans continue to inflict on each other.
“Watching that gas attack, it brought back thoughts of the First World War, the first poison gas attack in warfare. It brought everything back to mind, my father suffering so much,” Bethell said
Videos played at the event highlighted the significant Calgary area contributions to Vimy Ridge and what a profound impact both the battle and the war had on Canada.
“Alberta had a greater proportion than most of the other provinces. We raised the 10th battalion from Calgary, which was the first one that went over and fought in the very early days. The 50th battalion came from Calgary, the 31st Battalion came from southern Alberta, as well as the 49th from Edmonton”, Boyle said.
“It impacted every little bit of society, [the] First World War did. Every family knew somebody who had passed away. Canadians found themselves differently after the war and I think we don’t realize those are our roots and how important they are,” Boyle said.
Frank Maxsted just hopes that all the deaths and injuries that occurred as a result of World War I, including his grandfather, will at least provide lessons for future generations.
“I would hope that they take away quite a bit but I don’t think they will because it’s too deep of a subject. How many generations have gone who haven’t experienced war? So we don’t expect them to feel this as much,” Maxsted said. “But I have long reaching hopes that we will survive as a race to benefit from all this stuff and not end up wiping ourselves out.”
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