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A candlelight ceremony at Legion branch in Lower Mainland to remember the fallen on Vimy Ridge anniversary

Sunday event in Aldergrove expected to become annual tradition
A candlelight vigil at the Royal Canadian Legion Aldergrove branch on Sunday, April 6, will honour the memory of Robert Hazelette Simonds (left), a Langley soldier who died at Vimy Ridge, one of 120 names on the cenotaph (right). (Veterans Affairs Canada/Langley Advance Times files)

Lieutenant Robert Hazelette Simonds’ luck ran out on April 9, 1917.

At 20, the native of Murrayville, who went by his high school nickname of “Hazy” had survived many battles of the First World War as a member of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, all without a scratch.

A local newspaper report of his death said Simonds’ friends were convinced his “lucky star” would bring him home again.

“HIS ‘LUCKY STAR’ FAILED AT LAST,” the headline read.

Simonds fell on Easter Monday at Vimy Ridge, when the first wave of Canadian soldiers attacked German lines to begin a bloody battle that would see the Canadian Corps win, at the cost of 10,600 casualties, nearly 3,600 of which were fatal.

It was two years to the day from when the athletic Simonds, described in the article as ”highly proficient in baseball and basketball,” joined up at the age of 18.

He was laid to rest in La Chaudiere cemetery in Pas de Calais, France, on the northwest outskirts of Vimy.

One hundred and seven years later, in Aldergrove this coming Sunday, April 7, at 4 p.m. the Royal Canadian Legion branch will remember Simonds during a candlelight ceremony at the cenotaph, at 26607 Fraser Hwy., to mark the anniversary of Vimy Ridge and to honour the 120 soldiers whose names are listed on the memorial – Simonds included.

Organizer Shaun Francis expects the event will become an annual tradition for the branch, which compiled the list of names last year.

READ ALSO: Remembering their names

“This will hopefully evolve into an annual event [on] the Sunday before the 9th of April, which is the actual battle date of Vimy,” Francis told the Langley Advance Times.

“We’ll be reading their names out,” Francis explained.

“And for me, for remembrance, if you say the person’s name, they’re never forgotten.”

A 103-year-old Second World War veteran from Langley, Harold “Bud” Freeston, is expected to place the first candle, with one of the youngest cadets.

Freeston, a Walnut Grove resident, was a member of the Black Watch, formally known as the Royal Highland Regiment of Canada, who fought some of the bloodiest battles of the war, in northern France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

  READ ALSO: Langley’s Normandy veteran turns 100

“The best viewing will be sort of later in the evening as the light dims and the candles are flickering,” Francis anticipated.

“It looks really nice. So if anybody’s travelling up and down the Fraser Highway, they’ll see it.”

Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Best recognized for my resemblance to St. Nick, I’m the guy you’ll often see out at community events and happenings around town.
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