By Capt Vincent Bouchard
Public Affairs Officer
5th Area Support Group, Montreal, Que. –Pipe Major (Sergeant) Matt MacIsaac played the bagpipes for the 95th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in Europe from 7 to 11 April, 2012, as part of a group of military personnel providing ceremonial support for Veteran’s Affairs.
To play on the historical site where the Canadian military made the difference 95 years ago had special meaning for him because his great-grandfather played the pipes at Vimy in 1917.
“I feel very fortunate and proud to be the piper for the 95th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge as my great-grandfather John A. ‘Black Jack’ MacDonald played here during the Great War,” said Sgt MacIsaac. “He was a very well known and respected piper and I’m honoured to have followed in his footsteps.”
Pipers also served as stretcher bearers during the battle.
Canadian Forces provided ceremonial support to Veterans Affairs Canada consisting of a military contingent of 105 personnel, which included a 50 member ceremonial guard, a flag party, a vigil party, a 30 member CF band, a padre, piper, bugler, flag bearer, historian, and support personnel.
The CF participated in several events and activities while overseas. The events included a private wreath-laying ceremony in St. Julien (Belgium), a Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial (Belgium), a VAC-led anniversary ceremony at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial and battlefield tours of Vimy Ridge led by a DND/CF historian.
Sgt MacIsaac comes from a family that has played the pipes for at least four generations, and several are actively serving in the RCAF. He is from St. Peters, Nova Scotia and is the Pipe Major of the Pipes & Drums of the Royal Canadian Air Force Band at 17 Wing in Winnipeg. He began to play the pipes at age 10, and joined the military three years ago for the challenge and opportunity to play the pipes in the military as a full time job. Before joining the CF, Sgt MacIsaac spent 8 years on the road as touring musician playing with Natalie MacMaster, the popular fiddle player from Cape Breton, NS.
The pipes are a significant part of the CF musical tradition and have been included in all important commemoration ceremonies. Sgt MacIsaac’s performance on the pipes at Vimy was moving, despite the bad weather conditions, which made the piping even more challenging.