Alberta Politics

Edmond Croteau and the Battle of Vimy Ridge

This week we mark 100 years since the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Canadian soldiers played a defining role the famous First World War battle, which took place from April 9 to 12, 1917, by taking the ridge at great cost from the German Imperial Army. More than 3,500 Canadians were killed at the battle, which has become part of our country’s patriotic narrative as a defining moment in our nation’s history.

My great grand uncle, Private Edmond Croteau (photo above), fought in and died from wounds received in the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Born in Saint-Sylvestre in October 1880, he left Quebec as a young man and traveled west to the Yukon during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush. When the gold rush died out, he moved south, settling in Maillardville, which is part of present-day Coquitlam. He enlisted in the Canadian Army in New Westminster in June 1915. He initially served with the 104th Regiment Westminster Fusiliers of Canada and later with the 47th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, who he served with at Vimy Ridge.

Private Edmond Croteau was seriously wounded on April 11, 1917, during the successful attempt by Canadian forces to take Hill 120 (also known as The Pimple), a fortified point at the northernmost point of Vimy Ridge. He died on April 14, 1917 at the No. 6 Casualty Clearing Station. He was 36 years old.

He was buried at the Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France.

Edmond Croteau's headstone at the Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France.
Edmond Croteau’s headstone at the Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France.
Alberta Politics

France honours Canadian D-Day veteran

Lancaster Bomber. Photo © SNappa2006, via flickr Creative Commons
Lancaster Bomber. Photo © SNappa2006, via flickr Creative Commons

Having a large extended family with deep roots in Canada means I have heard many stories about my family’s history, including many tales of those who fought for King and Country overseas.

My great-great-uncle Charles Moreau served in the Lord Strathcona’s Horse during the First World War and another great-great uncle fought at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Both my grandfathers served in the Second World War and returned to raise large families. More recently, my father-in-law served with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.

My great-uncle, Marcel Croteau, 91, is a Second World War veteran of the Royal Canadian Airforce. As a rear-gunner, he flew 39 bomber missions during the war and in 1944 was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal by King George VI. This past weekend he was honoured by the French Republic by being inducted as a knight in France’s Order of the Legion of Honour.

My first cousin once-removed, Monique Keiran, wrote this column in the Victoria Times-Colonist to honour her uncle’s role in WWII:

More than 70 years ago, Marcel Croteau, a veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 425 Alouettes Squadron and my uncle, was flying nightly bombing raids over France.

Because of his role in those long-ago missions, Croteau is being inducted as a knight (chevalier) in France’s Order of the Legion of Honour today. It is the highest honour the French government confers.

It is one of many ceremonies taking place this year in which the French government is paying tribute to Canadian veterans who participated in the 1944 D-Day invasion to liberate France from Nazi Germany.

This event is taking place in Sechelt, where 91-year-old Croteau, a former Victoria-area resident, now lives.

The smiles and congratulations of the 100 friends and family who will gather today will provide a marked contrast to the nighttime tensions experienced during the D-Day-related raids.

Read the rest of Monique’s column here.

It is an honour to know about my family’s history and the role they played in these major world events. Canada is the peaceful country it is today because of the selfless and brave actions of the men and women who stepped up when needed.

As we approach the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, it is more important than ever to recognize and remember the sacrifices paid by our elder generations.