According to the curator with the Aurora Hysterical Society:
“There is a lot of debate about Vimy amongst historians on whether or not the Battle was significant or if we have over-glorified it. At the time, I don’t think it was seen as this nation-defining moment we see now.”
Canada’s 8th Prime Minister Robert Borden, in London at the time, would disagree. He wrote in his diary:
“All newspapers ringing with praise of Canadians. The New York Times declared that the battle would be in Canada’s history . . . a day of glory to furnish inspiration to her sons for generations.
The New York Tribune declared in an editorial:
“Well done, Canada. No praise of the Canadian achievement can be excessive.”
Inconvenient truths like this make me wonder what other pieces of history the Aurora Historical Society are willing to dismiss.
“Vimy was more than a battle. It is a symbol of the coming of age of Canada as a nation, a nation which was brought to birth in emotion and feeling, and in a unity steeped in blood. May we always keep that feeling of togetherness and unity in this country.”
The context of Pearson’s perspective isn’t important due to the fact he was a Nobel prize winner, or that his Liberal minority governments introduced universal health care, student loans, the Canada Pension Plan, the Order of Canada, and the Maple Leaf flag, or that he once outdrank Kruschev
Pearson’s nickname “Mike” goes back to the First World War where he volunteered as a medical orderly when the First World War began in 1914. He went overseas in 1915 and served as a stretcher bearer with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. He served in Egypt and Greece and even spent some time with the Serbian Army. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1917.
Pearson’s perspective on Vimy is important because no Prime Minister served in the army as long as Pearson. As undistinguished and obscure as Pearson saw his service, it definitely shaped him as pointed out in Andrew Cohen’s book:
Yet in all the debating over the significance of Vimy as a nation-defining moment from the brain trust of the Historical Society there is no mention of Lester B Pearson.
Curious considering he is directly connected to the Town of Aurora.
Alas, if history isn’t going to be told by The Aurora Historical Society at least there are others that are suiting up for the task. Chris Sagan and Jason Lapidus have featured “Mike” as one of their Group of 7 in a comic they have developed about the “defining moment in Canadian history”.
It is certain to connect with younger audiences, a great war that others are doomed to loose.