Special passport issued by Canada for the 1936 Vimy pilgrimage

Special passport issued by Canada for the 1936 Vimy pilgrimage

During a research I stumbled over this unusual Canadian passport, which I never hear of before, but the story behind this special passport is of national significance. The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is a memorial to all Canadians who served their country in battle during the the Great War of 1914-1918. 60,000 Canadians were killed. Over 11,000 of those killed died in France but they have no known grave. The Canadian National Vimy Memorial bears the inscribed names of 11,168 missing Canadians, killed in action in France but whose remains have not been found or identified.

Dedication Ceremony, July 1936 – Pilgrims from Canada
The Government of Canada issued over 6,000 free Special Vimy Passports. These passports were provided for people who wanted to make the pilgrimage to France for the unveiling ceremony of the Vimy Memorial and visits to other sites of Canadian sacrifice. Over 6,000 pilgrims set sail for France on five ocean-going steamships, leaving the port of Montreal in Canada on 16 July 1936. The five ships were the S.S. Montrose, S.S. Montcalm, S.S. Antonia, S.S. Ascania and S.S. Duchess of Bedford. The S.S. Montrose also carried 300 wreaths to be laid at Canadian sites on the 1914-1918 Western Front battlefields during the pilgrimage visit. Over 1,000 Canadians also traveled from England.

Special passport issued by Canada for the 1936 Vimy pilgrimage

Special passport issued by Canada for the 1936 Vimy pilgrimage. About 6000 passports were issued.

The date of the dedication and unveiling ceremony was 26 July 1936. There was a huge crowd of approximately 100,000 people present at the ceremony. Many thousands of them were of Canadian, British and French ex-Servicemen. About 8,000 Canadian Veterans had traveled there from Canada. There were family members of the surviving Veterans and their comrades who had been killed, widows and mothers, dignitaries and royalty. There were also 50 children from the five French communes which had donated the land as a gift to Canada, and another 200 children from Arras.

The memorial was unveiled by King Edward VIII as King of Canada. As Prince of Wales before he was crowned king, Edward had been on the Staff of the Canadian Corps in France during the war. The President of France, Monsieur Albert Lebrun was present to participate in the official unveiling. During the ceremony King Edward pulled a cord to release the Union Flag (Union Jack) which was covering the statue of “Mother Canada” on the northern wall of the memorial.

In 1996 the Vimy Memorial and the battlefield site surrounding it was established as a National Historic Site of Canada. There are over 950 National Historic Sites of Canada. All but two of the sites are located in Canada and the two sites located outside Canada are the Canadian Nationa Vimy Memorial and the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial on the Somme battlefield (see Related Links below). The site is maintained by Veteran Affairs Canada.

Learn more about this historical site…


Special passport issued by Canada for the 1936 Vimy pilgrimage

2 comments for “Special passport issued by Canada for the 1936 Vimy pilgrimage

  1. Brian Turner
    13 July, 2018 at 14:37

    Fascinating article Tom – most interesting!

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