Announcing the 2020 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Recipients!

**The health and safety of our students is our top priority, as such, the 2020 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize will be postponed until the summer of 2021.**

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2020 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize! 16 students were selected to participate in an immersive educational program in Belgium and France. They will learn about our history during the First and Second World War.

Rayan Arifa – Ouroux-sur-Saône, FR
Mira Buckle – Corner Brook, NL
Troy Cheah – Coquitlam, BC
Cynthia Cui – Fredericton, NB
Nicole Damianidis – Richmond Hill, ON
Ian-Loïc Dore – Saint-Jérôme, QC
Sara Gehlaut – Toronto, ON
William Hu – Toronto, ON
Andy Liao – Richmond, BC
Brendan Lindsay – Victoria, BC
Pascale Ouellette – Saint-André, NB
Sarah Perry – Charlo, NB
Olive Tao – Richmond, BC
Jodie Williams – Worcestershire, GB
Jenny Wu – Calgary, AB
Yu Xin (Steve) Xia – London, ON

There were so many impressive applications that once again choosing only 16 participants was extremely difficult. We thank all those who applied and demonstrated their hard work and dedication.

This program is made possible due to generous support from the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation.

Tribute to Katherine Maud MacDonald

As a part of the 2018 Vimy Pilgrimage Award, Jeriann Hsiao wrote a tribute to Nursing Sister Katherine Maud MacDonald, the first Canadian nurse killed in action during the First World War. Hsiao was the first of our pilgrimage participants to choose to pay homage to a Nursing Sister. Read the tribute below.

Dear Katherine,

Brantford has changed so much since you left. I thought this letter was the perfect opportunity to update you. 

Can you believe that Brantford, Brant County, and Six Nations had the highest per capita enlistment rate in the Great War? I was shocked when I heard that! I thought Brantford was the most boring town ever. You see, Brantford is no longer the economic powerhouse it was back in your day. Demand dropped, businesses left, and the city fell apart. But we have started to regain our footing, and I believe remembering our history will play a huge role in the revival of our hometown. 

The biggest testament to our history is the cenotaph across from the armoury. It was designed by Walter Allward, who later designed the Canadian National Vimy Memorial! How cool is it that the same architect of the memorial commemorating the most significant Canadian victory in the entire war also constructed a memorial for Brantford? I visited the cenotaph recently so I could take a picture to show everyone participating in the Vimy Pilgrimage Award program. And there it was – your name for all to see!

Of course, I can’t forget to mention our high school, Brantford Collegiate Institute. I walk by the plaque and portraits commemorating you and the school’s other alumni who were killed in the First World War almost daily. It’s very special that current students can remember our past students so easily. On Remembrance Day, the Grade 10 Laurier class organizes and presents a Remembrance Day assembly to the entire school. I was part of the assembly when I was in Grade 10, and that is a learning experience I will never forget. You and the many other students from our school who never returned home to Brantford will continue to be remembered at BCI. We have not forgotten you and the immense responsibility we have to preserve your legacy.

Visiting the Ring of Remembrance and seeing your name engraved on one of the many panels will be the highlight of the Vimy Pilgrimage Award program. I brought a backpack signed by many BCI staff and students, and I am taking a picture of it alongside your name to show our school that our history is real, and it cannot be dismissed, ignored, or forgotten. I also have the chance to visit a BCI soldier’s grave in Tyne Cot and locate the names of BCI soldiers on the Vimy Memorial and on Menin Gate. I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to honour so many BCI students within one week.

Thank you for inspiring me with your courage and selflessness. You have shown me that Brantford women can accomplish great things. Thank you for making me believe in myself and in Brantford.

Lest we forget.

Sincerely,

Jeriann Hsiao

A Vimy Ridge Day Conversation

On April 9th, 2020, Vimy Pilgrimage Award recipient Alexandra Elmslie from Guelph, ON, had the chance to talk to Margaret Willoughby, daughter of Colonel Archer Fortescue Duguid who was at the Battle of Vimy Ridge and whose words are etched into the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Elmslie writes about the significance of this Vimy Ridge Day call below.

As youth today, we aren’t often provided with the opportunity to reach into the past and make a personal connection with someone having first-hand knowledge of a historical event.  Recently, I was given the opportunity to speak with Margaret Willoughby, daughter of Colonel Archer Fortescue Duguid, one of the brave soldiers who fought at Vimy Ridge in 1917. Being one of the recipients of the 2020 Vimy Pilgrimage Award, I was very excited about this opportunity to learn more about Margaret’s father, who played an integral role in one of Canada’s historic military battles. 

Margaret was eager to share her remarkable story with me, speaking not only of her father’s involvement in the Battle of Vimy Ridge but also of his extraordinary influence in Canadian history. Margaret spoke very fondly of her father, primarily recalling memories of them together in his study as he wrote. 

She expressed great pride in his accomplishments, explaining how her father became the inaugural Canadian historian for the First World War and how his aptitude for writing led him to compose several historical publications. His penchant for writing was forever immortalized when his phrase, “To the valour of their countrymen in the Great War and in memory of their sixty thousand dead this monument is raised by the people of Canada,” was chosen as an inscription on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. 

More importantly, however, she spoke to me about her father’s participation in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. She recalled her father’s stories about his time in the underground tunnels before the battle where his fellow comrades and him inscribed their names on the limestone walls. 

I am unable to express how truly incredible the experience was for me to personally hear about a soldier’s experience during Vimy through Margaret. It helped me appreciate the Battle of Vimy Ridge from another perspective, deepening and illuminating my knowledge of this historic event. 

When I travel to Belgium and France with the Vimy Pilgrimage Award, her perspective will undoubtedly influence my experience. When I look at the monument and read the inscription, her heartfelt pride in her father’s accomplishments will no doubt come soaring back to me. 

This experience also served as a reminder of the critical role our generation plays in preserving the memory of the First World War over one hundred years later. Throughout our conversation, Margaret was insistent that her father’s memory, and that of his fellow soldiers, be kept alive by our generation. 

As the past recedes further recedes from us, it is crucial to continue remembering the hardships endured and the sacrifices made by those who fought for a larger purpose than themselves, a task which Margaret and countless others like her hope our generation can fulfill.

As we undergo this global pandemic, it’s important to remember all the difficult times our nation has endured. Speaking with Margaret reminded me of our ability, as a people and as a nation, to persevere in the face of adversity, a trait as prevalent today as it was in 1917. We are once again called together to unite as one people fighting for the common good; we are called to unite in the face of a common enemy and put the welfare of all Canadians at the forefront of our minds.

-Alexandra Elmslie