Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 15 August 2018

Today, our BVP 2018 recipients visited the Indian Memorial Neuve Chapelle, the Courcelette Memorial and the Lochnagar Crater Memorial. In the afternoon, they toured Beaumont-Hamel with Canadian guide Vienna from Veterans Affairs Canada, visited Thiepval, and participated in an artefact workshop at Historial de la Grande Guerre. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).

It’s hard to describe what it feels like to walk in the footsteps of a fallen generation. Today, we visited Beaumont-Hamel, the site of the Battle of the Somme. The site of the battle that killed 800 of Newfoundland’s brothers, sons, and fathers. I had been anticipating this since the start of the program. This was sacred ground, something that every Newfoundlander hopes to see. When we walked through the entrance, I got chills that did not go away until I was back on the bus. As we walked with the tour guide, I couldn’t help but think that a wall that took us minutes to cross, took the soldiers hours. While we were safe, they fought for every last step.

As I explored the battlefield where our men lived and died, I felt something profound that I struggle to explain. As I saw the Caribou monument, I became overwhelmed with emotion and found myself crying. As I placed Newfoundland pins on each memorial, I felt a connection with each name, each headstone. As I walked through the tattered fields, it felt as if the spirits of the first five hundred were walking with me. I felt a connection to the hundreds of men that I never met, the hundreds of men who died to protect me without ever knowing me. I won’t forget them or their sacrifice. Newfoundland will not forget its fallen, not for as long as the waves still batter our rocky shores.

Kelsey Ross, Burin NL

 

Cette journée a été marquée par une atmosphère sombre avec la visite de nombreux sites commémoratifs, le plus impressionnant étant le Mémorial de Thiepval. Le mémorial de Thiepval est un monument qui honore les noms des soldats britanniques et sud-africains disparus lors de la bataille de la Somme. Avec plus de 72 000 noms présentés sur les murs de la porte, il était à la fois émouvant et accablant. J’ai essayé de voir chaque nom comme une vraie personne avec des émotions, des passions et une famille, mais il est impossible de voir des tragédies aussi importantes. Ces derniers jours, lors de nos visites à Essex Farm et d’autres monuments, les pierres tombales ont été un marqueur visuel du sacrifice de masse qui a eu lieu il ya environ 100 ans. Les noms des murs du Mémorial de Thiepval sont souvent oubliés, car leur site commémoratif est une liste de noms facilement consultables, mais ces derniers jours m’ont rappelé les noms des disparus, en tant que personnes, au lieu de juste un autre numéro tragique.

Isabella Mackay, Ottawa ON

 

The day started in Belgium with one of the most beautiful sunrises we’ve experienced so far. After crossing borders into France and visiting several memorials throughout the day we arrived at Thiepval Memorial & CWGC and words fall just short of describing the magnitude of the site.

A humble entrance tricks the mind into believing it’s another memorial and museum, yet a short walk unveils an arch-like edification of monumental measures. Such a grand site makes one wonder, how vast was the extent of the First World War? The endless names that adorn the walls of the memorial touch deep within the heart and suddenly the emotion is too much. But isn’t everything about this war “too much”? Too much loss, too much sacrifice and too much at stake. Lower is the CWGC, a shared grave site with Commonwealth soldier headstones and French soldier headstones. The view encapsules the true spirit of cooperation and the European brethren that fought together for the beliefs and morals they deemed essential for society, the same morals we, as youth, should strive to protect through remembrance of this conflict. Tomorrow Vimy Memorial awaits our visit.

Alejandra Largo Alvarez, London ON

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 14 August 2018

Still in the Ypres region, the BVP 2018 group did a biking tour of the Ypres Salient with our wonderful guide Carl. Sights included the Menin Gate, St. Julien Canadian Memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery, the Passchendaele Memorial, and the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Memorial. In the evening, the students attended the Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate where Isabella, Caroline, and Laetetia laid a wreath to commemorate the fallen. (Please note: participants will blog in their language of preference).

Aujourd’hui, nous avons fait un tour des lieux historiques de Belgique en bicyclette. Nous avons eu l’opportunité de visiter plusieurs cimetières et des monuments commémoratifs, dont un à St-Julien et un autre à Passchendaele. Cette expérience a été, à la fois, éducative et divertissante. Le cimetière de Tyne Cot m’a particulièrement marqué par les découvertes faites durant notre visite à cet endroit-là. J’ai appris que certains soldats avaient été enterrés avant la construction du cimetière parce qu’ils étaient morts sur les lieux et comme l’organisation responsable du cimetière ne voulait pas changer leurs localisations dans celui-ci, leurs pierres tombales sont mises dans un ordre non conforme; hors des rangées classiques présentes dans les cimetières classiques. J’ai ressenti que les soldats étaient respectés à leur juste valeur. J’ai aussi été surprise d’apprendre que certains allemands sont enterrés dans le cimetière Tyne Cot en Belgique, à cause de règles qui empêchent le rapatriement dans ce pays européen. Cette découverte m’a poussée à me demander si d’autres personnes ont fait des tentatives similaires et à vouloir en apprendre davantage sur l’opinion des historiens sur la question de rapatriement. J’ai hâte de faire des recherches pour trouver des réponses à mes questions.

Selon moi, notre journée s’est terminée en beauté : nous avons assisté à la cérémonie quotidienne <<Last Post>> commémorant les soldats morts lors de la Première Guerre mondiale à la porte de Menin. J’ai d’ailleurs eu l’honneur de déposer un bouquet de fleurs avec deux autres récipiendaires : Isabella et Caroline. Pour moi, ce fut un moment unique rempli d’émotions qui restera à jamais graver dans ma mémoire.

Laetitia Champenois-Pison, Montreal QC

 

Today has been my favourite day so far. We went on a bike ride and visited many memorials, including Tyne Cot, the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery. There are almost 12,000 graves there, 8,300 of which remain unidentified. Round the outside of the plot, there were the names of 35,000 British and New Zealand soldiers, all of whom have no resting place. This was also where I did my soldier tribute. After spending many hours researching my soldier, it was incredible to finally visit his grave. It was also very moving, and to think that I had just told one of the soldier’s story, but there were millions of others just like him who lost their lives to this terrible war. My soldier was brought up in Edinburgh like myself, very near my house in fact, and went to the same local high school as many of my friends. Unlike my friends and I, however, he went to war, and died. His sacrifice, and the sacrifice of all the other soldiers that fought on both sides of the First World War makes them true heroes, and have my utmost respect.

Gordon Simpson, Edinburgh Scotland

 

Today, we witnessed the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate. It was our second visit to the memorial, and yesterday I presented my soldier tribute. It was almost a turning point for me on this trip because the morning of my presentation we had visited many cemeteries and I hadn’t felt the least bit sad. I felt guilty because my fellow BVP peers had tears in their eyes. I thought that maybe someone else would be more empathetic would get more out of it. However, when I was presenting my soldiers project, everything was fine until I started to pack up my papers and walk away. All of a sudden, I felt my lip quivering and tears form in my eyes. I don’t know why I started to tear up, maybe it was because I was saying goodbye to my soldier, or maybe it was that I had spent so much time preparing my presentation for him and now it was over just like that. I realized that I can get so much from this program and I promised myself that I would make the most of this program by not worrying about how I might react differently to monuments, and taking in this experience in my own personal way. To end this day, I would like to share the poem I wrote for my soldier.

 

I Want You To Know

 

I want you to know,

That Indian Point still extends into the Bay

Waving goodbye to the boats that sail away

The ocean still creeps along the shore

Until the tide is up and there’s no beach anymore

I want you to know,

That the Algonquin Hotel still stands proud,

A shining gem in our small town

I want you to know,

That amidst the town square where children play and laugh

Stands an arch made from stone that we call the cenotaph

John Herbert McMullon, you will never lose your home

Because in the town of Saint Andrews, your name’s written in stone

I want you to know,

You and many others, received an underserving fate

And that’s why I came to honour you, at the Menin Gate

Brooke Reid, St. Andrews NB

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 13 August 2018

Today in Belgium, our 2018 BVP recipients visited Langemark German Cemetery and John McCrae’s Dressing station where Gordon and Cassandre read the well-known poem In Flanders Fields. Later, the students visited the In Flanders Fields Museum, located in the Cloth Hall and climbed the 231 steps to the Cloth Tower to see the magnificent views across the Ypres region. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).

The first site that we visited today upon our arrival in Belgium was the German Military Cemetery “Friedhof Langemark.“ As I entered the cemetery proper, I was struck by the number of names carved into the stone walls in every available opening. What I found most interesting about this site was how each headstone had about six names on it, which was out of necessity as the Germans often had to use mass graves.

Essex Farm was the hardest for me. Such a site feels akin to receiving a crushing embrace… with each inhale there is more pain and soon after tears spring to the eyes. The entire site felt so soft, loving and personal that my emotions showed more expression than my words ever could.

Now, both sites were both beautiful and tragic but I feel as though I connected more in Essex because of one grave in particular. There was a boy that served and died in 1916 at the age of 15. This was someone very close in age to me and yet we led drastically different lives. It is boy soldiers like him that really sell the idea of sacrifice to me. For young men to feel the patriotic duty to put their lives on the line makes me thankful to have memorials where I can pay homage to the dead like him.

Hannah Rogers, Kinkora PEI

 

Aujourd’hui j’ai finalement eu la chance de voir les vrais champs de bataille de la Première Guerre Mondiale, en Belgique. C’est une chose de lire sur les batailles, mais c’est une expérience complètement différente de voir les mêmes endroits et reliefs où les soldats ont combattu. Malgré cela, c’est encore très loin des vrais expériences, car nous sommes ici en temps de paix. Nous avons visité Langemark, un cimetière allemand, et Essex Farm, un cimetière commonwealth. Les deux sont en Belgique, ce qui est très symbolique, car cela représente le respet des soldats sacrifiés des deux côtés. Langemark garde la mémoire des soldats allemands morts durant les batailles de Ypres, surnommé le « Studenteschlafe » car la majorité des soldats morts étaient des étudiants. Cela démontre la vraie tragédie de la guerre : environ 40,000 jeunes allemands avec des futurs remplis de promesses. J`ai été frappé, à Langemark, par l`enterrement de deux soldats anglais. Je crois que c’est merveilleux que Langemark montre ce respect pour tous les soldats sacrifiés, peu importe leur nationalité. Une question que j`aimerais partager est s`il serait mieux pour les deux anglais enterrés à Langemark d’être plutôt enterrés à Essex Farm?

Standford Lee, Beaconsfield QC

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 12 August 2018

Today, our 2018 BVP recipients travelled to Oxford University to attend lectures given by Fiona Houston from the University of Aberdeen and Dr. Emma Login of Historic England. After lunch, the students participated in an amazing race across Oxford and finished the day by punting on the river. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).

Today, we had the opportunity to journey to Oxford, England. It was an experience many of us- especially me- were highly anticipating, and I can confidently say that my dreams really did come true. Upon entering the Oxford University campus, I was overwhelmed by the phenomenally beautiful architecture soaring above our heads, as well as the quaint and welcoming essence of the town. After briefly exploring, we were lucky to reunite with one of the program’s alumni, Hannah Smyth, who graciously toured around Exeter College, where she currently studies. We were fortunate enough to hear lectures from historians Fiona Houston and Emma Login, who spoke to us about First World War propaganda and how memorials change over time, respectively. I found the lectures fascinating, and some particular highlights for me included learning how propaganda can be considered both ‘good and bad’ and how memorials can have different meanings for different people. Following the lectures, we further explored the campus with an ‘Amazing Race’ style treasure hunt and later got the opportunity to try ‘punting’ on the river. All in all, it was a phenomenal day, and I am so grateful for the many experiences we were afforded.

Caroline Tolton, North York ON

 

Aujourd’hui départ pour Oxford ! Nous sommes tous très impatient d’y aller. Nous avons eu la chance de pouvoir visiter un campus. L’architecture est vraiment intéressante et magnifique. Les bâtiments sont immenses et magiques. Ce que j’ai préféré, c’est la présentation que nous a faite Fiona Houston concernant la propagande de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale. Nous avons pu réfléchir ensemble sur l’objectif de cette propagande et débattre sur certaines affiches, oeuvres d’art de Muirhead Bone ainsi que sur différents textes. La présentation d’Emma Login était également très intéressante. J’ai particulièrement aimé le moment où elle nous a parlé du “Queer Remembrance Day” du 2 novembre 1997, les photos étaient pleines d’émotions.

Après tout ça, les chaperons ont organisé le “Beaverbrook Amazing Race” dans la ville, C’était vraiment amusant avec mon équipe nous avons terminé les premiers. Pour terminer la journée en beauté, nous avons fait du “punting” (comme les gondoles). Ce fut une première pour tout le monde. Cela restera inoubliable. Pour finir, nous sommes allés manger dans un restaurant indien “le Shezan”.

Cassandre Onteniente, Bessières FRANCE

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 11 August 2018

Today, our 2018 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize recipients visited the Imperial War Museums London and had the opportunity to participate in a lecture and workshop from Anna Maguire of King’s College London and James Wallace of the University of Essex. Later, the students did a memorial walking tour across the city and visited the Churchill War Rooms. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).

As we walked the streets of London today, I was still trying to grasp the surreal feeling of being able to take part in this experience. We spent the day touring the Imperial War Museum, learning about monuments around the city, and visiting the Churchill War Rooms. The First World War exhibit at the IWM had the greatest impact on me because I was able to learn about events in history through real stories and artefacts from the war. Before this program, my knowledge of the World Wars was limited to what I was taught in the classroom. For years, I have attended Remembrance Day ceremonies and been told that we must honour the sacrifices of those who served but never fully understood the extent of what they experienced. Going through the exhibit today, however, I learned about the experiences of soldiers, children, and families during the First World War. A letter that a nine-year-old wrote resonated with me the most when he requested to help the army. The impacts of the war were evident especially when young children were so deeply affected. I can only imagine the horrors faced by soldiers as they fought in the trenches, by civilians who fell in the crossfire, and by families who waited for their loved ones to return. The First World War did not only impact the soldiers who fought in it, but rather people all around the world and the exhibit at the Imperial War Museum allowed me to develop a much deeper understanding of the broader impacts of war.

Ghalia Aamer, Edmonton AB

 

Aujourdhui fût une journée bien remplie, pleine dapprentissages, pleine dactivités et pleine démotion. Mon moment fétiche de la journée fût la visite du musée IWM et plus particulièrement la section sur les héros de la guerre. Jai trouvé que la présentation était très attirante visuellement mais aussi auditive et tactile. Jai ressenti un profond intérêt envers lapprentissage sur les soldats et lexploit de leur rôle, et j`ai trouvé cela brillant davoir réservé une galerie pour eux. Ce nétait pas que les héros de guerre qui furent abordés dans cette galerie : les femmes, héroïnes, furent également exposées dans une partie de cette exposition.

Finalement, le moment dont je vais faire part ici, c`est la section de lholocauste. Je crois que certaines choses à propos de cet horrible moment de lhistoire sont des tabous, mais oser d`aborder ces choses et cest ce qui ajoute lélément sensible à un musée. Ce qui ma affectée le plus a été de voir des images denfants juifs décédés et ce quils fesaient de leurs pauvres corps. Regarder ces images cest difficile et cela me fait penser à limportance dune simple vie et au nombre de celles-ci qui ont été perdues trop tôt.

Alix Gravel, Bromont QC

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 10 August 2018

The Beaverbrook Vimy Prize participants and chaperones, ready to fly out of Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport on 9 August 2018.

Yesterday students selected from across Canada embarked on the Vimy Foundation’s Beaverbrook Vimy Prize! Follow our 2018 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize recipients as they blog about their First and Second World War history education experience! (Please note: participants will blog in their language of preference.)  Today’s first blogs come from our five chaperones.

And we’re off…We made it to Pearson Airport, met with our Toronto student and her parents, and are waiting at the gate for all the other students to arrive on flights from their hometowns! I’m so excited to meet everyone in person and begin the England part of our program!

-Sara Karn

 

Katrina: Since the moment they learned that they have been selected as recipients of the 2018 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize, this group of students has been busy preparing for the program by completing academic readings, organizing group presentation materials, and by preparing a presentation about an individual who is buried or commemorated overseas. Over the past few months, each one of these students has already contributed something unique to this group with their work ethic and dedication to learning Canada’s military past.

By leading on-site lectures, asking thought provoking questions, and sharing in respectful historical debates, myself and my fellow chaperones will guide these young scholars across the landscapes, battlefields, memorials, and museums in the United Kingdom, Belgium, and France. This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity that not one of us will forget.

-Katrina Pasierbek

 

Everyone has made it to Montreal and we are ready to ship off to London. I’m looking forward to meeting our two European participants and getting the 2018 BVP started. We have a great itinerary lined up and a fantastic group of students. Having the opportunity to learn about the two 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

 

This will be my second program with the Vimy Foundation and my first time on the BVP program. This time around, however, I had the opportunity to be on the selection committee. I was fortunate enough to read a lot of the applications and I can say without hesitation, that the 16 students who were selected to participate will be an amazing group to share this incredible experience with. I can’t wait to get a start on the program and I am looking forward to returning to many of the sites we visited in April, and then some. Most of all, however, I am excited to participate in a program with such an enthusiastic group of students and chaperones, and see the positive ways this learning experience will impact everyone of us.

-Lindsay Fraser-Noel

 

I’m writing from the Eurostar, on my way to London from Paris. Preparations for this programme have been intense and I can’t believe today is the day when it finally starts! Though I am only meeting one of the participants tonight, I feel like the BVP2018 has already kicked off. Knowledge in our programmes tipically flows from all directions, and I can’t wait to share my passion for the history of warfare with our students but also learn from them and with them. As usual, I have a few poetic and anthropological surprises prepared! This will be my third programme with the Vimy Foundation and my first BVP, and I am excited to lead the students through the country of my ancestors, where I studied and where my career as a First World War specialist began. I am also looking forward to rediscovering the beaches in Normandy and refreshing my knowledge about the Second World War. Most of all, I am looking forward to meeting such an enthusiastic and proactive group of young people (and not-so-young too, as I have missed our chaperone team!) and learning from them about the beautiful country of Canada.

-Julia Ribeiro Thomaz

Vimy Pilgrimage Award Blog – 9 April 2018

On the last day of the program, the 2018 Vimy Pilgrimage Award students visited the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, which was a very important and moving experience. The group visited the new Vimy Education Centre and participated in a ceremony commemorating the 101st anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge where Nupur and Thomas read the Commitment to Remember as Katie, Stephanie, and Shakil laid a wreath. Later in the day, they visited the Maison Blanche underground tunnels and the Canadian Cemetery No.2. (Please note: participants will blog in their language of preference.)

[7:54 am] Sarah: We’re on our way to Vimy and I can’t wait to experience such an important Canadian Memorial.

 

[8:10 am] Lloyd: Walking up to the monument in silence, with the structure being slowly uncovered by the fog as we moved closer- there was a definitive feeling of awe, indescribable by words.

 

[8:11 am] Amy: In an instant, only mere metres away, a looming outline of the Vimy memorial came into view. Even though the silence and fog remained constant, I could feel my heart begin to pound in my chest as I slowly climbed the first steps of the monument.

 

[8:23 am] Christophe: L’immersion totale dans les sphères psychologiques les plus intimes de ceux qui ont subi la guerre, soit à travers la commémoration de leurs histoires, l’exploration de lieux qui ont marqué leur conscience ou l’admiration du silence solennel aux pieds de cet énorme monument, fut l’une des expériences les plus touchantes pour nous tous.h

 

[9:12 am] Montaña: Seeing my soldier Acil today dug trenches in the pits of my heart that I cannot see myself mounting any time soon.

 

[9:27 am] Rohan: Though I am no way related to Private Milne, I felt as if he was a close member of my family that I had known for years while I read my poem to him at the Vimy Memorial.

 

[10:18 am] Osose: We’re about to go into the Vimy tunnels and I am very excited to see those.

 

[10:33 am] Bethany: Outside of the Vimy tunnels, I met someone from Chilliwack, my hometown, who heard about my pilgrimage. I am so happy to have felt the experience of everyone from around the world coming to Vimy and having been lucky enough to meet.

 

[1:37 pm] Stephanie: Though stone littered the floor, rusted nails stuck out from the walls, and grenades lay idle on the ground, emerging from the dark tunnels of Maison Blanche was the art, personality, and stories of generations.

 

[1:42 pm] Jeriann: I had an amazing time seeing all of the soldiers’ and miners’ graffiti in the Maison Blanche tunnels. I was looking forward to this since the beginning of the program, and it has exceeded all of my expectations.

 

[2:14 pm] Thomas: D’ici quelques minutes, j’irai lire la promesse de se souvenir; quelle honneur !

 

[2:49 pm] Shakil: Staying outside in the rain, preparing to lay the wreath, the only thing running through my mind is the endless cold and rain that a soldier of the First World War had to go through.

 

[4:13 pm] Kiana: The Vimy Ceremony was a very meaningful experience. It was beautiful and I feel like everything that I felt, learned, experienced and saw all culminated in that procession. I have never felt prouder to be Canadian.

 

[4:17 pm] Laurissa: Je n’ai jamais vue une cérémonie de souvenir aussi grande et émouvante. Je suis très chanceuse d’avoir eu la chance de voir une telle cérémonie, et je m’en rappellerai toujours.

 

[4:47 pm] Nepur: Reading the Commitment to Remember, I was proud and humbled to play a part in the ceremony and do my part to honour the contributions and sacrifices of Canadian soldiers.

 

[5:24 pm] Katie: The world is a pretty small place… and sometimes you have to go to the other side of the globe to realize it. I was one of the three, along with Shaq and Stephanie, to lay a wreath at the Vimy Memorial. After hearing my last name announced, Barry C. Quinn (Justice of the Peace of Ontario) came to talk to me. It was quite an experience.

 

[5:42 pm] Julia: Getting to see my great-grandfather’s cousin in the Aix-Noulette Cemetery was an amazing, emotional, and life-changing experience.

 

[6:01 pm] Markus: I gained a new perspective on the importance of honouring our soldiers’ sacrifice and bringing their message to the modern world.

 

[9:04 pm] Damien: Le programme a pris tout son sens aujourd’hui, quand le mémorial de Vimy s’est dévoilé à nous, sous la pluie et la brume, comme hors du temps, une vision irréelle qui nous a rappelé que tout ce que nous avons fait lors de la dernière semaine nous ramène finamelemtn à ce pourquoi nous nous sommes engagés dans cette aventure au départ: c’est vraiment un pèlerinage, pour Vimy, vers Vimy.
[9:14 pm] Léa-Jade: Un mot : Reconnaissant !

Vimy Pilgrimage Award Blog – 8 April 2018

Today the 2018 Vimy Pilgrimage Award students were in Amiens, visiting the gothic cathedral and other sites significant to the Hundred Days Offensive. In the afternoon, they travelled to Lens to visit the Lens’14-18 Museum and a number of cemeteries, including Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, and the Ring of Remembrance. (Please note: participants will blog in their language of preference.)

Through today’s sites, I truly understood the weight of the sacrifices of the men and women who died serving our country. Around Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, 44,000 French are buried in what seems like infinite rows of crosses. I could not comprehend how so many people could be buried in this cemetery alone. Reading the statistics in a history textbook or on a website always allowed me to distance myself. However, walking past thousands and thousands of crosses and still seeing so many more stunned me. Visiting the largest French cemetery of the First World War allowed me to visualize the immense loss of human life in ways that I could not before the VPA program.

I also had the opportunity to present my research on the first Canadian nursing sister to be killed in action during the First World War, Katherine Maud MacDonald. I have a lot in common with her: she was born in my hometown, graduated from my high school, and entered the medical field like I hope to next year. While it is extremely important to remember our soldiers who fought and died, it is just as important to remember Canada’s nursing sisters who fought to save them and died beside them. Finding MacDonald’s name and taking the time to honour her was one of the countless highlights of the program and one of many memories I will never forget.

Jeriann Hsiao, Brantford ON

 

Les rangs de tombes s’enchaînent comme les salles d’artillerie qui a amené plusieurs hommes à leur repos éternel. Les tombes défilent à une vitesse effrayante, comme les pointes qui ont perforé leur coeur et celui de leur famille.

En voyant ces rangées de grandes pierres blanches Lourdes de sens se tiennent fièrement au-dessus du corps inanimé d’un mari, d’un frère ou d’un fils. J’ai réalisé bien qu’en visitant un cimetière ou un musée du premier conflit mondial vous réaliser à quell point point les soldats ont sourffert, mais vous réalisr aussie que des familled, des enfants et des femmes aiment ces hommes tombés au combat. Non seulement ce terrible conflit a été terrible pour les soldats eux-mêmes, mais aussi pour leur famille.

Nous n’avons pas oublié et nous n’oublierons pas que la mémoire de leur sacrifice vive à jamais dans nos coeur et dans notre mémoire collective.

Thomas Turmel, Vallée-Jonction QC

 

We are nearing the end of our wonderful journey. But as the quote goes, “Don’t be sad because it ended, be happy because it happened.” So today I am going to reflect upon my experience here in Europe with 19 other students and 5 amazing chaperones.

We’ve come a long way! 6 days ago, when we all arrived at the airport in Montreal, no one knew one another. In a short period of time, however, we became a very tightly knit group.

When I think of this program many years from now, I’ll think of the many wonderful places we visited. My favourite, thus far, has been the German cemetery in Belgium. It’s beautiful to think that even though the Germans were seen as the ‘enemy’ for invading their country, both sides had a mutual sense of respect for the burial of all the soldiers that fought.

I am looking forward to the Vimy Memorial tomorrow, where I will be presenting my soldier. I’ve learned a lot about the Battle of Vimy Ridge in school, but I am happy to finally see the Memorial for myself.

Rohan Ashar, Toronto ON

 

I am not related to Frank Cyril Pye. I do not come from the same hometown. We did not share school hallways. However, as I faced his headstone, I felt as if I was visiting someone I knew personally. While Private Frank Cyril Pye fought on the Front lines of France, he joked with his young sister back in Manitoba about her boyfriend. When his best friend was reported killed, he asked his sister to send over sheet music for another friend who was a great singer. Beneath the headstone, was the kind big brother who had nothing left but 24 letters addressed to his little sister. My tribute to Pye simply focused on things he said in his letters that I could relate to my own life. It didn’t matter what awards he won, what rank he was, or whether he enlisted or was conscripted. The importance was him being a real person with a real story. Though it is hard to comprehend the millions of interesting stories, big dreams, and bright hopes that were lost during the First World War, I began to understand the loss of a single life through Frank Cyril Pye.

Stephanie Quon, Vancouver BC

Vimy Pilgrimage Award Blog – 7 April 2018

Today in France the 2018 Vimy Pilgrimage Award students visited Historial de la Grande Guerre and Thiepval, toured Beaumont-Hamel with Canadian guides from Veterans Affairs Canada, and visited Lochnagar crater. (Please note: participants will blog in their preferred language.)

Today has been one of my, and I hope in writing this that I may speak for the whole group, favourite days of the entire program. Earlier we went to the Historial De La Grande Guerre in Peronne. It was a very interesting and eye-opening experience. The museum focused on the First World War and had artifacts that shed light not only on the political issues of the time, and important events of the war, but also on the varying perspectives and artistic perceptions of the war.  After we explored the exhibits, we went to a hands-on workshop. One of our chaperones, Julia, led a workshop for us to be able to examine artifacts up close, which was amazing and something I would have never expected to do ever in my life. Also, today I had felt that I was beginning to become closer to the friends I have made over the course of the program. We spent a lot of time talking and we had a few laughs. Today, I also felt was a great leap in the analytical side of the program; we discussed lots of historical view points and I felt like we all earned a lot from those discussions.

Montaña Zimmermann, Pefferlaw ON

 

Lors de notre visite au mémorial de Thiepval, nous avons vues plusieurs soldats inconnus. Ces pierres tombales étaient marqués comme étant « A Soldier of the Great War» et puis en bas de cela, il y avait toujours (sauf quelques exceptions rares) une croix avec l’épitaphe « Known unto God ».

À Thiepval il y avait plusieurs de ces pierres tombales donc je viens de décrire et alors pour nous encourager à penser d’une manière critique, après la tournée nous avons discutés à propos de la question : Est-ce que la croix aura dû être gravé sur la pierre tombale des soldats inconnus sans savoir leur religion? À mon avis, il sera mieux de ne pas mettre de croix. J’explique que pour ceux qui croient dans la religion catholique, leur croyance et entré au paradis n’est pas déterminé par si la croix est présente sur leur pierre tombale ou non. Essentiellement, le soldat est mort avec leur religion et rien ne changera cela même si leur pierre tombale n’a pas de croix gravée dessus. Toutefois, pour ceux qui ne croient pas dans une religion et qui sont misent une croix sur leur pierre tombale, ceci sera un grand manque de respect et imposera donc une fausse représentation de leur religion. En tout, on meurt avec nos croyances et alors rien dans la vie matérielle ne changera cela. Même pas une croix.

Amy Spearman, Winnipeg MB

 

The sun highlighted the caribou’s bronze antlers, as it stood looking proudly over the fields of Beaumont Hamel. The strong- almost majestic- figure represents the Newfoundlanders’ strength, resilience, and bravery as they marched into the line of fire raining down upon them.

Visiting the Beaumont Hamel Memorial, we had the opportunity to take a guided tour through preserved trenches, see where the lines of troops would have stood, visit the cemeteries, and marvel at “Charlie”- otherwise known as “Boo” – the caribou to honour the bloodshed and sacrifice of the Newfoundland Regiment in the Battle of the Somme.

At dawn of July 1st 1916, the Newfoundlanders fought valiantly during the British attack on the Somme. It was incredibly bloody and the regiment suffered 648 casualties; 70 percent of their original force. The Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial distinctly pays homage to the Newfoundland regiment, because they were not a part of Canada during the First World War. Going through the memorial, I was shocked and in awe by how devastating this attack was on the Newfoundland force, and more by how resilient and brave they remained.

The combination of the beautiful statue, stories of the valiant Newfoundlanders, and sights of authentic battle zones made the Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial a very memorable, enjoyable, and educational part of the program.

Nupur Krishnan, Newmarket ON

Vimy Pilgrimage Award Blog – 6 April 2018

Before leaving Belgium today, the 2018 VPA group visited the Mons Memorial Museum and the St. Symphorien Military Cemetery. After arriving in France, they spent time in Cambrai, visiting the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Grâce de Cambrai and the Bourlong Wood Canadian Mémorial. (Please note: participants will blog in their language of preference.)

Today we visited the grave of the first Victoria Cross recipient and the last, the latter also being the soldier I researched for this program. Going to his grave and thanking him for his service was a really touching experience. It was a chance for me to connect with myself, to see what kind of person I really am and to observe my actions in this situation. Learning the story of a soldier really helped me to understand the gravity of ten million casualties in a meaningful way.

We also went to a cemetery where there were British and German graves beside one another. What I found so interesting and inspiring was the difference between German graves and Commonwealth War Graves Commission graces. When visiting Commonwealth cemeteries, German graves were typically a similar shape, size, and colour, except for the top of the headstone, which was flat instead of rounded. In the St. Symphorien cemetery, however, I felt that the headstones were much more personalized, signifying a time where I felt where the soldiers had put their grudges aside.

I am so fortunate to be part of this experience- I would recommend it to anyone thinking about it.

Kiana Baghban, Calgary AB

 

Blanc, avec un haut courbé, aujourd’hui, j’ai vue une pierre tombale unique. Le soldat qu’elle commémorait est inconnu, il était « known unto God ». Depuis le début du programme, j’ai découvert qu’il y a beaucoup trop de pierres tombales comme cela. Ça m’a rendu vraiment triste et m’inonde d’émotions à chaque visite au cimetières.

Selon moi, le mot souvenir me fait penser à un nom, un visage et une histoire. Quand je pense au soldats morts qui ont perdu leur nom et leur vécu au horreurs de la guerre, je ne peut pas m’en souvenir de la même manière. Ces soldats ont battu sur les meme champs de batailles et ont vécu dans les memes tranchées que tous les autres soldats. ils sont mort de la meme guerre, donc, je trouve qu’ils méritent rien de moins que leurs pair. Il faut apprendre à se souvenir de tous nos soldats, même nos soldats sans noms. 

Faire parti du programme PPV m’apprend comment je peut rendre hommage a tout les morts de la guerre. J’apprécie beaucoup la chance que j’ai d’etre içi a Vimy; pour tout nos soldats, connu de nos jours ou non.  

Julia MacPherson, Quispamsis NB

 

Visiting multiple cemeteries over the course of the Vimy Pilgrimage Award Program, I have come to notice many different aspects of the design and layouts of the resting places for many of the soldiers who fought in the First World War. One of the main aspects of the cemeteries is the size of the tombstones which are placed on the graves of every soldier. Whether or not the soldier is unidentifiable, was as low as a Private, or was one of the highest-ranking officers, they all received the same size tombstone. This has interested me throughout the entire program and it conveys and important message about how we value a human life. We visited another cemetery today, and the German graves where different sizes, separated by their rankings and how much money they had. If the family had a lot of money, they could pay for a larger tombstone, whereas in the Commonwealth countries, all the sizes are the same, but the family can pay for epitaphs which are extra. This poses the question of how we value the human life. In the cemeteries, the graves weren’t separated by the ranking either. A corporal could be buried right next to a low ranking private, just to show that all the lives are equal and that everyone who gave their lives for our freedom where all valued and never forgotten.  

Shakil Jessa, Port Coquitlam BC