Last Friday soldiers from the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (2 PPCLI) commemorated a century of PPCLI service to Canada, exactly 100 years to the day after the Battle of Frezenberg.
Having fought throughout the Second Battle of Ypres the PPCLI made their stand at Frezenberg, Belgium on May 8, 1915. They held the line but at the terrible cost of losing most of The Originals, the soldiers who first signed up when the regiment was raised.
“The Battle of Frezenberg forged the regiment as a combat effective force. Despite great losses, the soldiers fought bravely that day as they found themselves holding the line. Today’s soldiers of the PPCLI carry on this distinguished legacy and they, like those who fought before them, are strong, proud, and ready for another century of service,” said Lieutenant-General Marquis Hainse, commander, Canadian Army.
Although the line was held when the battle ended at 3 p.m., it was at the terrible cost of 392 killed, wounded and missing. The Battle of Frezenberg resulted in the awarding of a battle honour (Frezenberg) which is commemorated annually by the PPCLI.
The Battle of Frezenberg service memorialized Canada’s participation with a re-dedication of a refurbished memorial, including the addition of a new centennial plaque and a Freedom of the City Parade in Ypres.
During the parade, members of 2 PPCLI moved on foot, with bayonets fixed, throughout the city and eventually arrived at the Menin Gate for a service to recognize the fallen.
“The Frezenberg Commemoration marks the final chapter in the PPCLI centennial celebrations, renewing allied relationships forged in the First World War. The refurbished memorial pays tribute to the service and sacrifice of the PPCLI Originals who held firm at Bellewaerde Ridge on 8 May 1915 and counted not the cost. Current soldiers of the Regiment are privileged to retrace the symbolic steps of our forefathers as we embark on another hundred years of service to Canada,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Bob Ritchie, commanding officer, 2nd Battalion, PPCLI.
The formation of the PPCLI began a century ago with volunteers travelling from Canada to Europe to fight in the First World War as a newly-minted regiment. The PPCLI adopted the name of Princess Patricia, the daughter of the Duke of Connaught, then Governor General of Canada. The regiment was privately raised by Andrew Hamilton Gault, a British-Canadian businessman, and Canadian army officer.
The Canadian and Belgian Armies have a tradition of bi-lateral co-operation. Most recently they served together in Afghanistan where they worked to improve security and promoted governance and development in both Kandahar and Kabul.
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**photo curtesy of Combat Camera , MCpl Louis Brunet, Canadian Army Public Affairs, 3rd Can Div HQ