This post is an email from my father. When I visited Vimy Ridge I had no idea our relative John (Jock) MacGregorcommonly known as Uncle Mac fought at Vimy Ridge I knew of his service since high school but never knew he fought in this historic Canadian battle until I returned from my trip abroad.
This weekend marks the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The ridge had long been held by Germany with the Allies trying unsuccessfully to capture the ridge several times. This was the first battle where Canada’s troops were together under Canadian command.
We have a relative who played a key role in winning the battle. He was John (Jock) MacGregor who later married Granny Newman’s (nee Louisa Amelia Nelmes) niece, Ethel Flowers. To the family they were Uncle Mac and Aunt Ethel and lived in Powell River, B. C. Their oldest son, Jim, wrote a book about Uncle Mac’s life titled MacGregor VC.
Sergeant MacGregor was in charge of “C” Company and at 5:30 am on April 9th, 1917 he led them through light snow flurries to the attack. Their objective was an enemy trench line 700 yards away through heavily defended terrain as shown in the pictures. Part way through, they were pinned down by machine gun fire. Sergeant MacGregor told his men to take cover as he went on ahead and singlehandedly took out the machine gun nest, killed the crew and captured the gun. He then led “C” Company to their enemy trench objective. Sergeant MacGregor then fired three white flares that signified their success. They had secured their objective in 30 minutes, a few minutes ahead of time. The opening battle was won – soon followed by Canada taking the ridge.
We visited Vimy last June and I have included some pictures of what it looks like now. It is peaceful, green and eerily beautiful. How they could advance against the well entrenched enemy is beyond me. I checked with an historian there and he confirmed that “C” Company was the first to reach their objective.
Uncle Mac went on to more heroic deeds. He ended up being Canada’s most decorated WW1 foot soldier. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the Military Cross with Bar, and the Victoria Cross (our nation’s highest award).
I have a hard time relating the quiet, soft spoken man I knew with the man revealed in his war record. In fact, I didn’t know much of his war history until I started doing Family History.
Canada’s success at Vimy is often credited with our country coming of age and taking its place as an independent nation. Uncle Mac played an important role in it.
There is much more about him and the battle on the internet and I have a file on him.
The pictures are of the battlefield (seen below), the modern concrete version of one of the trenches, and one of the allies tunnels. Since the ridge battle lines were stable for a couple of years, both sides built tunnels. The tunnel was right where “C” Division prepared to go out and over the top of the trenches.
While I will be watching the ceremonies on TV. I really enjoyed walking around the imposing monument alone in the rain. I was awestruck by it’s beauty in quite contemplation.
Truly amazing what happens when you scratch the surface and look at the history of a community. I was just happy to help get this little gem of a theatre some much deserved recognition and hope it has many more years of opening nights and afternoon matinees.
See Roman I am a lover of quirky info. My curiosity is only second to my love of photography. So when Wikimedia Commons had their photograph a monument drive in September I though hey let’s look around and find what’s available.
There was nothing on the lower Sunshine Coast which is Sechelt, Gibsons and Pender Harbour, but there was in the upper Sunshine Coast ; the historic townsite of Powell River and it had not been photographed for the project for the commons.
Then Joel showed up…
Then Joel showed up. Who is Joel? He is my best friend and the guy who taught me about photography. He just moved back to Sechelt after 6 years in China.
I called Joel and said, “Want to go to photograph old building in Powell River for Wikipedia?”
In more words then less Joel said sure why not… He had not been there in years and we haven’t gone out shooting together in more then 10 years.
We arrived at the Powell River Townsite and parked at the The Old Courthouse Inn had a awesome breakfast at the Edie Rae’s Cafe. We met the owners Kelly Belanger and JP Brosseau who as it turned out were having breakfast right beside us.
What we found through our walking tour was just short of amazing and I barely knew the history of something in my own backyard.
What I really liked about the Townsite of Powell River was how much of the town was in one way or another connected to an architectural ideas presented on 99 Percent Invisible.
1. The floating ships that comprised the breakwater of the mill were originally world war one and world war two era concrete ships reminded me of the Razzle Dazzle (Episode 65). (although not painted as such) These type of concrete ships were made as such for the easy construction although they were heavy and not economical after the war effort to operate.
2. The towns preplanned layout has a number of housing designs for couples, family’s and the single mill worker and yet not a single Cul de Sac (Episode 29) was included in the design.
3. The Hand Painted Signs (Episode 74) of Patricia Theatre and the hand painted utility box covers. You just don’t see that much quality put into a utility box anymore something that Parks Canada noted on his visit and was pointed out to us on our tour of the theatre.
4. As we were walking down the hill from towards the mill. We came across a Secret Staircase ( Episode 75 ). I immediately stopped and said to Joel. I heard of these before. Roman talked about pathways and staircases between properties. This one of course was a shortcut to the paper mill. But it had all the hallmarks of a secret staircase built (I am sure) with the rest of the town in the 1930’s.
Every turn we took we encountered an new building and a new story behind it. The old Bank of Montreal building that is now an art studio called Studio 56.
The most fun we had was at Townsite Brewery which was originally build as the post office and customs house for the community. It has a beautiful brick art deco patterns and because of the brick and steel construction was the perfect location to house a craft brewery. Also they make amazingly well crafted beer.
So… You should really check out the Powell River Historic Townsite if you ever have the chance Roman.
Faithful listen and season 3 support of 99% invisible.
Epilogue: The larger picture
Although I knew Wiki Loves Monuments was happening world wide I never really thought about all the other people uploading photos. I just thought this would be something nice to do in my neck of the woods with a photo buddy I haven’t seen in a very long time. But viewing the stats for the month was impressive.
*Although quantity doesn’t always equal quality in my mind
It was great to participate in such a worldwide altruistic movement. It was also great to enjoy a day in the sun exploring a part of the Sunshine Coast I knew very little about with a friend I hadn’t seen in years!