Beachcomber & The Dieppe Raid
19 August 1942

“Beachcomber is being presented with his PDSA Dickin Medal by Dorothea St. Hill Bourne, Secretary of the PDSA Allied Forces Mascot Club.”
Source: Britain’s People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA).

Our BVP2017 group has officially returned home as of late last night. In the hustle and bustle of the program, we had to skip a few regular social media posts that have been favourites of our followers, especially #MascotMondays. Consequently, in honour of our #BVP2017 group returning home and the 75th Anniversary of the Dieppe Raid last Saturday, we are sharing the brief story of an animal that returned home as well, and received a medal for it.

In the early hours of 19 August 1942, from the beaches of Dieppe, Canadian forces released the carrier pigeon Beachcomber“, who was entrusted with the delivery of an important message to England. Taking flight with blazing speed through hazardous conditions, including one of the largest aerial dogfights of the war, Beachcomber safely reached England, informing higher command that the Canadians had landed at Dieppe. In March 1944, the English People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals awarded Beachcomber the Dickin Medal, (awarded to animals who displayed conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in military service).  

Beachcomber remains the only Canadian pigeon, and one of only three Canadian service animals, to be awarded the Dickin Medal.   

The PDSA Dickin Medal
© IWM (EPH 3546)

The official citation reads: 

Pigeon – NPS.41.NS.4230 
Date of Award: 6 March 1944 

 “For bringing the first news to this country of the landing at Dieppe, under hazardous conditions in September, 1942, while serving with the Canadian Army.”  

For more information on the Dickin Medal and the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, visit https://www.pdsa.org.uk/what-we-do/animal-honours/the-dickin-medal   

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 21 August 2017

Saying our goodbyes, including Franky, our trusty bus driver the last two weeks!
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.

After 13 informative and incredible days, our BVP2017 students said their goodbyes and departed for home early this morning. Paul was seen off at the metro for his return to Boulogne and Lala was accompanied to the Gare-du-Nord for her homebound train to Sutton. The Canadian participants and chaperones bid their bus driver Franky farewell at Charles De Gaulle airport and boarded their plane to Toronto. The Vimy Foundation would like to thank our chaperone team and everyone who helped to make the 2017 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize program and incredible experience for our 16 newly minted Beaverbrook Vimy Prize alumni. For the last blog entry of BVP2017, we asked our new alumni to describe the program in one word. Here is what they said:

(Please note: the students blog in their language of preference)

Moving

Lala Israfilova, Carshalton, Sutton, United Kingdom

Hors-du-commune

-Paul Toquebouef, Boulogne, France

Life-changing

-Claire Belliveau, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Bridging

-Katy Whitfield, Toronto, Ontario

Inspiring

-Evan Kanter, Toronto, Ontario

Connecting

-Abbey Garrett, Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador

Motivating

-Cecilia Kim, Surrey, British Columbia

Loving

-Maddy Burgess, Bow Island, Alberta

Magical

-Ariadne Douglas, Prince George, British Columbia

Empowering

-Enshia Li, Richmond Hill, Ontario

Thought-provoking

-Hanna Smyth, Richmond, British Columbia 

Enlightening

-David Alexander, Pointe-Claire, Quebec

Real

-Alisia Pan, North York, Ontario

Educational

-Patricia Kennedy, Fredericton, New Brunswick

Surprising

-Rachel Collishaw, Ottawa, Ontario

Le temps

-Yaman Awad, Anjou, Quebec

Learning

-Thomas Littlewood, Ottawa, Ontario

Significant

-Eric Jose, Oshawa, Ontario

Brilliant

-Cole Oien, Calgary, Alberta

Perspective

-Daniel Schindel, Surrey, British Columbia

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 20 August 2017

BVP2017 at Hôtel national des Invalides, Paris.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Today in Paris, the BVP2017 students toured the Musée the l’Armée at l’Hotel des Invalides and got to see Napoleon’s tomb and spectacular works by art masters on the theme of war. Next, they travelled to Versailles and spent the rest of the day exploring the magnificent palace and gardens and visited the very spot where the Paris Peace Conference was held and the Treaty of Versailles was signed.

(Please note: the students blog in their language of preference)

I sit here on the sidewalk of a busy street, watching the passage of strangers before me. Each one of them have a story, a life worth living. But they are not all strangers, because sitting beside me are the friends and people who are sharing the same experience, the same life-changing opportunity as me. And yet, though we have traveled together, have seen the same memorials and have shared in mourning, we have all been differently impacted by this experience. I myself will never be able to see life in quite the same lens again. My colours of perception have shifted and my horizon has broadened.

I realize now how little I have thought of these soldiers, those men who sacrificed freedom and safe homes so that our future might be a better place. But I fear I am not the only one; sometimes it seems like the whole world is forgetting the importance of remembrance, the importance of standing before a tombstone and paying our respects to those who sleep beneath our feet. For the First World War, our modern world has lost that crucial personal connection that ties lost soldiers to modern families. Today, we look at a grave, we attend a ceremony and, perhaps, we experience a habit; is it  something we do because the generations before us did the same? Do we see the stories, the faces buried beneath?

We must see them, we must look at the past through the eyes of those men, so that we may not forget and repeat the mistakes of the past.

Ariadne Douglas, Prince George, British Columbia

Today we went to Paris’ Hôtel national des Invalides & Musée de l’Armée. It was fascinating to see the tomb of Napoleon and the ways it differed from the other memorials that we had seen throughout the trip. We also had the opportunity to see exhibitions on the First and Second World Wars. These were an opportunity to view both wars from the French perspective, after our many visits to Commonwealth Memorials and Cemeteries. The exhibitions were presented in chronological order, allowing us to follow the progression of one war into the next. Being from a town in the UK that suffered from a number of attacks during the Blitz, it was interesting for me to be able to see am entire section on the Blitz during the Second World War.

-Lala Israfilova, Carshalton, Sutton, United Kingdom

Musée de l’Armée, Paris.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.
BVP 2017 in the Gardens of the Palace of Versailles.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.

20 August 2017
Treaty of Versailles

“President Wilson signing the Peace Treaty in the Hall of Mirrors, Trianon Palace, Versailles, 28 June 1919.”
© IWM (Q 14997)

Today, for the final activities of the 2017 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize program, the participants are visiting the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris as well as the Palace of Versailles. On 28 June 1919, on the fifth anniversary of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, the Treaty of Versailles was signed at the Palace of Versailles. This officially ended the hostilities of the First World War.  

Statues and monuments on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles were sandbagged and sheltered to avoid potential damage from enemy bombardment.
© IWM (Q 78183)
© IWM (Q 69618)

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 19 August 2017

Veteran Robert Spencer and BVP2017 students.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Today is the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. In honour of this momentous occasion the #BVP2017 students attended official commemoration ceremonies and had the privilege of forming part of the honour guard. Earlier in the day they visited the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery, where over 700 of the 916 Canadians who died on August 19, 1942 are buried.

(Please note: the students blog in their language of preference)

BVP2017 students meet the Honourable Minister of Veteran Affairs, Kent Hehr.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.
BVP2017 students with the official Dieppe75 poster.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ceremony at Puys (Blue Beach).
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Il y a un mot en particulier qui me vient en tête pour décrire cette journée : honneur. En effet, après notre réveil assez tôt, nous sommes repartis dans l’autocar avec les anciens combattants et personnes affiliées que nous avions rencontrés la veille. Suite à des brèves discussions, nous avons assisté à la première partie de la cérémonie du 75e de Dieppe. La Fondation Vimy était représentée par trois de nos participants qui ont récité « La promesse de ne pas oublier ».

Dans le même cimetière, j’observais à nouveau les pierres tombales. L’épitaphe qui m’a impressionné était sur la pierre de J. C. Palms, un soldat américain enrôlé dans les forces canadiennes au sein du Essex Scottish Regiment, et lisait : « Il s’est réveillé du rêve qu’est la vie. »

Par la suite, nous avons été invités à joindre la seconde partie de la cérémonie, près de la plage. Une fois arrivés, nous avons rencontré et chaleureusement salué le ministre des Anciens combattants. Deux autres participants ont à nouveau représenté notre fondation et déposé une couronne. Portant l’uniforme rouge, au milieu du bruit des saxophones, des tubas et des cymbales jouant avec ardeur les hymnes nationaux, je sentais les regards se tourner vers moi. Quel honneur !

-Yaman Awad, Anjou, Quebec

 

Veteran Alfred Lonsdale & BVP2017 Students.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.

August 19th, 1942 will always be remembered as the day of the Allied landings at Dieppe. Yesterday, we walked along the same pebble-stoned beaches of those brave men; those who landed, fought, and died, 75 years ago. Today, we saw the graves in which they lie. The cemetery was packed with people from local communities and travellers from abroad who came especially for the commemorative ceremony. Two of us stood at the front of the crowd, alongside a 93 year-old veteran Alfred Lonsdale who saw the beaches of Dieppe from a warship in 1942 and then those at Normandy two years later on D-Day in June 1944. Alfred saluted sharply after I laid a wreath at the foot of the Cross of Sacrifice, indeed, at the feet of the ghosts of Dieppe. That’s who Alfred was saluting.

The night before, we participated in another ceremony. We walked between the rows of gravestones, lit by candlelight, reading the names. What jumped out at me, after visiting so many World War cemeteries, were all the different branches of the army represented. So many airmen, so many signalmen, among all the infantrymen. At the end we had time to plant remembrance crosses and commemorate a soldier of our choosing. I sought out an unknown Royal Air Force airman. My grandfather served in the RAF in the 1960’s, and I planted that cross for him. We will remember them.

-David Alexander, Pointe-Claire, Quebec

Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Today we attended the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. The ceremony was very moving and I felt privileged to be able to participate in this important event. The presentations and acts of remembrance were touching but what had the most profound impact on me were two small boys in the crowd who could not have been more than seven years old. Seeing these two made me realize that remembering the soldiers who died in the World Wars is not enough; we also have to work to keep peace throughout the world so that the horrific conflicts of the past are never repeated.

When I saw these two boys, I thought to myself, “I hope they never have to fight like all the men buried around me had to fight.” All the graveyards I had seen on the program thus far were not only sites of remembrance, but they were also a warning of the cost of war. Throughout the past week and a half, I have seen the impact the two World Wars had on the communities and the people when they were occurring and the impact they still have to this day. Suddenly, everything I had seen became a lesson screaming that we have to preserve peace.

In the First World War, the soldiers fought what they believed was the War to End All Wars – they fought and died for peace. In the Second World War, soldiers fought against the Axis – they fought and died for the freedom of occupied and oppressed peoples. It is not enough for us to remember their sacrifice. We have to work so that their deaths have a lasting impact. We have to work towards peace!

Patricia Kennedy, Fredericton, New Brunswick

Credit: Hanna Smith, Vimy Foundation 2017.

75th Anniversary of the Dieppe Raid
19 August 1942 – 2017

The Atlantic coast takes on a saucer-shaped indentation in front of Dieppe, creating a ring of cliffs from which the Canadians came under fire. In this photo, returning Canadians examine German fortifications at Dieppe in 1944.
Credit: Lieut. Ken Bell / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-134448.

 

“Disembarkation of wounded troops during Operation JUBILEE, the raid on Dieppe.”
Credit: Library and Archives Canada/PA-183773.

Today marks the 75th Anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. On 19 August 1942, 4,963 Canadians led the 6,100-strong raiding force as it landed on 8 separate points of the Atlantic coast. While local successes were achieved by British commandos attacking artillery batteries at neighbouring Varengeville and Berneval, the Canadians struggled to enter the town from the main landing beaches. Only half of the supporting armour from the Calgary Regiment (Tank) made it past the seawall, the rest bogging down or breaking tank treads on the shingle beach. A vicious infantry battle took place within the beachfront casino and surrounding streets, while the remaining tanks, blocked by anti-tank obstacles, provided fire support. By 09:30, just six hours after the first landings, a general withdrawal began. Tanks that had passed the seawall covered the retreat to the beaches. As the tanks pulled back, they too became stuck on the shingle beach. Fighting valiantly, their crews remained in their tanks, serving as immobile gun support. By 14:00, the withdrawal was complete.  

The Canadians suffered 916 fatalities across the three branches of service. Only 2,210 of the 4,963 Canadians, many of whom were wounded, returned to England. Total casualties numbered 3,367, including 1,946 as prisoners of war (POW).  

Two Canadians received the Victoria Cross for their actions that day, as well as a British Commando 

Reverend John W. Foote, VC.
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-501320.

Reverend John W. Foote, VC, of Madoc, Ontario, became the first member of the Canadian Chaplain Services to earn the Victoria Cross. As Chaplain of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, Foote walked up and down the beach, administering aid to the wounded and dying. During the withdrawal, Foote made countless trips bringing the wounded to the evacuation craft arriving at the beach. Finally, at the end, Foote stepped off the last craft out, and rejoined those left stranded on the beach, in order to provide comfort and ministry to the thousands of Canadian POWs. 

Lt.-Col. Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt, VC.
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence, 2017.

Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil Merritt, VC, of Vancouver, British Columbia, led the South Saskatchewan Regiment ashore at Pourville. As the regiment suffered mounting casualties attempting to cross a bridge, Merritt stepped forward and calmly walked numerous parties across through murderous fire. When the order for withdrawal was given, Merritt, though twice wounded, mounted a rear-guard action that enabled many others to escape off the beach. He too became a prisoner of war.

 

The official medal citation for Honourary Captain John Weir Foote, VC.
Credit: The London Gazette, Publication date: 12 February 1946, Supplement: 37466 Page: 941.
The official medal citation for Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil Merritt, VC.
Credit: The London Gazette, Publication date: 2 October 1942, Supplement: 35729, Page: 4323.
The official medal citation for Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil Merritt, VC.
Credit: The London Gazette, Publication date: 2 October 1942, Supplement: 35729, Page: 4324.

 

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 18 August 2017

Abbaye d’Ardennes.
Credit: Hanna Smith, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Today in Dieppe, the BVP2017 students had the honour and privilege of meeting and spending time with veterans of the Second World War. In the evening, they participated in an emotional candlelight vigil on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. The vigil was organized by the Association of War Veterans and Memory and was held at the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery.

(Please note: the students blog in their language of preference)

Credit: Hanna Smith, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Longues-sur-Mer German Battery. Credit: Hanna Smith, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Today we visited Pointe-du-Hoc, a German controlled cliff side taken by American soldiers during the Normandy invasions of the Second World War. I read a plaque as I approached the cliffs that explained how American troops used rope ladders to climb the vast distance from the beach shore to the top of the cliffs. This seems like it would have been an insurmountable feat, as the climbers were simultaneously being shot at by machine guns with a two kilometre range. I stared from a German observation post to the bottom of the cliffs in awe of how the attacking forces were able to overcome this obstacle. The area was fortified by the German army with concrete casemates and gun pits. I had the chance to walk through these structures, and the large concrete and steel walls enveloping me led me to believe that I would have felt relatively safe when the Allies invaded, and I realized how difficult it must have been to overwhelm the Germans within these secure structures. Exploring Pointe-du-Hoc was an invaluable experience for me as I was able to fully comprehend the magnitude of the area’s cliffs and the power and sturdiness of the German defenses mightily taken by attacking allied forces.

Eric Jose, Oshawa, Ontario

 

Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Come dusk, the cemetery was cast with orange light. We stood as a little red-jacketed Canadian congregation, clutching maple leaf flags and crosses of remembrance. At the commemorative vigil for the 75th anniversary of Dieppe, I took in everything: the kilted men with bagpipes, the soldiers, the cadets, the veterans, the story of Robert, an 18-year-old Canadian soldier, who died minutes after he hit the cold waves on the beach – the very beach on which we had trekked just hours before, all holding hands, alive.In a letter home Robert wrote, “Maman, I promise I shall make up for all the pains I’ve caused you.”

So many of us were red-eyed, I myself was unaware I was tearing up as well. Every one of us in our red-jacketed congregation care deeply for peace, freedom, camaraderie, honour, joy. We are not numb to the overwhelming grief of hundreds of thousands dead. We will not roll our eyes and sigh, “you know, war is all for nothing”. We will not numb the courage and valour with which it is possible to live and to protect.

The final procession wound through the cemetery. Upon the gravestones, our shadows flickered like ghosts. Lost boys. I swear they were there.

Enshia Li, Richmond Hill, Ontario

 

Credit: Hanna Smith, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Credit: Hanna Smith, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, Omaha Beach.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, Omaha Beach.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, Omaha Beach.
Credit: Hanna Smith, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Credit: Hanna Smith, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Alisia writing a message on her remembrance cross.
Credit: Hanna Smith, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 17 August 2017

A chance meeting in Arromanches with veterans of the Second World War.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Today in France the BVP2017 students visited the JunoBeachCentre, shared a special moment during their own private ceremony on the Beach, and visited the iconic Canada House. They also saw the Mulberry Harbours at Arromanches and visited the war cemeteries at Beny-sur-Mer and Bayeux. The best part of the day was when the group met veterans of the Second World War, Harry and Len!

(Please note: the students blog in their language of preference)

Juno Beach Centre.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Bonjour à tous, aujourd’hui, nous sommes allés à deux endroits où les forces Alliés ont débarqué le 6 Juin 1944, les plages de Juno et Gold. Nous sommes tout premièrement allés sur la plage de Juno, sur laquelle les Canadiens ont débarqué pour libérer la France et l’Europe. Nous avons tout d’abord participé à une cérémonie émouvante sur la plage. Ensuite, nous avons visité le Centre de Juno Beach qui était très intéressant, notamment une exposition sur la commémoration de Vimy à Juno. C’était très intéressant de voir le débarquement du point de vue Canadien et d’en apprendre plus sur le long et rigoureux entrainement pour faire partie des forces Alliées. Ensuite, nous sommes allés au cimetière Canadien de Bény sur Mer, qui était magnifique. Là-bas, j’ai été très impressionné par deux épitaphes de Canadiens mort le Jour J et dans les jours suivant : « I have fulfilled my duty » et « All you had you gave to save mankind. Yourself you scorned to save your life ».

– Paul Toqueboeuf, Boulogne, France

 

 

 

Bayeaux War Cemetery.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.

As we visit numerous cemeteries throughout the program, we remember the lost, the forgotten and the fallen soldiers who made so many sacrifices during times of war; giving up the safety of their countries and their homes, their families, and ultimately, their lives. To commemorate those brave souls, there are memorials and tombstones erected in their honour. They have been designed with care; every cut in the stone, every engraving carefully planned out and overflowing with meaning. The tombstones found in Commonwealth cemeteries resemble each other at first sight, as they usually bear the name of the soldier, their battalion, regimental number and date of death. However, each one tells a different story. The epitaphs found near the bottom of the tombstones are usually a good way to begin these stories. While visiting different cemeteries, I have collected some of those epitaphs:

“To the world he was just a soldier. To me, he was all the world.”
“Loved. Remembered. Longed for always. Until the day break and the shadows flee away.”
“To live in the hearts of those who love us is never to die at all.”
“There is a link that death will never sever – Love and remembrance last forever.”

I have written the following epitaph as a promise to the Fallen:
“I will keep alight the torch of courage your dying hands passed onto me. Not just today, but every day. In silence we remember.”

-Cecilia Kim, Surrey, British Columbia

Today we went to Juno Beach, the site of the Canadian landings as part of the Normandy invasion on June 6th, 1944. We held a moving ceremony on the beach to commemorate the more than 24,000 Canadian men who fought and the 340 Canadian men who died during D-Day. We recited the poetic words of Cyril Crain:

Cole Oien – Juno Beach.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.

They gave their lives in Normandy
Remember them with pride.
Soldiers, airmen, sailors, airborne and marines
Who in civvy life were tailors and men who worked machines.

We finished the ceremony by writing memorial messages to the dead, in the sand on the beach.
Inside the center were short films about the Juno Beach assault, artifacts from the war, and a special exhibit called “From Vimy to Juno: Remembering Canadians in France.” I was excited to see the work of our chaperone Rachel in this exhibit, which discussed how Canadians fought in France since the Great War, and how Canadian involvement has been commemorated. It was an emotional and gratifying experience to see where “our boys” began the liberation of Europe, seventy-three years ago.

-Evan Kanter, Toronto, Ontario

 

Claire Belliveau – Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 16 August 2017

Notre Dame de Lorette, Ablain St.-Nazaire French Military Cemetery.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Today the BVP2017 students visited the Lens 14-18 Museum, and numerous cemeteries including Cabaret Rouge, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, and Givenchy-en-Gohelle. After spending some time at the incredible Ring of Remembrance, they departed the Arras region and travelled to Bernières-sur-Mer to begin the Second World War portion of the program.

(Please note: the students blog in their language of preference)

Notre Dame de Lorette, Ablain St.-Nazaire French Military Cemetery.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Today the BVP2017 participants were privileged to visit the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette French Cemetery and the Ring of Remembrance. The early hours of the day were very foggy, and the ground was consequently covered with a thick coat of mist. As we entered the cemetery, the thousands of crosses peering out from the layer of fog was a sight I will never forget. It gave the place a feeling of true eternal rest for the more than 40,000 French soldiers buried there. Besides the fog, the sheer number of crosses was shocking. There were thousands upon thousands of crosses in front of me. And then I looked behind me, and there was an equally gigantic number. Behind the central church, I saw even more including the numerous mass graves in the forms of burial pits often holding over 1,000 soldiers. The cemetery was certainly beautiful and it definitely honoured the soldiers well, but I also found that the huge number of graves in front of my very own eyes was nothing but shocking and saddening. Beside the cemetery was the Ring of Remembrance. Its purpose was to list every soldier who fell during the First World War in Northern France alphabetically. There was no order by rank, nationality or allegiance. Only the names of every single man. With nearly 600,000 names listed, the monument actually gave me a feeling of hope and unity, and I ultimately departed feeling very positively moved by it.

Cole Oien, Calgary, Alberta

Private Frederick Joseph Belliveau lived a quiet life; Born and raised in Joggins Mines, Nova Scotia, he became a bookkeeper. His life was peaceful and quiet until the First World War broke out in August 1914. Frederick enlisted with the 42nd battalion in River Herbert, Nova Scotia, on May 29th, 1916 and he was killed in action on April 9th, 1917 during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

I couldn’t comprehend how I could properly commemorate a fallen soldier. What could I say to someone who gave everything for their country? All I can say to Private Frederick Joseph Belliveau is thank you. Thank you for being brave, thank you for fighting for your country, thank you for the risk you took and in the end, thank you for offering the ultimate sacrifice. You gave your today for our tomorrow. That sacrifice, your remembrance and your legacy is ours to hold high and never let die.

Before we parted I left two gifts: The first, a Canadian penny, because a penny is symbolic that I visited the soldiers’ grave. Le deuxième cadeau, un drapeau de l’Acadie; le drapeau de notre patrie. Never did I believe that I would be able to meet Frederick Joseph Belliveau, but I’m so thankful that I was able to. I now know that no matter what happens to us, we’re strong and can get through anything.
Nous sommes toujours Acadie fort.

-Claire Belliveau, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

At the Noyelle-sur-Mer Chinese cemetery, row upon row of CWGC headstones are inscribed with the date of death: 1917. The graves are not for typical soldiers on the Western Front, they are for the Chinese labourers who worked behind the scenes clearing battlefields, digging trenches, and building roads and railways. They struggled with language and were separated from family and home yet they got barely any recognition for their service. From a Western perspective, they died unglamorously, mostly from the Spanish Flu. It’s possible their families never received the news of their deaths. Even if they did, the words would have been incomprehensible, much like how the epitaph is meaningless to the average person visiting these graves. The translations are nowhere near perfect. One of the four different types of inscriptions reads “a noble duty bravely done” when in fact, I would translate 勇往直前 (yong wang zhi qian) as “continued courage and perseverance even in the face of great adversity”. Proper recognition of the contributions and bravery of these men is lacking. They travelled long distances from the ports of Qingdao to the Western battlefields, and it may be an even longer road to reconciliation, recognition, and understanding of a truly global picture of the World Wars.

-Alisia Pan, North York, Ontario

Ring of Remembrance.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Noyelles-sur-Mer Chinese Cemetery.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Noyelles-sur-Mer Chinese Cemetery.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Juno Beach, Normandy, France.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 15 August 2017

Courcelette Canadian Memorial.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Today in France, the BVP2017 participants commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Hill 70. On the occasion, Cecilia gave a presentation on Japanese-Canadian Sergeant Masumi Mitsui who received the Military Medal for bravery, and Maddy gave her presentation on Ukrainian-Canadian Sergeant Filip Konowal who received the Victoria Cross.

(Please note: the students blog in their language of preference)

Canadian Hill 70 Memorial
Credit: Peter Last, The Hill 70 Monument Project

Filip Konowal may have been born in the Ukraine, but everything he had, he gave to Canada. Today, I had the opportunity to visit Hill 70 to commemorate his life, his sacrifice, and his valour. In 1915, Konowal he enlisted with the 77th (Ottawa) Battalion. Once overseas he was transferred to the 47th (British Columbia) Battalion.

Three days before the Battle of Vimy Ridge, he was promoted to acting corporal, successfully leading his men to their objectives. During the fighting at Hill 70 and Lens, Konowal served on a mopping-up party. Even after the quick capture of Hill 70, Konowal grew restless, claiming in a later interview “I was so fed up standing in the trench with water to my waist that I said to hell with it and started after the German army.” Acting alone, Konowal accounted for no less than three enemy machine gun posts, taking them with just his rifle, bayonet, grenades and bare hands. This act earned Filip a Victoria Cross for bravery. Late in the day of 22 August 1917, Konowal was severely wounded by a gunshot wound to the neck and face. He was evacuated, recovered, and even went on to serve with the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force late in the war.

Back in Canada, Filip Konowal’s physical and emotional injuries began to take their toll; he began to suffer hallucinations and in one instance, killed a man while coming to the aid of his friend who was being attacked. Due to his war injuries, which included severe brain trauma, Konowal was found not criminally responsible for the murder and placed in a hospital for treatment. Gradually healing from his wounds, upon release, Filip married a war widow. He wasn’t honored for his service until 1956, when other veterans raised awareness and funds to send Konowal to meet the queen who awarded him with a Branch Merit award. He would later work as the personal caretaker and messenger of the Prime Minister’s office on Parliament Hill. When Filip Konowal passed at the age of 72, his government record was labelled “died in service”, as he devoted himself entirely to our country. I am honored to have been able to commemorate him.

-Madelyn Burgess, Bow Island, Alberta

Enshia and Alisia, Villers Station Cemetery.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.

August 15th, 2017.
On this day 100 years ago, the Canadians attacked Hill 70 and today we visited the site where the battle took place. It was there that I shared the story of Japanese-Canadian soldier Masumi Mitsui. Although he was one of many Japanese soldiers who served during the war, his story applies to many of these brave soldiers. Due to discriminatory recruiting, Japanese-Canadians had a difficult time enlisting when the war broke out; some even travelled to different provinces to enlist.

They were also treated poorly at the front, as other soldiers made racist remarks and doubted their abilities. Additionally, there was a language barrier between the soldiers of different races, which was one of the reasons Mitsui was put in command of the Japanese soldiers from the 10th Battalion as he was fluent in English. Thirty of Mitsui’s thirty-five men lost their lives during the Battle of Hill 70 and all of them showed great courage in the face of danger. It is heartbreaking to know that later, during the Second World War, the veterans and their families, along with 21,000 other Japanese-Canadians were interned. Throughout the years, the Japanese-Canadian soldiers persevered through many different struggles and hardships. These soldiers, though they were not as recognized, also lived, loved and laughed in their homes and in their communities and made the ultimate sacrifice for us. “At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

-Cecilia Kim, Surrey, British Columbia

 

Fauberg d’Amiens Arras Memorial (Flying Services Memorial)
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.

I didn’t want to show tears in front of him because he was such a strong and resilient character; Captain Gordon Budd Irving didn’t fear the war. He occasionally complained about how boring his journey started but more often he wrote to his sister Fern, thanking her for fresh cake in a tin or telling her funny stories about the pals they knew. The worst parts of war never seemed to have gotten to him, the loneliness of being in the Royal Air Force never disconnected him from family and home. Reading the seventy-five letters that he sent home made me realize that he was truly daring and loving – he gave advice to his dad about selling the car and worried if his family would overwork themselves.

When I got to the Arras Flying Services Memorial, it took a while to find his name because subconsciously I wished for his name to be inscribed somewhere reachable, down to earth, just like his personality. But he was near the top of the rectangular column. Looking all the way up, I realized that is where he belonged – against the background of the clear sky that he fought so hard in. There is no longer a need for the Sopwith Dolphin to soar in the sky and Captain Gord is no longer flying in the skies. Never have I ever wished for more beautiful words to flow from my pen, these words just don’t seem enough. I do hope the words I whispered to him at the Memorial were enough to give him a sense of direction back to his school, his home, so that although he was reported missing on the August 11, 1918, he does not feel lost and can find his way home.

-Alisia Pan, North York, Ontario

 

Credit: Thomas Littlewood, Hanna Smyth, Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Credit: Thomas Littlewood, Hanna Smyth, Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Villers Station Cemetery.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Lochnagar Crater.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.