100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge
Written On March 30, 2017
One of our team members has a personal connection to the upcoming 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Frank Edgar Hamblin (1897-1988) served in the First World War and fought that day on Vimy Ridge; he is the grandfather of Erika’s husband, Drew. While many veterans of his grandfather’s generation were famously reticent to talk about their wartime experiences even to their own family members and often took their tales with them to the grave, Frank Hamblin opened up to his young grandson.
“I’m one of the few people living who have heard a first-hand account of World War One and of Vimy in particular,” says Hamblin. “My grandfather and I would talk all the time, at my parents’ house or my grandparents’ apartment – we connected. I was unrelenting in asking him questions. And he would open up to me, maybe because, as a little kid, I would listen to him without any judgment.”
The elder Hamblin was born in England in 1897, the youngest of four children whose parents were both dead by the time he was nine years old. Taken into the care of the Barnardo organization that helped orphans and homeless children, Frank was separated from his two brothers and sister, shipped to Canada in 1911, and ended up on a potato farm in rural New Brunswick.
He enlisted as soon as he could, in 1915, shipped out to England for training on June 28, 1916, and made it to France on November 29, 1916, just as the preparations for the spring offensive that included the Battle of Vimy Ridge were getting underway.
“He told me he once saw the Red Baron flying overhead,” says Hamblin of his grandfather. “He talked about the maze of trenches and tunnels all along the Canadian front, and living in those muddy, filthy, rat-infested and lice-infested trenches week after week throughout the record cold winter of 1916-17. And he talked about the incredible noise of the artillery bombardment that marked the opening of the battle at dawn on April 9th. No one had ever heard or felt anything like that before in history.”
Erika and Drew are attending the ceremonies at the Vimy memorial in France on April 9th with their two kids. We will have a follow up blog post with a recap of the trip and Drew’s thoughts on everything he experienced there. You can read the original story on the Leaside Life news page here.
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