ELMSDALE: For many of us, the stories of Vimy Ridge feel a lifetime away, as the 100th anniversary of the battle has now come and gone, it has become increasingly important to retell the stories from such a pivotal time in Canadian history. That’s why one Enfield family is working hard to ensure their uncles story is never forgotten, holding a memorial service on May 6 at the Elmsdale Cenotaph to honor the life of Enfield native, Allen McLachlan, a survivor of the battle of Vimy Ridge.

Darrell Ling, brought his great Uncle’s story to The Weekly Press office, along with letters written by McLachlan, to be shared with the community, serving as a reminder of how closely we are all related to this historically significant event.

McLachlan was born in Elmsdale in 1895 to Scottish parents, Donald and Rachael MacLachaln. In 1913, McLachlan, along with his two brothers, Vance and Victor became volunteer militia in the 76th regiment for Colchester, Hants and Pictou. At 19-years-old, in 1915, MacLachlan joined the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force, which took him to Sussex N.B, where he would live in a tent and train for a year with the 64th Battalion before relocating to Halifax for more training at Pier 2.

On March 31, 1916, McLachlan and his battalion left the Halifax Harbour aboard a shipped named Adriatic, arriving in Liverpool by April 9, where they would continue training in England until he was reassigned to the 2nd Battalion, and seperated from his friends he had spent years training with, to be sent to fight in France as a recruit for the Battle of Sommes— one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

Matt Ferguson, a writer and war historian, told Ling’s family that McLachlan, through his participation in the Somme campaign, would have participated in Canada’s first victory at Courcellette, and the Canadians successful attempt at taking control of the Regina Trench, which was at the time, the Germans longest trench.

McLachlan’s letters from the October 1916 attack on the Regina Trench, into early 1917, tell stories from his time spent in the trenches, he describes his location as “somewhere in France”, with conditions of “snow, rain and lots of mud”, his last written letter found by his late relatives was dated March 26, 1917, leading into the battle of Arras, and Canadians efforts to capture Vimy Ridge.

At age 21, McLachlan was declared dead, one day after taking Fresnoy, on May 5, 1917. Ferguson told his late family members it was likely that he died on the way to a dressing station, but was undoubtedly a tough man, who survived Vimy.

“His name is on Vimy Ridge, on the memorial, he survived Vimy, but a couple weeks after he was killed in battle,” said Ling.

“A lot of the family didn’t know him, or they didn’t know much about him because he died at 21, so a lot of the family didn’t know him, all they knew was that he went to war, even his parents, I guess, didn’t know much about him because he was young.

I’ve got his medals and his death pennies, his pictures, and some of them family has dug history up on him but many didn’t know he existed, some family is coming from away for the ceremony, it’s a bit of an educational experience for the family.”

The ceremony in his memory will take place at 1 p.m. at the Elmsdale Legion, on the 100th anniversary of his death and will include a colour guard at the cenotaph followed by a reception.

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Nicole Gnazdowsky
Nicole graduated from Saint Francis Xavier University with a degree in political science in 2014 and University of King’s College with a journalism degree in 2016. She has been with The Weekly Press since May 2016. Nicole grew up in Rothesay N.B. and now lives in Halifax. She loves her dog, Madden, and travelling.