A soldier does not come home

by Lucie Roy

Private Leo Thibault of Cardiff did not survive to see the taking of Vimy Ridge. His last battle was fought at the Somme. The Battle of the Somme raged for four months and ended Nov. 18, 1916.

Thibault was a member of the 51st Battalion Canadian Infantry, formerly the 15th Battalion, who died Mar. 25, 1919 at the age of 21. He is remembered with honour at the Morinville Cemetery and commemorated in perpetuity by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).

Leo Thibault was born May 15, 1896 to Adelard and Caroline Thibault of Cardiff and was a miner at Cardiff. His father Adelard was a carpenter and also joined the First World War Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force and served as a Corporal with the 23rd.

The year 1916 saw both Allies and Germans suffer tremendous loses on the Western Fronts especially at Verdun and on the Somme without breaking the deadlock which trench warfare had imposed on a battlefield extending from the Swiss border to the North Sea.

The year 1917 was to see great changes in the opposing orders of battle. The acquisition of Vimy Ridge, in addition to securing the left flank of the operations to the south would deprive the enemy of a valuable vantage point.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge took place on Apr. 9, 1917. The Canadian Corps, with four divisions in line on a front of four miles, attacked and captured this ridge. It is perhaps the most celebrated Canadian battle of 1914-18.

Easter Sunday found the Canadian Corps augmented to a strength of approximately 170,000, all ranks of whom 97,184 were Canadians, apart from the British 5th Division in corps reserve the non-Canadians were chiefly artillery, engineer and labour units attached for special tasks. The highest summit, known as Hill 145, where the Canadian memorial stands today was at the Northern end.

Local area soldiers who are buried at the Vimy Memorial include John Hugh Kennedy of St. Albert who died on Apr. 9, 1917 at 27 years of age, Clarence Maloney of St. Albert who died on Oct. 8, 1918 at 21 years of age, and Allison Moore Libbey of Redwater who died on Sept. 15, 1916 at 25 years.

Soldier F. Turnaway of Namao is remembered with honour at Ecoivres Military Cemetery in Mont-St. Eloi; Frederick Roberts of Gibbons at Haynecourt British Cemetery; George Howard of Redwater at Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial; Thomas Hay of Namao at Berlin Communal Cemetery Extension; Jean Ferrat of Morinville at Contay British Cemetery, and Juste Coulombe of Gibbons at Halifax Mount Olivet Cemetery.

Vimy Commemorations will be held across Canada Apr. 9.

St Albert will hold an open house with presentations, displays and guest speakers and unveiling of prints from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the St. Albert Legion located at 6 Tache Street.

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