First World War: Okanagan soldiers fought hard at Vimy Ridge - InfoNews

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First World War: Okanagan soldiers fought hard at Vimy Ridge

Canadian machine gun crews at Vimy Ridge.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
April 08, 2019 - 4:00 PM

Walter Harvey Wilson was born in Strathclair, Manitoba in 1893, but he called Kelowna home. When the First World War broke out across Europe, he enlisted on June 8, 1915 in Winnipeg. He joined thousands of Canadians at one of the defining battles of the war: Vimy Ridge.

Wilson was on scout duty during the battle when he was injured by shrapnel and a German bayonet. He was left unattended for a long time and contracted diabetes. He was transported to a hospital in Victoria, where he ultimately died from his injuries 18 months after Vimy Ridge. He was buried at the Victoria Ross Bay Cemetery, far from home like many fallen soldiers.

Wilson sacrificed everything for his country, and he wasn't the only Okanagan soldier who leapt into the fray. The Battle of Vimy Ridge from April 9 to April 12, 1917, is a landmark in Canadian military history, one often cited as a watershed moment for the country. Many Okanagan soldiers distinguished themselves at this battle, risking life and limb over four days of gruelling combat.

Dozens of soldiers hailing from the Okanagan are listed in military records as present during the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Soldiers from Penticton, Summerland, Kelowna, Vernon, Enderby and Armstrong filled the ranks of multiple battalions during the battle, doing their best to capture Vimy Ridge.

Here are just some of their stories.

Lancelot Ashcroft from Vernon was noted from bravely leading his platoon into battle before being killed by a sniper on April 9.

Roy Greer from Kelowna was discharged from the military after being deemed medically unfit. He had an operation, re-enlisted and fought at Vimy Ridge, dying on April 9, 1917.

Edwin Ibbotson from Armstrong led a successful raiding party and inflicted heavy casualties. Later, he helped rescue several men under intense enemy fire. He was commended for his devotion to duty. He died on April 11, 1917.

Frederick Heather from Kelowna won a Military Cross and a Military Medal for his service. He was killed by a high explosive shell as he was leaving the trenches on April 9, 1917.

Dozens of Okanagan soldiers gave their lives at Vimy Ridge. Their sacrifices, and the sacrifices of other Canadian soldiers, will be remembered on Vimy Ridge Day this Tuesday, April 9, 1917.

— Military records provided by Keith Boehmer, military historian with the Okanagan Military Museum.


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