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Recalling sleepless nights on Vimy Ridge

Victoria veteran remembers one of Canada’s greatest military victories
Jack Light

When Murray Jack Light’s war friends came for a visit, his son Jack  had an important job to do for the grown ups.

“I got stuck a lot of times with, ‘Sandy, we need another beer!,’” recalled Jack, nicknamed as a kid for his hair colour.

While the children weren’t encouraged to join in the recollections of the First World War, Jack said the vets ribbed each other a fair bit, about chasing French girls, and other silliness.

“The guys used to get together (and kid) ‘You son of a gun could outrun a god-damn bullet when you got scared,” said Jack, 88, from his apartment in Fairfield. “It was a lot easier to laugh about it in the 1930s than it was in 1917.”

When the men left, however, Jack’s dad couldn’t  sleep the night.

“Too many remembrances came flooding back … I used to sit with him now and again, and my mother sat with him many nights.”

Veterans from the Lord Strathcona Horse Regiment would get together two or three times a year, for special days.

“And April 9 is a special day,” said Jack.

On this day, Canadians commemorate Vimy Day, marking the anniversary of the capture of Vimy Ridge in northern France in 1917. It was the first time all four Canadian divisions battled together as a corps.

Murray Jack’s regiment had spent two months training with their horses for the battle.

“When the day came, Easter Sunday, the Lord Strathcona was supposed to be the first charge. The artillery was firing behind them, over their heads … but the German artillery was firing down on them,” Jack recounted.

“A lot of their horses were shot from underneath the boys … They grabbed a rifle and all the ammunition they could carry and ran up the fill as far as they could.”

Where the British and French had failed before, the Canadians “were just bound determined they were going to take it and they did.”

“The capture of Vimy Ridge was the last serious battle of World War One  and to a large extent it was the end of World War One,” Jack said, a Second Wold War vet who has spent many years presenting to schools and other groups about the wars.

While Nov. 11 is well recognized, the Canadian’s role at Vimy Ridge is not, he added.

It also helped pave the way for Canadian soldiers to fight as a national army in the Second World War.

Today, a 100-hectare Vimy Memorial sits on the highest part of the ridge in France, granted to the people of Canada.

It has 11,285 trees and shrubs, representing the number of people who died but have no known grave.