Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 17 August 2017

A chance meeting in Arromanches with veterans of the Second World War.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Today in France the BVP2017 students visited the JunoBeachCentre, shared a special moment during their own private ceremony on the Beach, and visited the iconic Canada House. They also saw the Mulberry Harbours at Arromanches and visited the war cemeteries at Beny-sur-Mer and Bayeux. The best part of the day was when the group met veterans of the Second World War, Harry and Len!

(Please note: the students blog in their language of preference)

Juno Beach Centre.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Bonjour à tous, aujourd’hui, nous sommes allés à deux endroits où les forces Alliés ont débarqué le 6 Juin 1944, les plages de Juno et Gold. Nous sommes tout premièrement allés sur la plage de Juno, sur laquelle les Canadiens ont débarqué pour libérer la France et l’Europe. Nous avons tout d’abord participé à une cérémonie émouvante sur la plage. Ensuite, nous avons visité le Centre de Juno Beach qui était très intéressant, notamment une exposition sur la commémoration de Vimy à Juno. C’était très intéressant de voir le débarquement du point de vue Canadien et d’en apprendre plus sur le long et rigoureux entrainement pour faire partie des forces Alliées. Ensuite, nous sommes allés au cimetière Canadien de Bény sur Mer, qui était magnifique. Là-bas, j’ai été très impressionné par deux épitaphes de Canadiens mort le Jour J et dans les jours suivant : « I have fulfilled my duty » et « All you had you gave to save mankind. Yourself you scorned to save your life ».

– Paul Toqueboeuf, Boulogne, France

 

 

 

Bayeaux War Cemetery.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.

As we visit numerous cemeteries throughout the program, we remember the lost, the forgotten and the fallen soldiers who made so many sacrifices during times of war; giving up the safety of their countries and their homes, their families, and ultimately, their lives. To commemorate those brave souls, there are memorials and tombstones erected in their honour. They have been designed with care; every cut in the stone, every engraving carefully planned out and overflowing with meaning. The tombstones found in Commonwealth cemeteries resemble each other at first sight, as they usually bear the name of the soldier, their battalion, regimental number and date of death. However, each one tells a different story. The epitaphs found near the bottom of the tombstones are usually a good way to begin these stories. While visiting different cemeteries, I have collected some of those epitaphs:

“To the world he was just a soldier. To me, he was all the world.”
“Loved. Remembered. Longed for always. Until the day break and the shadows flee away.”
“To live in the hearts of those who love us is never to die at all.”
“There is a link that death will never sever – Love and remembrance last forever.”

I have written the following epitaph as a promise to the Fallen:
“I will keep alight the torch of courage your dying hands passed onto me. Not just today, but every day. In silence we remember.”

-Cecilia Kim, Surrey, British Columbia

Today we went to Juno Beach, the site of the Canadian landings as part of the Normandy invasion on June 6th, 1944. We held a moving ceremony on the beach to commemorate the more than 24,000 Canadian men who fought and the 340 Canadian men who died during D-Day. We recited the poetic words of Cyril Crain:

Cole Oien – Juno Beach.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.

They gave their lives in Normandy
Remember them with pride.
Soldiers, airmen, sailors, airborne and marines
Who in civvy life were tailors and men who worked machines.

We finished the ceremony by writing memorial messages to the dead, in the sand on the beach.
Inside the center were short films about the Juno Beach assault, artifacts from the war, and a special exhibit called “From Vimy to Juno: Remembering Canadians in France.” I was excited to see the work of our chaperone Rachel in this exhibit, which discussed how Canadians fought in France since the Great War, and how Canadian involvement has been commemorated. It was an emotional and gratifying experience to see where “our boys” began the liberation of Europe, seventy-three years ago.

-Evan Kanter, Toronto, Ontario

 

Claire Belliveau – Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation 2017.
Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery.
Credit: Katy Whitfield, Vimy Foundation 2017.