100-year-old World War I map surfaces among possessions of Canadian brigadier-general
A fortnight after Canadians celebrated the centenary of the battle often seen as a pivotal moment in their nation's formation, a map used by one of their senior officers in World War I has surfaced in Stratford.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a tough fight in northern France, where the Canadian forces broke through the German lines and defeated a German force that both the English and French had failed to conquer.
But they paid a heavy price, with 3,598 Canadians killed and another 7,000 wounded.
Stratford resident Peter Fairclough, 87, found the century-old map amongst the possessions of his great-uncle, brigadier-general Robert Percy Clark.
The map, along with a book detailing the adventures of the Royal Montreal Regiment (R. M. Regt), was handed to down to Fairclough via his uncle and grandmother, Clark's sister.
"He went into the army when he left school and he was in the Boer War," Fairclough said.
"He went to Canada to earn his keep gold mining in Alaska, and he decided after a while he was earning more money in the army than he was gold mining, so he joined the Canadian Army."
Fairclough said Clark helped build up the Royal Montreal Regiment, before it headed over to England and later France.
He became the regiment's commander and was later promoted to command of the 2nd Infantry Brigade. He died in Vancouver on 8 April 1932.
The map details the area of Hazebrouck in northern France, 40 kilometres north of Vimy Ridge, where Clark fought with the Canadian forces.
A large red line across its crinkled and stained page marked the front line, with other markings denoting mines, quarrys and railway lines.
The accompanying book, bound in a red cover, mentioned the heroics of Clark on the battlefield and inside was a note dated 1929.
"To my sister Lilly, in this book in a trite way are deeds that can be truly described as epic," it read.
"It was my great privilege to be connected with the R. M. Regiment for some time and if my name is mentioned in much too flattering terms in this history it will not, I know, lessen its value in your eyes. R. P. Clark."
The book also had a chapter on Vimy Ridge, as well as other battles the Canadians were involved in, such as a gas attack from the German Army.
"The regiment wrote it themselves," Fairclough said.
"While it was all fresh they thought they would get everything together."