Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 13 August 2018

Today in Belgium, our 2018 BVP recipients visited Langemark German Cemetery and John McCrae’s Dressing station where Gordon and Cassandre read the well-known poem In Flanders Fields. Later, the students visited the In Flanders Fields Museum, located in the Cloth Hall and climbed the 231 steps to the Cloth Tower to see the magnificent views across the Ypres region. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).

The first site that we visited today upon our arrival in Belgium was the German Military Cemetery “Friedhof Langemark.“ As I entered the cemetery proper, I was struck by the number of names carved into the stone walls in every available opening. What I found most interesting about this site was how each headstone had about six names on it, which was out of necessity as the Germans often had to use mass graves.

Essex Farm was the hardest for me. Such a site feels akin to receiving a crushing embrace… with each inhale there is more pain and soon after tears spring to the eyes. The entire site felt so soft, loving and personal that my emotions showed more expression than my words ever could.

Now, both sites were both beautiful and tragic but I feel as though I connected more in Essex because of one grave in particular. There was a boy that served and died in 1916 at the age of 15. This was someone very close in age to me and yet we led drastically different lives. It is boy soldiers like him that really sell the idea of sacrifice to me. For young men to feel the patriotic duty to put their lives on the line makes me thankful to have memorials where I can pay homage to the dead like him.

Hannah Rogers, Kinkora PEI

 

Aujourd’hui j’ai finalement eu la chance de voir les vrais champs de bataille de la Première Guerre Mondiale, en Belgique. C’est une chose de lire sur les batailles, mais c’est une expérience complètement différente de voir les mêmes endroits et reliefs où les soldats ont combattu. Malgré cela, c’est encore très loin des vrais expériences, car nous sommes ici en temps de paix. Nous avons visité Langemark, un cimetière allemand, et Essex Farm, un cimetière commonwealth. Les deux sont en Belgique, ce qui est très symbolique, car cela représente le respet des soldats sacrifiés des deux côtés. Langemark garde la mémoire des soldats allemands morts durant les batailles de Ypres, surnommé le « Studenteschlafe » car la majorité des soldats morts étaient des étudiants. Cela démontre la vraie tragédie de la guerre : environ 40,000 jeunes allemands avec des futurs remplis de promesses. J`ai été frappé, à Langemark, par l`enterrement de deux soldats anglais. Je crois que c’est merveilleux que Langemark montre ce respect pour tous les soldats sacrifiés, peu importe leur nationalité. Une question que j`aimerais partager est s`il serait mieux pour les deux anglais enterrés à Langemark d’être plutôt enterrés à Essex Farm?

Standford Lee, Beaconsfield QC