Join us today at 4:00 p.m. for Ask A Historian as we explore the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the connections to Mississauga.

On today’s episode, Justine Lyn interviews Historian Matthew Wilkinson as they delve into the history of World War One, the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the fallen soldiers from Mississauga, and what it was like on the Homefront during the conflict.

April 9, 2022 marks Vimy Ridge Day which commemorates the Battle of Vimy Ridge that took place from April 9, 1917 to April 12, 1917, as part of the Arras Offensive in the First World War.

For the young nation of Canada, it became a symbol of Canadian nationalism.

We invite you to explore Canada’s role in this historic battle and to honour and remember the many Canadian servicepeople who gave their lives in service to their country and the world.

This month is National Poetry Month and so we would like to share the poem Just a Common Soldier (A Soldier Died Today) by A. Lawrence Vaincourt (1987) to reflect on past conflicts, those who have and continue to serve, and in the context of the world today:

He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.

And tho’ sometimes, to his neighbours, his tales became a joke,
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer, for a soldier died today.

He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won’t note his passing, though a soldier died today.

When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land.
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?

A politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.

It’s so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,
That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?

He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier’s part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.

If we can not do him honour while he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.

#ApartTogether we honour those who have served during war, those who have lost their lives during war, and collectively we hope for a future of peace.

Suggested reading:

• For King & Empire: The Canadians at Vimy by Norm Christie (1996)

• The Battle and the Legend by Tim Cook (2017)

• Vimy by Pierre Berton (2001)

• Letters of Agar Adamson, 1914 to 1919 edited by Norm Christie (1997)

You are invited to email us questions you have about Mississauga and we encourage you to send a short (less than 1 minute) MP4 video of your question, which we may feature in one of our “Ask a Historian” videos.

Any questions not featured in our videos will receive a written response from Matthew.

We would also love to feature questions from young Mississauga residents who are curious about their city and will feature a dedicated video to these inquisitive kids.

Send your questions to us at: [email protected]