Vernon man builds back-alley shrine to honour 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge

Andy Wylie and Guy Bailey stand in front of the Vimy Lane memorial on 29 Street in Vernon.

VERNON - A Vernon man has made it his mission to convert the nondescript alley behind his home into a shrine for Vimy Ridge.

Local resident and history buff Andy Wylie calls it Vimy Lane. Flags wave in the wind and maple leafs adorn the fence leading to the main part of the memorial: a large mural of the actual Vimy Ridge monument in France. Lines from the iconic poem In Flanders Field are painted on surrounding walls.

“It was a calling,” Wylie says. “I couldn’t not do it. I knew no one else would.”

The memorial is at 4008 29 Street, in a laneway behind Wylie's house.
The memorial is at 4008 29 Street, in a laneway behind Wylie's house.

It all started in 2014 with a single flag and quickly grew; Wylie had a deadline. With 2017 marking both the 100th anniversary of the battle at Vimy Ridge and Canada’s 150th birthday, he knew the time to unveil Vimy Lane was now.

Located at 4008 29 Street, near W.L. Seaton Secondary in Vernon, Wylie says the monument is the only memorial dedicated to Vimy Ridge in Canada. A Google search for ‘Vimy Ridge memorials in Canada’ shows no others, only the site in France.

“Really what I want to do is create a bit of a landmark,” Wylie says. “Quite frankly, we are in danger of losing our history. It’s on the brink of extinction.”

Wylie hopes to create a memorial using four search lights pointed at the sky to mimic the Vimy Ridge monument in France (replicated in this mural).
Wylie hopes to create a memorial using four search lights pointed at the sky to mimic the Vimy Ridge monument in France (replicated in this mural).

The official memorial unveiling is on Sunday, April 9 which is the 100th anniversary of the battle. The commemoration ceremony will start at 10 a.m. at the Vernon Cenotaph, and proceed with a short walk to Vimy Lane for refreshments, remarks, music and activities.

The project has been enthusiastically embraced by Rocky Mountain Transport — whose warehouse backs onto the memorial — along with Cloverdale Paint, Norval Rental, Sundial Lighting, the Ultimate Social Club and other groups and businesses.

“Andy is the most passionate Canadian you could imagine,” says Guy Bailey, who is helping organize the ceremony.

Wylie’s long term vision is for a permanent monument featuring four search lights pointing upward to mimic the Vimy Ridge memorial in France. He’s hoping the federal government will support the idea and help make it a reality.

“It wouldn’t have to be (on) every day, but Canada Day, Victoria Day,” Wylie says. “Just think; we’re the crossroad between Vancouver and Calgary. People will go, ‘you know, the lights are on on Saturday night, let’s delay a day and stop in Vernon and see the lights’ because it would be just that big of an event.”

Vernon residents will get a taste of what a search light memorial could look like on April 8 and 9. The Allan Brooks Nature Centre has agreed to let Wylie set up two search lights in the shape of a ‘V’ on its property, which is located on a hill overlooking Vernon. Wylie’s Vimy Lane has a perfect view of the hill. The ‘V’ will light up around dusk each evening.

“It will be a ‘V’ for Vimy, and ‘V’ for Vernon,” Wylie says.

Information about the April 9 commemoration event.
Information about the April 9 commemoration event.
Image Credit: Contributed

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