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