Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 21 August 2018

Today, our BVP 2018 recipients participated in a lively discussion on Juno Beach about war diaries during the D-Day landings. Later, they visited Beny-sur-mer cemetery where the students were able to research and locate the graves of some of the executed Canadian soldiers at Abbaye d’Ardenne. In the afternoon, they visited the German battery at Longues-sur-mer. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).

As our journey nears its end, we woke up today in Bérnière-sur-Mer, to the sound of seagulls and church bells that surround the grounds where the group is staying. After a morning well spent at the beach analyzing war diaries and what they represent, the group headed to the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, a place important for all of us and that, in an ideal situation, should be for all Canadians. In Beny-sur-Mer rest the bodies of seven of the Canadians killed in the Abbaye d’Ardenne Massacre and hundreds of other brave Canadian men. Their names are a reminder of the human capacity of committing evil acts but also a reminder of hope and peace. Flowers and commemorative ribbons adorn every corner of the cemetery and one can’t help but to wonder how many people have come here to salute the heroes that lie on these grounds. We hope many. In this cemetery, I was also able to find the headstone of a man I was very kindly requested to commemorate and that is Trooper Harry Osborne from the 1st Hussars of my native London, Ontario. Finding his headstone felt like meeting with an old friend, a friend I never met but whose contributions and sacrifice are felt today.

Alejandra Alvarez, London ON

 

This morning Juno beach was our classroom, and we had the privileged opportunity of reading the war diaries of the attack at Juno while we sat on the sand of the exact place it happened. It was amazing to be able to ask: “Where were the soldiers at this point in the attack?” and then have a colleague point to a house and say: “Right there.” This leaves no room for misinterpretation of landscape through limiting history text books. We all took turns reading the detailed events of each day leading up to the attack and got to learn what the offense was like from the perspective of lower ranked military personnel and what they were and weren’t aware of. The remarkable thing about the Beaverbrook Vimy program is that our place of learning often does more teaching than the tour guides themselves, and our classrooms range from lecture halls and Oxford, to the battle fields of Belgium, to the sandy Juno Beach.

Brooke Reid, Saint Andrews NB

 

This morning, we had a discussion on war diaries at Juno beach. We read multiple diaries from the perspectives of three different soldiers from three different battalions, landing at the three towns on Juno Beach: Courseulles-sur-Mer, Bernières-sur-Mer and St-Aubin-sur-Mer. The diary I looked at was the one from St-Aubin-sur-Mer. War diaries are interesting because they provide insight on an event in ways we would have never thought about. For example, the soldier wrote in the diary how happy he was that the journey to the beaches only got him wet to the knees. We sometimes forget that soldiers that get wet often stay uncomfortably wet for the rest of the day. He also wrote something peculiar that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. He explained that after 4 years of preparing for this moment, he was disappointed that his beach met little resistance. I think war diaries give us insight on events from many perspectives. Just like how every soldier’s opinion and perspective of war, our analysis of history needs to be flexible and open to different viewpoints. 

Stanford Li, Beaconsfield QC