Today, our BVP 2018 recipients participated in a series of commemorative ceremonies for the 76th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. The first ceremony took place at Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery where Rachel and Gordon laid a wreath and Alejandra and John read the Commitment to Remember. The second ceremony took place at Square du Canada where Stanford and Hannah laid a wreath. In the afternoon, the students travelled to Normandy, visited Pegasus Bridge, and participated in a private ceremony at Abbaye d’Ardenne, the site where 20 Canadian soldiers were executed by members of the 12th SS Panzer Division in June 1944. Read the students’ posts by following the link in our bio. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).
Today was another amazing day in Dieppe. This morning, we walked to the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery, where we attended a ceremony marking the 76th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. It made me so proud to head the Canadian anthem sung at the ceremony, honouring the Canadians who fought and died during the raid 76 years ago today. Another activity that particularly resonated with me occurred immediately after the ceremony. The BVP participants were each given the name and story of a soldier buried in the cemetery, and we were asked to find our soldiers’ respective graves. My soldier was Bertram Howard Renfrew Capnerhurst, who—like me—lived in Toronto. After finding his grave, I read the short sheet of information I was given. Bertram, serving in the Essex Scottish Regiment during the Dieppe Raid, was only eighteen years old (one year older than I am) at the time of his death. He came from a military family, his father having served in the First World War, and a newspaper article also indicated that Bertram was hoping to win a Victoria Cross. Upon being informed that his son was missing in action, Bertram’s father, Major Capnerhurst, stated, “If my son is among the dead, those Jerries will pay dearly for his life. I am going back over there as soon as I can.” As I read about Bertram and his family I imagined the grief of receiving the news of Bertram’s death, as well as the circumstances that would inspire his father to go to war not once, but twice. Although I never knew Bertram, I can’t help but feel a kinship towards him. Like me, he was a Toronto teenager. Unlike me, however, he had extraordinary circumstances thrust upon him. He made the ultimate sacrifice, and for that I am truly grateful.
Caroline Tolton, Toronto ON
The courtyard of the Ardenne Abbey is deceptively beautiful, deceptively peaceful. Broad, old trees stand strong, shading the small space from the scorching sun. Bushes of vibrant green leaves coat the ground save for a small path leading up to a larger clearing of grass. It’s a place that I would love to relax in with a good book, had I not known the dark truth of the places past. During the Second World War in June of 1944, this quaint little garden became the site of a terrible atrocity. Twenty men, boys really, taken as Prisoners of War were murdered for no reason at all.
Seeing this picturesque garden and learning about its dark history was heartbreaking. They were so very young, only a few years older than me, and they were braver that I could ever hope to be. When they realized that they were going to die, they did not cower, cry or confess all they knew. They shook each other’s hands and faced death head on. That kind of courage is unimaginable to me. I have never been thrust into a situation dire enough to require it. To die rather than reveal what I knew, I can’t say I would make the same choice. I certainly wouldn’t have faced my death in silence. These men were heros, they possessed a courage that I can’t even fathom. Perhaps it is because of their courage and the courage of men like them, that I am here today.
So, as I stood in that peaceful little garden and a soft wind rustled the leaves, I did what many French and Canadian citizens have done and will do in the future. I remembered them. I bowed my head and whispered a prayer for the fallen.
Kelsey Ross, Burin NL
We began today with a ceremony at Dieppe commemorating the raid by the Canadians on 19 August 1942. For me, this was one of the most powerful experiences so far in the program, for several reasons. For one, it is eye-opening to see that local French people still commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of the Canadians who fought at Dieppe 76 years ago. Another striking aspect of the ceremony was the number of nations and organizations involved, all the national anthems being sung, and all the wreaths being placed by their respective representatives. I was honoured by the opportunity to read the Commitment to Remember at the ceremony. Additionally, the veterans present at the ceremony made it more special to me because I soon realized that we will soon lose the opportunity to learn from them and their experiences. Following the ceremony, we travelled to Abbaye D’Ardenne, the site where 20 Canadians were unjustly executed by the Nazis in June 1944, after refusing to turn over strategic information. This was the program’s second key visit today, and it was an intensely emotional one. The biographies and photographs of the 20 Canadian soldiers were prominently displayed, and we held a private ceremony at the small memorial where we each placed a poppy on a wreath. I was in awe, particularly of the immense bravery of the Canadians who stood strong, despite knowing their fate.
John Evans, Victoria BC