100th anniversary of the bloody battle of Passchendaele marked in Belgium

This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War -- Passchendaele.

The battle between July and November 1917 is known for its shocking loss of life -- a half million soldiers on all sides -- as well as the horrific conditions soldiers endured on the muddy barbed-wire strewn fields.

Victoria MP Murray Rankin is among a Canadian delegation of military, families, Indigenous representatives, and dignitaries in Belgium to take part in services.  He relates a particularly moving moment in the ceremony:

" The 2016 Silver Cross mom is Colleen Fitzgerald of Prince George. She lost a son in Afghanistan.  And what they did was they read a letter, of a mother and her son who died in the Passchendaele battle. They had the correspondence both ways. And then at the end of that Royal Van Doos 22nd Regiment from Quebec, played the Leonard Cohen Hallelujah song. And it was an overcast day, it was misty, and I don't think there was a dry eye anywhere."

The battle of Passchendaele was critical in preventing German forces from sweeping through Belgium, and invading France from the north.

It was a final offensive from Canadian forces that successfully cleared the enemy from the eastern Ridge leading to the end of the campaign.

Rankin says a century later the sacrifices of Canadians still resonate with Belgians who show up in large numbers to memorial events.


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