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

 

A Legacy in Colour

Over a century ago, (William) Ernest Keeling of the UK enlisted as a motorcycle dispatch rider early in the war. Having trained throughout the summer months of 1915, he arrived on the Western Front in late July 1915.

In summer 2019, his descendants, now living in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, discovered a photo of Ernest Keeling in our collection of pictures from the First World War in Colour project. This is the first time a subject in one of our colourized photos has been identified!

Ernest Keeling was identified as the main subject in this colourized photo from November 1917.

The photo, taken by official Canadian war photographer William Rider-Rider in November 1917, features a dispatch rider riding away from a mobile pigeon loft built onto a converted London bus. This photo was colourized by the Vimy Foundation and digital colourist Canadian Colour, and is featured in the book They Fought in Colour, published by Dundurn Press in 2018.

Between the summer of 1916 and the end of the war, Canada’s official war photographers took nearly 8,000 photographs. However, most of the records related to these images do not have any information on the subjects of the photos.

This discovery has been an emotional one for the grandchildren of Ernest Keeling, cousins Mihiteria King of NZ, Sarah Buttimore (nee Keeling) of the UK, and Graham Keeling of Australia. They have newspaper clippings of Ernest with pigeons on his motorbike during the First World War, but hadn’t come across the photo in colour. Uncovering the service of their grandfather from the war has been extremely impactful.

They have also since discovered that two of Ernest’s medals have been located in the The Royal Engineers Museum in Kent U.K.. All their research is compiled on a neat webpage for safekeeping. You can find out more about Ernest Keeling here.