Canada commemorates the centenary of the Vimy WWI battle

The War Museum also opened its doors to the public Sunday for a free visit and a live stream viewing of the sister ceremony at the Canadian National Vimy Monument in France.

The battle would last four days, and more than 10,600 Canadian soldiers would be wounded or killed. It marked the first time in history that four Canadian divisions were led into battle together and commanded by Canadians.

Sunday's ceremony at the downtown cenotaph was one of hundreds held throughout the country.

Kamloops Mountain Rangers Regiment Lieutenant-Colonel Normand Dionne and retired Canadian Armed Forces soldier George Dursch recounted the events of the three-day battle and spoke of the sacrifices Canadian soldiers made to make Canada the free and democratic society it is today.

Hundreds of York Region students will join an expected 12,000 from across the country getting an education of a lifetime during centennial celebrations of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France today.

CP put the resources of its entire globe-spanning freight and travel system at the disposal of the British Empire and allies at the outset of the war, contributing not only tracks and trains, but its ships, yards, shops, hotels, telegraph lines and - above all else - its people.

Charles, the heir to the throne, said the Canadians succeeded where other armies had failed in seizing the high ground at Vimy.

The commemorative ceremony at Vimy is being billed as a chance to mark what has come to be regarded as a seminal moment in Canada's history.

The battle and victory have become an important part of Canada's identity, symbolizing the shift from a former British colony to an independent nation.

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Veterans Affairs Canada organized an evening of remembrance at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

"On this day a century ago, after months of careful planning and surveillance, through considerable innovations in tactics and technology, and after remarkable determination and courage, the Canadian Corps took Vimy Ridge", he said.

Men from all backgrounds and places, but all of them proudly wearing the "Canada" shoulder badge that separated them from the millions of other soldiers on the Western Front.

"As we honour such great bravery and sacrifice, we should honour the courageous men and women of the Canadian Forces, who risk their lives to carry on this proud tradition of service - and keep us all safe". "Let's renew our commitment to remember their heroism in the face of suffering and fear".

The government of Canada is hosted the ceremony, which will speeches from officials and performances by famous Canadian artists, including singer Loreena McKennitt.

Starting the commemorations earlier on Sunday, Trudeau and Hollande laid the final red metal discs to form a giant poppy in the central square of the town of Arras, called Heroes' Square.

The centre of the poppy is formed by a newly-unveiled sculpture of pairs of soldiers' feet by New Zealand artist Helen Pollock.

"Many historians and writers consider the Canadian victory at Vimy a defining moment for Canada, when the country emerged from under the shadow of Britain and felt capable of greatness", he said.

To protect soldiers from shelling, they built miles of tunnels one of the war's great engineering feats allowing troops to pop up quickly into their positions.