Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 14 August 2018

Still in the Ypres region, the BVP 2018 group did a biking tour of the Ypres Salient with our wonderful guide Carl. Sights included the Menin Gate, St. Julien Canadian Memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery, the Passchendaele Memorial, and the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Memorial. In the evening, the students attended the Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate where Isabella, Caroline, and Laetetia laid a wreath to commemorate the fallen. (Please note: participants will blog in their language of preference).

Aujourd’hui, nous avons fait un tour des lieux historiques de Belgique en bicyclette. Nous avons eu l’opportunité de visiter plusieurs cimetières et des monuments commémoratifs, dont un à St-Julien et un autre à Passchendaele. Cette expérience a été, à la fois, éducative et divertissante. Le cimetière de Tyne Cot m’a particulièrement marqué par les découvertes faites durant notre visite à cet endroit-là. J’ai appris que certains soldats avaient été enterrés avant la construction du cimetière parce qu’ils étaient morts sur les lieux et comme l’organisation responsable du cimetière ne voulait pas changer leurs localisations dans celui-ci, leurs pierres tombales sont mises dans un ordre non conforme; hors des rangées classiques présentes dans les cimetières classiques. J’ai ressenti que les soldats étaient respectés à leur juste valeur. J’ai aussi été surprise d’apprendre que certains allemands sont enterrés dans le cimetière Tyne Cot en Belgique, à cause de règles qui empêchent le rapatriement dans ce pays européen. Cette découverte m’a poussée à me demander si d’autres personnes ont fait des tentatives similaires et à vouloir en apprendre davantage sur l’opinion des historiens sur la question de rapatriement. J’ai hâte de faire des recherches pour trouver des réponses à mes questions.

Selon moi, notre journée s’est terminée en beauté : nous avons assisté à la cérémonie quotidienne <<Last Post>> commémorant les soldats morts lors de la Première Guerre mondiale à la porte de Menin. J’ai d’ailleurs eu l’honneur de déposer un bouquet de fleurs avec deux autres récipiendaires : Isabella et Caroline. Pour moi, ce fut un moment unique rempli d’émotions qui restera à jamais graver dans ma mémoire.

Laetitia Champenois-Pison, Montreal QC

 

Today has been my favourite day so far. We went on a bike ride and visited many memorials, including Tyne Cot, the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery. There are almost 12,000 graves there, 8,300 of which remain unidentified. Round the outside of the plot, there were the names of 35,000 British and New Zealand soldiers, all of whom have no resting place. This was also where I did my soldier tribute. After spending many hours researching my soldier, it was incredible to finally visit his grave. It was also very moving, and to think that I had just told one of the soldier’s story, but there were millions of others just like him who lost their lives to this terrible war. My soldier was brought up in Edinburgh like myself, very near my house in fact, and went to the same local high school as many of my friends. Unlike my friends and I, however, he went to war, and died. His sacrifice, and the sacrifice of all the other soldiers that fought on both sides of the First World War makes them true heroes, and have my utmost respect.

Gordon Simpson, Edinburgh Scotland

 

Today, we witnessed the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate. It was our second visit to the memorial, and yesterday I presented my soldier tribute. It was almost a turning point for me on this trip because the morning of my presentation we had visited many cemeteries and I hadn’t felt the least bit sad. I felt guilty because my fellow BVP peers had tears in their eyes. I thought that maybe someone else would be more empathetic would get more out of it. However, when I was presenting my soldiers project, everything was fine until I started to pack up my papers and walk away. All of a sudden, I felt my lip quivering and tears form in my eyes. I don’t know why I started to tear up, maybe it was because I was saying goodbye to my soldier, or maybe it was that I had spent so much time preparing my presentation for him and now it was over just like that. I realized that I can get so much from this program and I promised myself that I would make the most of this program by not worrying about how I might react differently to monuments, and taking in this experience in my own personal way. To end this day, I would like to share the poem I wrote for my soldier.

 

I Want You To Know

 

I want you to know,

That Indian Point still extends into the Bay

Waving goodbye to the boats that sail away

The ocean still creeps along the shore

Until the tide is up and there’s no beach anymore

I want you to know,

That the Algonquin Hotel still stands proud,

A shining gem in our small town

I want you to know,

That amidst the town square where children play and laugh

Stands an arch made from stone that we call the cenotaph

John Herbert McMullon, you will never lose your home

Because in the town of Saint Andrews, your name’s written in stone

I want you to know,

You and many others, received an underserving fate

And that’s why I came to honour you, at the Menin Gate

Brooke Reid, St. Andrews NB