Topic: Vimy Pilgrimage
In July of 1936, approximately 6200 Canadians sailed to Europe aboard five liners of the Canadian Pacific and Cunard steamship lines to participate in the Vimy Pilgrimage. These passengers formed the bulk of the attendance at the unveiling of the Vimy Memorial by King Edward VIII on 26 July, 1936.
Among the Pilgrimage Equipment issued to each traveler was the "Official Medal," also referred to as the "pilgrimage badge" (and all manner of variations of those terms). The July 1936 handbook given to pilgrims stated that:
"In addition to the official beret, haversack, guidebook and pilgrimage badge, each pilgrim will be handed a white celluloid identification button on which his party letter and company number are shown in black."
The Vimy Pilgrimage Badge, designed to resemble a soldier's medal, was further mentioned in a paragraph specific to the wearing of medals during the trip:
"Wearing of medals. When wearing decorations and service medals on ceremonial occasions, there should be worn well up on the left breast. The Company leaders will inform the pilgrims as to the occasions when the wearing of medals is appropriate. The Vimy Pilgrimage Badge or medal may be worn throughout the Pilgrimage. It should be pinned to the right lapel, as shown in the illustration."
Many photos of the Pilgrimage show the Pilgrimage medal being worn. King Edward VIII is among the many who wore it on 26 July 1936 at the unveiling ceremony. His medal was recently acquired by the Canadian War Museum.
In the pages of "Service," the history of the Royal Canadian Legion (by Clifford Bowering, pub. 1960) can be found the following description:
"Before the ceremonies began His Majesty, wearing his Vimy Pilgrimage badge, descended the steps to meet many of the Canadian veterans and their families. To the veterans this was a great moment in their lives. Hundreds crowded around the popular monarch, some to take pictures, some to talk to him, some to shake him by the hand. Eagerly, enthusiastically and obviously happily at ease, King Edward walked among his veteran-subjects, chatting, asking questions. He has a special word for Mrs C.S. Woods of Winnipeg, mother of eleven sons who had fought in the was and of whom five gave their lives. For half an hourthe King met with the veterans and return to the memorial only upon the arrival of President lebrun of France."