Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 16, 2019

at l’Abbaye d’Ardennes

Today the students took over social media duties while transferring to the coast and visited sites such as Amiens, Bény-sur-Mer, and l’Abbaye d’Ardennes.(Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).

 

Un homme qui s’occupait de chevaux derrière un cimetière militaire est venu à notre rencontre. À cet instant, je ne savais pas que je recevrais un témoignage d’une immense sagesse.

Cet homme âgé dont je n’ai pas eu l’honneur de connaître le nom, son père et son grand-père avaient tout trois vécu les guerres mondiales, la propagande et l’invasion allemande. Et tout de même, dans leur famille, depuis trois générations, rien de moins que le respect est attendu de leur part face aux Allemands. Chez eux, le mot « boche » était proscrit: « Nous nous battions pour notre pays et ils se battaient pour le leur. »

Ses mots exempts de rancune, mots de guérison et de compréhension m’ont marqués et m’ont inspiré, car cet homme et son père, malgré avoir vu leur village détruit, ont priorisé leurs valeurs de respect et d’humanité. J’ai alors compris que ces choses avaient le pouvoir de survivre à la destruction. Elles permettent aussi la reconstruction nécessaire au retour du quotidien. J’ai enfin réalisé la force morale qu’il fallait pour ressortir de la guerre et son importance.

Cet homme marquant et généreux maintient la paix ambiente autour du cimetière par respect pour les pèlerins et les soldats qui y réposent, tel un gardien des valeurs de son grand-père.

-Andelina Habel-Thornton

 

The Amiens Cathedral is an architectural marvel. As I explored it, I understood why both the Allied forces as well as the Germans tried so hard to keep it safe during the First World War. I could see clearly why this cathedral was specifically chosen to be kept intact as many solders were religious and felt strong ties with places where they could pray for their own safety during battles. For the citizens, the cathedrals were places they could go to after the war to mourn their loved ones as well as return to a sense of normalcy. This cathedral really tied all the points from our First World War discussions together, it showed how people still moved on with their lives despite the devastation of war, and it, like other monuments, helped pass down history through generations. 

-Nathan Yee

 

Today we visited many fascinating places that further instilled in me a passion for maintaining the legacy and memory of fallen soldiers. Whilst visiting the stunning Beny-sur-Mer Canadian Cemetery, I found that the area created an enhanced sense of personnalisation, be it from the increasingly detailed epitaphs from loved ones, mismatched flowers in an array of colours, or pristine dog tags with photos of the soldiers slung over many headstones. This made my experience more emotive here than at the First World War cemeteries. I gained a sense that the cemetery had been carefully constructed to focus on individual commemoration, with multiple benches at the sides of the rows of headstones and a viewing platform to allow an overview of the site. It was very powerful and added a personal connection to the sometimes desensitising, endless rows of names. I felt the cemetery gave me the space to sit quietly, visualising the vibrant personalities of the many soldiers whilst being aware of how lucky we are to be present, experiencing the simplicities of nature taken too early from those killed in the Second World War.

-Lily Maguire

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 15, 2019

in front of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial

 

On this last day of the First World War portion of the #BVP2019 program, the students visited the Canadian National Vimy Memorial where they were met by Peter Kraven and Jean-Pierre Godbout to discuss the design and restoration of the memorial. Later in the day, the students visited the Vimy Centennial Park and then were guided through their exploration of the Maison Blanche underground tunnels by the Durand Group. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).

 

At Maison Blanche, our guide’s presentation about Aleck Ambler’s First World War experience in the souterrain was very touching. I cannot imagine how profound Ambler’s son’s experience must have been, visiting his father’s engravings for the first time at age 84, ninety years after their creation. Standing on the exact spot where Aleck Ambler originally engraved his art, then where his son visited the same engravings, made me feel like I was somehow a tiny part of the Ambler family story. I was impressed at how detailed Ambler’s inscriptions were, the act of crafting those carvings struck me as being a heartfelt display of care for his craft.

The engravings served as a poignant reminder that many other artists died during the war and were never able to express themselves again. Their art is especially meaningful to me as it demonstrates the ubiquity of creativity, even during times of conflict and strife. Despite seeing some of the worst in humanity during the First World War, beauty in art can persist and thrive, as exemplified by the extraordinary engravings made by soldiers underground.

– Phillip Darley

 

Seeing the Canadian National Vimy Memorial tower over the landscape was a surreal experience. I wondered about the many lives that had been lost and felt guilt. Out of over 11,000 names engraved on the monument, I only really knew the story of one: Reay MacKay. The first time I saw his name was on a memorial at his high school, standing where he stood over a hundred years ago. Back then, I had no idea who he was, nor did I know of his sacrifice. The second time I saw his name, I was reading the war diaries of his battalion, where I learned about the circumstances of his death and then gradually learned more about his life. Today, this journey has culminated with me standing on the land that he led his company to capture, where he sacrificed his life.

His remains will never return but by taking an etching of his name back to his high school, I hope to bring his memory back to his hometown.

– Rose He

 

Aujourd’hui, j’ai rendu hommage à mon soldat. En le présentant devant sa pierre tombale et son endroit de repos, j’ai compris son histoire et établi un lien émotionnel avec lui. Je ne l’ai pas connue personnellement, pourtant je ne l’oublierai jamais. Lorsque j’ai lu ma lettre qui lui était adressée, j’ai senti que je lui parlais en personne.

En créant ce lien avec mon soldat, j’ai réalisé l’impact que cette guerre avait, non seulement sur ceux qui ont perdus la vie, mais aussi pour tous ceux qui leurs étaient liés émotionnellement. Au cimetière Neuville St Vaast, j’ai été surprise par le nombre de croix. Je sentais que les soldats m’entouraient. En remarquant les quatre noms sur chacune des croix, j’ai réalisé à quel point cette guerre était dévastatrice pour tous. Le nombre de personnes affectées par la Première Guerre mondiale est beaucoup plus élevé que je l’avais d’abord cru, car nous ne rappelons pas toujours ceux qui étaient liés aux soldats, comme celui que j’ai présenté. Cette guerre n’était pas seulement dévastatrice en termes de pertes de vie, mais aussi pour tous ceux qui ont attendu en vain le retour à la maison de leurs proches après la guerre.

– Andréa Jackson

seated in a circle at Vimy
in the tunnels at Maison Blanche
at Vimy Centennial Park
at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 14, 2019

Meaghan presenting her soldier research at the Bois-Carré British Cemetery

Today, our participants visited the Ring of Remembrance and Notre-Dame-de-Lorette French military Cemetery where they had the opportunity to converse with veterans. In the afternoon, they discussed racism during the wars at the Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial and visited Hill 70 Memorial. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).

 

When talking about the World Wars people often talk about how Canada was fighting for freedom and equality for all. What often goes unspoken, however, is how many of theses ideals that Canada was supposedly defending were often only applied to select groups, mainly white Canadians of European descent. I was lucky enough to give a presentation about how this selective application of Canadian values has impacted minority communities. By presenting these stories at Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial and learning about so many people, including thousands of Japanese Canadians who were interned makes me reflect on reconciliation and about who memorials are dedicated to. The first step to reconciliation is recognition and by presenting my research today, it is my hope that our group has taken that step. The creation of permanent monuments could help this process by creating prominent, public reminders of the suffering experienced by minority communities during the First and Second World Wars. Would these be more effective forms of recognition than an official statement? These injustices can never be erased but awareness of them should become a larger part of our collective consciousness. 

-Noah Korver

 

Aujourd’hui, nous sommes allés au cimetière Britannique du Bois-Carré où j’ai présenté mon soldat. J’ai ressenti une connexion profonde avec lui pendant et après cette expérience. Tout comme moi, le soldat que j’ai choisi, James McBride, est originaire de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard. Mon lien d’amitié avec l’une de ses descendantes m’a permis de recueillir une grande quantité d’informations auprès de sa famille. Je suis très touchée d’avoir eu la chance d’aborder son passé avec eux.

Durant ma présentation, j’ai eu une réaction très émotive. Je pensais aux succès des descendantes de James. Aussi, j’ai pris un moment pour prier. Je ne suis pas une personne très religieuse, mais, je ressens une connexion avec James, car il était Catholique, comme moi. J’ai pris quelques minutes afin de prier pour lui et aussi le remercier pour ses actions durant la guerre. Par la suite, j’ai beaucoup pleuré. J’ai dû prendre un bon moment pour me recomposer, mais après réflexion, je pense qu’aujourd’hui, j’ai vécu une expérience très profonde. Je suis honorée d’avoir eu la chance de rendre hommage à James et d’avoir pu préserver sa mémoire. 

-Meaghan Bulger

 

In between the rows at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette – the French National First World War memorial – there were multiple mass graves. Although we have previously seen mass graves, these ones specifically hit a more emotional note. In a sense, seeing the bodies and not the names allowed me to put myself in the place of the compatriots and families of the fallen and feel the pain and confusion they must have felt when they learned that they would never get a chance to visit their loved ones’ graves and pay respect to them. 

At the Ring of Remembrance, I really appreciated the monument architecturally. The simplicity of the names allows me to appreciate the human element of war, rather than focusing on the political, as is usually done in school and learning the history of the wars. To me, the circular shape felt like a symbol for how the loss and pain from the war were felt around the globe, regardless of nationality. I believe that the memorial effectively acknowledges that all families feel an equal sense of loss.   

-Nimra Hooda

 

 

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 13, 2019

The trenches at Beaumont Hamel

Today, the students toured Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial with student-guide Leia. In the afternoon, they visited the largest Commonwealth memorial to the missing in the world, Thiepval, as well as Courcelette Memorial and Lochnagar Crater. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference). 

 

Today is undoubtedly a day I will remember for the rest of my life. We had the privilege of visiting Beaumont Hamel, and immediately upon arriving I was hit with a barrage of emotions with an intensity that I was not expecting. The fact that hundreds of lives were lost in the span of a single morning is a concept which I cannot comprehend no matter how long I think about it. Gazing out across No Man’s Land overwhelmed me with sadness, but at the same time filled me with a sense of pride. Newfoundland is my home, and I could not be prouder to share my history with the exceptional and brave individuals who did not hesitate to sacrifice their lives regardless of the blizzard of bullets they were met with on the battlefield.

While I have felt a connection with every cemetery and battlefield we have visited, nothing compares to the Y Ravine cemetery. Tears were brought to my eyes as I read each gravestone along with their respective epitaphs, and I was struck with the sheer volume of how many lives were lost here. To know that this catastrophe was due to miscommunication makes it even more devastating to me. How different might Newfoundland and the rest of the world be today if we hadn’t lost those voices? What might have happened if entire families hadn’t perished together on the battlefield? And what if their stories hadn’t been abruptly cut off before they could be seen through to the end? I am incredibly grateful to have this experience and I have never been prouder to be a Newfoundlander.

-Evan Di Cesare

 

La visite de la Grande Mine a vraiment changé ma vision de ce que devrait être un site de commémoration ou un mémorial. Je croyais qu’un site commémoratif correspondait à un monument concret, érigé par les humains à la suite d’un événement tragique sur un site historique tel que le mémorial de Vimy ou le monument de Thiepval. Pourtant, à la vue du cratère, ma vision a changé. Cette crevasse immense recouverte d’herbe, témoin du passé, est non seulement une trace toujours visible de ce qui s’est produit à cet endroit, mais aussi une cicatrice béante des décès tragiques que sa création a entrainée. La façon dont le site a été reconverti en mémorial est aussi fascinante. La disposition des plaques commémoratives est fascinante à analyser, puisque les noms des soldats sont gravés sur les planches formant la passerelle entourant le site. C’est très révélateur, car cela représente, selon moi, la communion entre le passé et le présent au sein du monument lui-même. Nous marchons littéralement sur les traces des hommes qui se sont battus et unis pour la liberté et la paix dont tous rêvaient. Cela m’a marqué, car de nos jours, j’ai l’impression que beaucoup de gens, plus spécifiquement dans les pays favorisés comme le Canada, prennent leurs droits et leurs privilèges pour acquis. 

-Isaac St-Jean

 

Today was a very powerful day for me as we visited Serre Road Cemetery No. 2. There I paid tribute to Ralph Bouchard, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, who was 15 when he enlisted and 16 when he died. As I sat at his grave, I realized saying goodbye to him would be harder than I thought. Although I had only “met’’ him months earlier, in my mind, I was losing someone special. His name was lost when he was killed and I felt honoured to be able to share it and his story with the other members of the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize.

Ralph died at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette during the bloody Battle of the Somme in 1916. Seeing the Canadian Courcelette Memorial and reading its inscription changed the way I view this battle. I looked into the field where Ralph and so many other Canadians died and could feel tears escape my eyes. “You died on this field,” I thought to those who gave their lives; “You became lonely here,” to those who saw their friends and brothers die. This was a battle where so many Canadians lost everything, whether their life, limbs, peace of mind, best friends, or innocence. This was a field where boys were forced to be men, where holes grew in people’s hearts, and where loss triumphed over small victories. This was the field in which Ralph Bouchard died. Though there is so much grief at Courcelette, there is also pride. Pride in those who fought, those who died, and those who were left behind. And also, my pride in telling the story of Ralph Bouchard. 

-Sophia Long

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 12, 2019

Discussion on colonialism Delville Wood South African National Memorial

This morning, the students visited the Delville Wood South African Memorial where they discussed colonialism. In the afternoon, they visited l’Historial de la Grande Guerre museum where the head curator introduced the museum and presented artifacts from the collection that students were allowed to handle. They also experienced a virtual reality tour of the Paris Peace conference. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference). 

 

J’ai beaucoup apprécié la visite de l’Historial de la Grande Guerre, d’une part grâce à la richesse de la composition des différentes salles, d’autre part, car les explications de la guide étaient très détaillées. La particularité de ce lieu qui m’a marquée est le fait qu’une salle soit dédiée au travail artistique du célèbre peintre Otto Dix. C’est très intéressant d’avoir le point de vue d’un ancien soldat profondément traumatisé par cette guerre sous une perspective artistique. Cela peut faire ressentir des émotions et des ressentis différents d’un témoignage écrit. La salle présentant la période d’avant-guerre nous a montré que cette guerre se préparait déjà depuis des décennies sous différentes formes. En effet, les différents pays exerçaient déjà une propagande qui commençait depuis le plus jeune âge et qui s’ancrait bien évidemment dans les programmes scolaires. Cela prouve bien que cette guerre était le fruit de multiples tensions présentes depuis un certain temps. La leçon que j’ai pu tirer de cette journée est que la guerre ressemble à un changement climatique catastrophique, une force destructrice qu’il faut éviter et pour laquelle tout le monde est en partie responsable.   

-Alliya Arifa

 

This morning’s visit to the Deville Wood South African National Memorial was one of the most peaceful and beautiful sites that we have seen so far. Since the monument is set back a hundred metres or so from the road the scene feels very contemplative, which I think is a perfect environment for respectful remembrance. While at the memorial, we had a fascinating presentation and discussion on colonial influences during both World Wars. Learning about the tirailleurs sénégalais was especially interesting, as I knew very little about West African soldiers in the First World War until this morning. The Museum of the Great War in Péronne was also fascinating. Two things in particular stood out to me: the original uniforms from the U.K., France, and Germany, and the propaganda posters displayed on the walls of the museum. The military uniforms were displayed in sunken boxes on the floor, which is reminiscent of dead soldiers in their uniforms. Seeing propaganda posters in person offered a whole new perspective, looking at the size of each poster and hypothesizing about how they each might have been displayed. 

-Philipp Darley

 

Starting the day off at the Delville Wood South African National Memorial showed what our day would be about. It evoked a sense of peacefulness in me as the entire monument is white with grey stones, widens to both sides of the forest, and is tall and is bright like the sky. We saw all the names of the fallen soldiers from South Africa and saw how much the colonial powers relied on their colonies. Maya and I then went on to our field presentation about British and French colonialism from 1914-1945. Our group discussion at the site also connected to the theme of colonialism. We were given a photo from a wartime newspaper depicting a tirailleurs sénégalais and discussed in small groups what the photo was and how it effected “subjects” of the colonies. Through this activity we learned more about the lives of colonial subjects as well as how the colonies were treated during the war. 

Nathan Yee

Evan witnessing the Paris Conference through virtual reality
Philippe and Meaghan examining artefacts at l’Historial
Isaac and Maya having a discussion at the Delville Wood South African National Memorial

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 11, 2019

Our participants take part in a discussion with their chaperone, Sara, at the Bourlon Wood memorial

Today, our BVP 2019 recipients visited the Mons Memorial Museum and the St-Symphorien cemetery where both German and Commonwealth soldiers are buried. In the afternoon, they went to Cambrai to visit the cathedral in front of which Lily and Rose made a presentation on the daily lives of soldiers. Finally, they visited the Bourlon Wood Canadian War Memorial. (Please note: participants will blog in their language of preference).

 

Something that has struck me about my time here in Belgium and France with the BVP 2019 is the way different cultures and linguistic groups function together in such proximity. This is a concept that I have been considering throughout the visits to memorials, monuments, and museums.  When visiting the St-Symphorien cemetery today, I was shocked by the landscaping. It was very effective; dare I say beautiful. Over the program we have visited both Commonwealth and German cemeteries. There are vast differences in the styles of them, reflecting each country`s respective attitude about the result of the war. However, in St-Symphorien, both the victorious white commonwealth headstones and the manicured gardens were combined with the darker German stones and towering trees. The cemetery was very effective, it was powerful, but it was melancholy. This combination of landscaping, for me, represents the true result of the war. Nobody won. Germans died alongside Commonwealth soldiers, and they were commemorated together. I wonder how the Belgian people feel about this combination cemetery, as many protested the German cemeteries, but are so welcoming of the Commonwealth ones, due to the liberation. What I have learned today, is that you cannot draw boxes around people in life or death and expect them to fit in. 

-Meaghan Bulger

 

 

During the day, we visited Bourlon Wood Memorial. There we broke into small groups to discuss our opinions on when the First World War truly ended. While many would say that the war ended with the Armistice in November 1918, our group discussed opinions.  I see the end of the war as a process like throwing a rock into a pond. The initial splash and noise are similar to the chaos of the actual combat aspect of the war. Next the water that was thrown up in the splash comes down, like how it took a little bit of time for allied politicians to decide how to proceed after the war with the Treaty of Versailles. Finally, there are the ripples which radiate out for some time after the rock has settled. This is similar to the long-lasting effects the war had on different groups of people. For example, after the Treaty of Versailles, Germany had to pay large reparations to the wining allied counties. This left the German economy in ruins for years and in turn contributed to Hitler’s rise to power. Another example is of the strong anti-German sentiment that existed in many communities that had been occupied by the Germans during the war. During our visit to the Mons Memorial Museum our guide told us about some women accused of collaboration with the Germans and who were publicly humiliated after the war by having their hair cut off. Visiting these towns and cities and hearing the stories of the people here has given me a new perspective on the war and the people who live here.

-Noah Korver

 

Today we visited the St. Symphorien Military Cemetery, a place where both Germans and Commonwealth soldiers are commemorated. It is a place of mourning, where fallen soldiers had been honored and remembered, irrespective of their background.

Today, I would distinctly remember one moment. As I walked through this graveyard I couldn’t help but notice two rows of stones that had been placed on opposite sides of a path. Looking at one side, I could see the names of the first soldiers who died in the First World War. Looking at the other side, I could see the names of those who had died four years later, just prior to armistice. The deaths of these soldiers marked the beginning and end of the First World War. These soldiers had different pasts, had different lives ahead of them, yet their paths, cut short by the tragedies of war, seemed to have somehow led them to the same resting place. Walking in between these rows of gravestones, it was almost as if I could see these rows and rows of soldiers standing by me. It was emotionally moving. 

The 513 soldiers honored in this cemetery comprised only a fraction of all those who lost their lives to the war. The First World War was costly, paid for by the deaths of millions, and it is up to us to remember them.

 -Rose He

 

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 10, 2019

Our BVP participants visit the Christmas Truce Memorial

Today, our Beaverbrook Vimy Prize students toured the Ypres Salient with our wonderful guide Lucas. Sights included the Christmas Truce Memorial, Hill 60, the Irish Peace Park, the Passchendaele Memorial and Tyne Cot cemetery. In the evening, the students attended the Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate where Maya, Jack and Andelina laid a wreath to commemorate the fallen. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference). 

 

Today, at the Tyne Cot Cemetery, I had the honour to be able to share the story of my Great Granduncle, Frank Rogers at his grave marker. The feelings I had were indescribable, I will do my best to explain some of the emotions I felt. Prior to presenting Frank’s biography I had told myself that I would not cry. However, as I was reading the story of his life, I could not stop myself. Something seemed to overtake me. A feeling almost as if I were talking to Frank himself, but there was a sort of barrier or wall between us. A barrier that allowed me to see him and his life, but he was unable to see me and my life. I wonder if he heard the promise that I made to him to never let his story be forgotten, and that I will never let him be forgotten. I hope that I have made him proud, and I am so incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to be able to pass on his story in the country where his story ended. It was like he was lost and forgotten, but as I embarked on the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize program, I was able to find him and bring him back to life.

-Maya Burgess-Stansfield

 

Les chaperons qui nous accompagnent lors de ce séjour m’ont donné, aujourd’hui, la chance incroyable de participer au défilé de la cérémonie de la Porte de Menin, aux côtés de vétérans et de jeunes de la Royal Air Force britannique. Je n’aurais jamais pensé avoir l’honneur de me tenir là, portant le rôle important, quoique si abstrait, de commémorer des dizaines de milliers d’hommes dont la vie persiste grâce à la mémoire. Les rayons du soleil couchant transperçaient les puits de lumière du haut de la Porte de Menin; l’orchestre faisait chanter leurs hautbois et leurs trompettes; un groupe irlandais modérait la cérémonie par le ra de leurs tambours. Alors qu’une foule d’Yprois, de touristes ou bien de pèlerins silencieux et attentifs remplissaient l’arche célèbre, je voyais devant moi les milliers de noms gravés dans la pierre de marbre. Pour un instant, je les voyais tous devant moi, droits et courageux comme je tentais de l’être, sur une plaine belge accidentée à perte de vue. Soudain, je faisais fi des opinions divergentes sur la validité de la guerre, des différentes raisons pour lesquelles l’on pouvait se battre, de la propagande parfois trompeuse sur les valeurs ou sur le sacrifice, et tout ce qu’il restait autour de moi et en moi n’étaient que l’émotion, la vie et la mort. Il y avait tant de noms, tant de vie, tant de mort, c’était presque irréel de témoigner de l’extrême humain de manière aussi vivide. Je pris mon courage à deux mains et commençai à marcher derrière des hommes dont le nom aurait pu se trouver sur la Porte de Menin, la couronne à la main, voyant des regards curieux ou bien larmoyants dans la foule. C’est une expérience qui bouleversa ma perspective sur l’humanité et que je n’aurais jamais pensé vivre dans ma vie. 

 – Andelina Habel-Thurton

 

Lors de notre départ du Canada, je ne comprenais qu’un point de vue au sujet d’une guerre à plusieurs perspectives. Le Parc irlandais de la paix incluait une plaque qui s’excusait d’avoir participé dans une guerre aussi affreuse et d’avoir pris autant de vies. Notre guide nous a dit à ce moment que le mot victoire n’existe pas pour une guerre aussi longue. J’ai vu dans les villages reconstruits qu’il y a encore une atmosphère lourde concernant les guerres aujourd’hui. La souffrance des populations et l’impact sur les terrains est encore un aspect de la vie quotidienne. Nous avons visité une ferme locale dont le fermier avait trouvé des grenades actives qui datent de la Première Guerre mondiale.  J’ai aussi réalisé que les allemands avaient également une fierté de leur patrie et qu’eux aussi ont vu la perte de plusieurs vies. De leur perspective, ils étaient les véritables héros mais leur perte a créé la souffrance d’une nation entière après la Première Guerre mondiale. Je suis très reconnaissante du sacrifice qui a permis notre liberté aujourd’hui, mais je réalise qu’il faut aussi reconnaître que nous ne sommes pas le seul côté ayant souffert. Tout le monde a une perspective qui leur semble logique, et personne ne se voit comme l’ennemi. Comme notre guide a dit, le mot victoire n’existe pas dans une guerre aussi longue parce que tout le monde a souffert.

-Andréa Jackson

 

In the town of Ypres at the most beautiful cathedral, yesterday the sounds of the song “silent night” rang out in the In Flanders Fields Museum. This was what the soldiers of the Western Front would have heard during the Christmas Truce of 1914. It moved me so much that even the most steadfast of enemies could find the humanity that one special night where there was peace in the midst of war. Today was the first time I saw something lighthearted and kind in the face of these conflicts.  

After visiting the Christmas Truce Memorial in the fields of Ypres, my mind turned to how the soldiers of both sides must have been exhausted after months of fighting. The monument filled with soccer balls alluding to the famous game of soccer played in no man’s land gave me a sense of joy in a place where almost all memories are negative. The truth is, war was destructive and horrific, but it gives me hope to think that on that one single day on the 25th of December 1914, there was peace on the Western Front. 

-Jack Roy

Our guide Lucas at the Christmas Truce Memorial

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 9, 2019

Our BVP students on the Cloth Hall tower of the In Flanders Fields museum

Today, our 2019 BVPrecipients visited Langemark German Cemetery and John McCrae’s Dressing station where Lily and Alliya read John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields. Later, the students went to Ypres to visit the In Flanders Fields Museum, located in the Cloth Hall. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference). 

 

Today was our first official day exploring the many fascinating and stimulating monuments, areas and cemeteries of the Beaverook Vimy Prize program. I was most moved by the very beginning of the day visiting our first Commonwealth grave and famous Canadian poet John McCrae’s dressing station. Starting off at Essex Farm cemetery instantly opened my eyes to new perspectives and challenged my own, as I discovered an almost subconscious bias of mine: one of the chaperones pointed out two headstones right beside each other in one row and asked us why this was the case, and I immediately envisioned a patriotic image of two best friends dying together so being buried together. Learning that they were likely buried together due to being indistinguishable from each other due to horrific wounds, really made me start to rethink any glorified preconceptions of the First World War I may hold. At John McCrae’s dressing station by the spot McCrae wrote the iconic poem In Flanders Fields I was absolutely honoured to read his famous work to the group, which made me feel so connected to its material and thrilled to be standing where the poppy emblem of the war essentially originated from.

I was also so lucky to conduct a tribute to a soldier I had selected at the very spot where his name was engraved – something I never thought I would have the chance to do. We reached the expansive Menin Gate where I spoke about a soldier whose name was written there, Cecil Hubert Cray Cattel – I presented my project including inferring his personality characteristics from letters he wrote that I had studied – this was an incredible moment, allowing me to truly feel a personal connection to a name likely lost in history. I look forward to tomorrow and challenging my ideas and assumptions about the World Wars even further.

-Lily Maguire

 

Aujourd’hui, nous avons visité deux cimetières : la Ferme d’Essex – cimetière du Commonwealth britannique – ainsi que le Langemark Cemetary – cimetière allemand -. C’était la première fois que j’entrais dans un cimetière militaire. Tous ces noms, gravés sur les tombes, m’ont fait prendre conscience du nombre de morts engendré par la Première Guerre mondiale. Il y a une grande différence entre un nombre et un visuel concret. Ces quelques cimetières ne représentent cependant qu’une fraction de l’horreur de la Grande Guerre. Tout au long des visites, je me suis sentie très concernée par la mobilisation de tous ces soldats. Nous ne pouvons, en effet, rester insensible au sacrifice de toute une génération.

Le cimetière du Commonwealth britannique montrait un style à l’antipode de celui du cimetière allemand. Si la Ferme d’Essex avançait une vision de clarté neutre, le Langemark Cemetery évoquait une image plus sombre et impersonnelle. En effet, la lumière filtrait à peine entre les branches et les feuilles des arbres, les murs étaient noirs, de même que les tombes, complètement à l’inverse pour la Ferme d’Essex.

Durant cette journée, j’ai notamment appris qu’à partir de quarante tombes, la croix du sacrifice était érigée alors que lorsque ce nombre dépassait le millier, on faisait installer la pierre du souvenir. Aussi, j’ai pu éclaircir les origines du poème In Flanders Fields.

-Florence Trigaux

 

Though I have been highly anticipating this program ever since my acceptance, I do not think there is any way to truly comprehend the emotions you experience upon stepping onto a cemetery. Today, during the first day of activities, we visited both a Commonwealth and a German cemetery. The contrast between the two was astounding to me – the Commonwealth cemetery was more celebratory and patriotic whereas the German cemetery was much more ominous and more impersonal. I was quite literally speechless, as in a space no larger than my backyard, there was a mass grave with more than 25,000 German soldiers buried on top of one another. I truly do not think there is a word to describe seeing this in person. Each one of these people had a life, a family, and a story which was cut short … and their only commemoration is a small engravement of their name on a stone.

Later in the day, I had the opportunity to present a project which I had prepared prior to the program. My soldier, private Thomas Hannabury, is commemorated at Menin Gate as his place of burial was destroyed in battle during the First World War. It makes me very proud to carry the legacy of my soldier, as aside from his immediate family I could very well be one of few people to know of his life and incredibly selfless sacrifices he made for his nation. As he was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, it was an absolute honour to pay my respects to someone from my province who gave their life so that I can live mine in liberty. Despite it being only the first proper day, I already feel as though I have gained an entirely new perspective on history and I cannot wait to see where else the program leads and how else it shapes my knowledge and personal viewpoints.

Evan Di Cesare

 

 

John McCrae’s dressing station at Essex Farm
Lily presenting her soldier research project at Menin Gate
Andelina doing a rubbing of her soldier’s headstone at Potijze Chateau cemetery

 

 

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 8, 2019

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Recipients outside Peace Village, Messines

 

Our BVP 2019 recipients made it safely to Brussels, and they continued on to Ypres. After settling in, the students were introduced to the program and participated in some ice-breaker activities. Read more about what they are most looking forward to during the program. (Please note: participants will blog in their language of preference.)  

 

J’ai particulièrement hâte d’entendre des témoignages et des conférences d’experts, nous sommes choyés d’y avoir accès, car ils nous donnent une perspective très personnelle sur les conflits.

-Andelina Habel-Thurton

 

I am most excited to visit the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, due partly to its symbolic and historical significance, as well as because it is where the soldier I have been researching over the past few months is commemorated. I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to participate in the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize, and I am looking forwards to the journey ahead!

-Rose He

 

I am particularly excited to see the Vimy Memorial after all the stories I have heard from people about the emotional impact it had on them. I am also looking forward to seeing the Ring of Remembrance for its architecture. 

-Nimra Hooda

 

I am most excited to visit the grave of my great grand uncle at Tyne Cot Memorial. I think it will be an amazing experience to be able to stand by his grave and to tell his story.

-Maya Burgess

 

During this program I am most looking forward to visiting Second World War sites, especially the Juno Centre and Juno Beach due to my decade-long interest in the Second World War, and to visit a plaque dedicated to my jazz band at the Juno Beach.

-Philipp R.W Darley

 

J’ai très hâte de voir le Château de Versailles. Être à l’endroit où ils ont déclaré la fin d’une des guerres les plus sanglantes de l’histoire mondiale, et où la paix a été déclarée sera une expérience très marquante pour moi.

-Andréa Jackson

 

I am looking forward to the Dieppe candlelight ceremony because I find an immersive experience is so effective in commemorating tragically lost lives in a way that remembers the beauty of their lives and humanity.

-Lily Maguire

 

I’m ecstatic to have the chance to visit the infamous beaches of Normandy. Experiencing where those soldiers walked will be so moving.

-Jack Roy

 

Je suis très excitée à l’idée de visiter tous les musées, monuments et cimetières prévus lors du PVB. L’Anneau de la Mémoire m’intéresse particulièrement pour sa signification. En effet, à travers ce monument commémoratif circulaire se cache un puissant message unificateur.

-Florence Trigaux

 

I am the most excited to get to see Vimy Ridge because of it’s cultural significance to Canada.

-Noah Korver

 

Though I am incredibly excited for every aspect of the program, what I am most looking forward is to visit Beaumont Hamel so that I can gain a new sense of respect for the history of my province.

-Evan Di Cesare

 

I am most excited to have the opportunity to commemorate my chosen soldier, as it is very important to the family. I feel honoured.

– Meaghan Bulger

 

I am excited to visit the Versailles palace because of the history and architecture portrayed by the palace.

-Nathan Yee

 

I am most looking forward to Versailles, for it is said to be gorgeous, and the Courcelette Memorial, because that is the battle in which the soldier I researched died. I feel it will be very moving to stand where someone my age died just over one hundred years ago.

-Sophie Long

 

Je suis impatient de créer des liens forts et durables avec tous les autres lauréats du programme tout en participant à une expérience unique relative à l’histoire.

-Isaac St-Jean

 

Visiter le centre Juno Beach et les champs de bataille m’enchante tout particulièrement car je pense que la visite de celui-ci me permettra d’en apprendre plus sur le rôle et l’histoire du Canada lors de la Seconde Guerre mondiale et les champs de bataille font ressentir de réelles émotions qui, même après une centaine d’années, rendent compte de la gravité de la guerre.

-Alliya Arifa

 

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 7, 2019

The Beaverbrook Vimy Prize participants, ready to fly out of Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport on 7 August 2019.

Our 2019 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize recipients embarked on an immersive educational program in Belgium and in France to study Canadian history during the First and Second World Wars. Follow them as they blog about their experience!

Today’s first blogs come from our chaperones. (Please note : participants will blog in their language of preference.)

Today we begin the BVP 2019 program! I’m looking forward to spending the next two weeks working with my fellow educators/historians to teach an incredible group of Canadian, British, and French youth about the First and Second World Wars. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students to engage with the past through experiential learning on the historic battlefields!

-Sara Karn

 

Le grand jour est enfin arrivé! C’est avec une grande joie que je prends part pour la première fois au Prix Vimy Beaverbrook 2019 comme accompagnatrice. Je me réjouis à la perspective de découvrir les sites canadiens de la Première et de la Seconde Guerre mondiale avec un groupe de jeunes étudiants et étudiantes curieux, enthousiastes et passionnés d’histoire. 

-Chloé Poitras-Raymond

 

L’heure est enfin arrivée et nous quittons Montréal pour les lointaines contrées européennes. Pour ma part, c’est la première fois que je participe en tant qu’accompagnateur pour le PVB et je suis fébrile à l’idée de rencontrer mes collègues, les étudiants et étudiantes qui se joignent à nous cette année pour approfondir leur savoir et leurs réflexions autours des deux conflits mondiaux. J’espère pouvoir piquer leur curiosité historique et leur ouvrir de nombreuses nouvelles portes d’interprétations et de compréhension sur ces deux conflits, sur leurs impacts non seulement sur le Canada et l’Europe, mais aussi sur le monde.

-Thomas Vennes

 

As we get ready to board the flight to Brussels, we’re looking forward to getting the 2019 BVP started. We have a great itinerary lined up and it will be a lot of fun to visit these important historical sites with a fantastic group of students. Having the opportunity to learn about the First and second World Wars while experiencing the sites and battlefields is a tremendous opportunity for the students to immerse themselves in the stories that marked this critical period in not only Canadian, but also world history.

-Sean Graham

 

I am beyond thrilled and honored to be returning with the Vimy Foundation and part of the Beaverbrook program. This is my second experience with the Vimy Foundation and I look forward to this incredible opportunity with the students. The experiences and knowledge shared during these 14 days will be remarkable and something that I will never forget. As a teacher I look forward to sharing my knowledge and experiences with 16 amazing students. Every day will offer amazing opportunities for everyone to learn and grow and I look forward to learning with and from the students throughout this journey.

-Christopher Kinsella