Thousands of Canadian students, some whose ancestors fought in the First World War, gathered in France Sunday to pay tribute to the soldiers who died in the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

On the battle's 100th anniversary, the students wanted to forge their own connections to the historic battle and the sacrifice made by the victims.

"It's just incredible, like how boys my age would have such a nationalistic feeling in order to sacrifice their lives just for my own freedom," said 15-year-old Jake Morris, a Vimy Foundation scholar.

The Vimy Foundation scholarship offers teens aged 15-17 a chance to study the history of Canada, France and the United Kingdom.

Students say the experience of visiting the site hit home how young some of the Vimy victims were.

"Just thinking how some of the soldiers were my age, I just thought it would be a surreal experience," said Ali Klein.

The massive loss of life during the First World War was encapsulated in the poem "In Flanders Fields." Written by Lt.-Col. John McCrae, the poem urged younger generations to remember and honour those who died during the war.

The lesson is particularly poignant among cadets, the youth arm of the Canadian military. Those in attendance say the memorial listing all the names of the Canadians killed in the battle struck a nerve.

"When I saw those names for the first time, I was very amazed. I didn't expect that many names to be on the wall and when you see every single one, they're all significant," said Karen Li, a cadet from Richmond, B.C.

With a report from CTV News' Atlantic Bureau Chief Todd Battis