Both Bob Passmore and Brandon Taschuk have visited the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France. And both will be laying wreaths during the Tribute to Vimy, part of the Okanagan Military Tattoo (OMT) Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, where all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, about 100,000 soldiers, fought together in a battle that changed the course of the war and Canadian history.
“Men who had walked the streets of Vernon fought and died at Vimy,” says Passmore, a longtime Vernonite.
Passmore visited Vimy in 1990 where both his father and maternal grandfather fought.
His 47-year-old grandfather, Ambrose Hatfield, joined the Rocky Mountain Rangers Infantry Unit in Vernon in 1916. At the Battle of Vimy Ridge his battalion followed the infantry building “duckboard” roads so that reinforcements and artillery could move forward. In 1917, he was wounded, buried alive in a shell hole and gassed during the Battle of Hill 70. He returned to Vernon in 1919. After decades of poor health he died of gas asthma in 1936.
Passmore’s dad, George Earnest (Ernie) Passmore joined the army in 1916 in Weyburn, Sask. at age 19. He fought at Vimy with “A” Division, Battalion 5, 1st Division and was one of 400 soldiers who were sent out into “no-man’s-land” the night before battle to lie and wait for the first infantry barrage. At 5:30 a.m., the battle began. Despite massive casualties, the 5th Battalion met its objectives by 9 a.m.
Ernie Passmore fought in the Battles of Hill 70 and Passchendaele where he was severely wounded but returned to action in August 1918 participating in the decisive battles that ended the war. At the battle for Canal du Nord he was awarded the Military Medal for Bravery.
Taschuk earned the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize in 2014 and visited Vimy with 13 other high school students from across Canada. His great-grandfather, Benjamin Wesley Loney, enlisted in 1916 at the age of 16 and fought at Vimy.
“To visit Vimy and see the monument had a huge impact on me,” says Taschuk. “We visited Allied and German cemeteries, including the Bény- sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery where my great grandmother’s cousin, William Melville Loney, is buried.
“But the greatest moment for me was at Passchendaele,” he said.
His group visited this battle site on a rain-soaked day.
“I could feel the moment when my great-grandfather was thrown into a mud hole by an explosion.”
He was rescued and survived.
Passmore and Taschuk will be joined by Harry Pettigrew, a Royal Canadian Legion member, for the Tribute to Vimy.
Pettigrew is a Canadian veteran of more than 30 years who was stationed in Egypt in 1976 as part of a UN Peace Keeping Force. He has worked with soldiers from many countries.
“My military service has made me very proud to be Canadian,” he said. “I’m looking forward to attending another OMT. The Tattoo is exceptional entertainment that inspires and brings back memories.”
For more information about the OMT or to buy tickets: https://okanagantattoo.ca