A CANADIAN PILGRIMAGE
The Canadian Legion, with co-operation from the Canadian, French, and British Governments, organized a formal pilgrimage to the official unveiling of the monument consisting of Canadian veterans, some family members, and official parties from the Legion
and the Canadian Government and military. On 16 July 1936, following an enthusiastic and emotive dockside send-off, five passenger liners left Montreal under the ceremonial escort of a destroyer of the Royal Canadian Navy, HMCS Saguenay. Aboard
were some 6,200 Canadian pilgrims from all over Canada and some from the United States, wearing distinguishing Vimy berets, medals, and pins. On 25 July the vessels docked in Le Havre and Antwerp and the Canadians reverentially made their way towards
Vimy. Another 1,300 pilgrims joined them from Britain.
The memorial was inaugurated on Sunday, 26 July 1936, in a massive ceremony featuring the presence of King Edward VIII. While Prince of Wales, the King had served on the staff of the Canadian Corps and had toured Canada in 1919 and 1927. He enthusiastically
greeted numerous Canadian pilgrims whom he knew personally. His presence lent aura to the event and validated the memorial and the site as one of great importance to Canada. Estimates vary but no fewer than 50,000 people were present, most of them French
citizens expressing their gratitude. Amongst the Canadian dignitaries were Justice Minister Ernest Lapointe and the Minister of Pensions and National Health, Charles G. Power, himself a decorated veteran. Also in attendance was Sir Robert Borden, the
wartime prime minister and French President Albert Le Brun.
Most of the speeches, including those of the King, the French president, and the Canadian ministers and religious officials, expressed the need for peace and reconciliation, a call made especially urgent against the backdrop of mounting European tensions.
Allward himself noted that the magnificent monument “gives something beautiful to France, is worthy of the men who gave their lives for it, and, as a protest in a quiet way against the futility of war, makes men regret that humanity has to go to war.”