Remembering a soldier of the Great War

By Surrey and Hants News in Local People

A series of events to commemorate a First World War Canadian soldier who trained at Milford camp is set to take place next week.

The event, organised by the Odyssée de la Culture Association from Lens, France, will honour Private John Arsenault, a Canadian soldier in the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders) Canadian Infantry.

John was trained at Witley Camp during 1916 and 1917 and killed at Vimy Ridge in April 1917.

The group will follow John’s footsteps from his home in Nova Scotia through Witley, Folkestone and northern France to Vimy Ridge for the 100th anniversary commemoration of The Battle of Vimy Ridge, which will be attended by the Queen. Two of John’s Canadian relatives will be in the group.

The Odyssée asked Witley Parish Council to co-ordinate the three-day Witley and Milford part of the commemoration.

The main day is March 27th, which will see acts of remembrance and an eight-mile walk arranged by The Ramblers, passing through the site of Witley Camp and Milford Cemetery.

Local businesses and organisations have been invited to take part and help. Those providing support are Secrett’s Farm, The Star, The White Hart, Rodborough School, Innovate Services Limited, King Edward’s School, The National Trust, The Burton Pavilion, Milford Village Hall, The Royal British Legion, Surrey County Council Archaeological Unit, All Saints Church, Witley, and Saint John’s Church, Milford.

There will be an exhibition arranged by the Odyssée on March 27th at Godalming Museum, which is opening from 10am until 4pm especially for the event. On the following day Waverley Mayor Chris Storey will visit the exhibition.

The first act of remembrance will be at All Saints, Witley, at 9.30am on March 27th and will be followed by the walk, which starts at 10am.

John’s battalion, and three other Canadian battalions, left their colours for safekeeping at All Saints when they embarked for France in 1917. The first part of the walk is six miles to The National Trust Witley Centre, arriving around 1.30pm, where there will be a one-hour break for lunch. After lunch, the walk continues to Milford Cemetery where there will be another act of remembrance at around 3pm, arranged by St. John’s Church, Milford, in the war graves section, with pupils from Rodborough School attending. The walkers will leave Milford at around 3.30pm and return to All Saints, arriving at around 5pm.

Local people are welcome to join the services and the walk. Walkers should wear appropriate clothing and footwear and take their own packed lunch.