The Sault’s Kale Broadhagen, who serves in the 49th Field Artillery Regiment with the rank of bombardier, was chosen to be the local military representative among a contingent of Canadian Armed Forces troops currently in Europe to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
Sunday, Nov. 11, will be Remembrance Day, with a special focus on Nov. 11, 1918, the day on which an armistice marked the end of hostilities in one of the most horrific wars in history.
Canadian military representatives and political leaders were invited by Europeans to visit the continent this November in appreciation of Canada’s role in the war.
“There is one soldier from various units across Canada, representing every province and territory. There are over 200 Canadian troops here. I’m definitely proud my unit sent me over,” Broadhagen said, speaking to SooToday from Belgium in a telephone interview Friday.
Broadhagen and his comrades will take part in a series of Canadian military parades to be held in and around the Belgian city of Mons, liberated from German occupation by Canadian forces in the First World War.
“Most of the parades are specifically geared toward the last 100 days of the war, in which Canada played an integral part. At the time, a lot of the troops from England and France were spent, and Canada still had four good divisions (for the final push against the enemy). Those last 100 days are very important in Canadian history,” Broadhagen said.
Broadhagen arrived in Europe Nov. 1.
“There’s a really cool outpouring of respect from the people here.
“When we pulled into Mons, we saw the town square called La Grand-Place, and there were Canadian flags there; Canadian flags were hanging from the balconies,” Broadhagen said.
Broadhagen said the military’s first of five parades was scheduled for Friday, with a meet-and-greet with the town’s civilian population to follow.
“They’ve brewed a special beer for Canadians, and we’re going to have some wine and cheese as well. Things like that are planned until the big parade in La Grand-Place in Mons on Nov. 11. It’ll be huge. The majority of the town will be there. It’ll be pretty big.”
There will be two more parades Saturday, and another two on Sunday.
The parades will be held at several locations, including the Mons cemetery.
The Canadian troops will also attend an official unveiling of a memorial for George Price, the last Canadian soldier to die in the First World War, south of Mons, only minutes before the Armistice ending the war was signed at 11 a.m., Nov. 11, 1918.
Governor General Julie Payette will attend the unveiling ceremony and inspect the troops, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend Remembrance Day ceremonies in Paris after visiting Vimy Ridge. Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan will attend Remembrance Day ceremonies on Trudeau’s behalf at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
Broadhagen has visited the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France during his current trip overseas.
“The Vimy Memorial is beautiful. It’s massive. It’s really impressive,” Broadhagen said.
“A lot of the area where the old trenches were are roped off to the public, but we were allowed to go in with a Canadian historian. We actually walked the trenches up the line, the same route different Canadian platoons and divisions were in the war.
“From a military standpoint, I looked at it and thought, ‘What an absolute slaughterhouse.’ There’s no way I could’ve assaulted this considering the way the Germans were positioned at Vimy and how they had their defences set up. It’s amazing Canadians took Vimy Ridge,” Broadhagen said.
The Canadian Armed Forces Facebook page, Broadhagen said, will stream Remembrance Day ceremonies for people to view Sunday.