Vimy Pilgrimage Award Blog – 7 April 2019

Today, our VPA2019 recipients visited Historial de la Grande Guerre and participated in an artefact workshop. In the afternoon, they toured Beaumont-Hamel with Canadian guide Miriam from Veterans Affairs Canada and visited Thiepval, the Courcelette Canadian Memorial, and the Lochnagar Crater Memorial. Read the students’ posts here. (Please note: participants will blog in their language of preference).

 

Aujourd’hui a été une journée bien remplie. On est allés à Beaumont-Hamel, le gros monument pour Terre-Neuve, on est allés au monument de Thiepval, un monument britannique et français, et de plus on est allés à l’Historial de la Grande Guerre, où on a pu interagir avec des artéfacts vieux de plus de cent ans !

Mais pour moi, la plus importante partie de la journée a été ma présentation sur mon soldat, mon arrière-arrière oncle, Henri Plouffe. Henri Plouffe était un Canadien-français, né le 16 septembre 1885, à St-Anne, un petit village au Manitoba. Il a joint la Force Expéditionnaire canadienne le 12 Avril 1916. Henri a combattu à Passchendaele, et aussi à Amiens. Henri était un jeune homme très passionné, et aussi très aidant. Il a beaucoup montré preuve de sa nature aidante même durant son expérience à la guerre; quand un de ses camarades s’est fait tirer par une balle allemande dans l’épaule. Il aidait un officier non-commissionné à donner des premiers soins à l’autre soldat, quand un obus allemand est venu exploser à côté du trio, les tuant instantanément.

Dans l’heure menant à ma présentation, j’étais un peu nerveux. Je n’ai aucune idée pourquoi j’étais nerveux, mais je l’étais. Quand j’ai trouvé sa tombe, j’étais surmonté d’émotion; j’ai simplement commencé à pleurer. Tout la nervosité a disparue en un clin d’œil, et je me sentais serein, au pied de la tombe de mon arrière-grand-oncle. Je lui ai dit une prière, et je lui ai parlé. J’ai pu lui parler de comment il manquait fortement la famille, et comment j’aurais bien aimé le rencontrer.

Avoir la chance de présenter l’histoire d’Henri et l’histoire de ma famille a été un honneur immense et inoubliable. C’est sûr que je retournerai le visiter dans les années qui viennent. Henri va me manquer, et j’espère que la croix que j’ai laissée pour lui restera à ses côtés.

Aidan Hupe, Whitehorse, YK

 

Over the course of this program and especially today, something has struck me: how peaceful it is here. For a place that was once in ruins, one hundred years later seems virtually untouched- with the exception of the evident scars. While we were at Beaumont-Hamel, however, it was calm and peaceful. Yet this is the location of one of the bloodiest battles in history. I was in awe of the contrast presented in front of me. How different the area now is; I couldn’t believe my eyes when realizing the full extent of this site. How many lives were lost in just a small area. I had to stop and take in the reality of what this place was and is. The sacrifices that were made here, and the terror that reigned in this area. After remaining in this mindset, I was interrupted by a peace and calm once again. It made me reflect on how symbolic Beaumont-Hamel is. Could it truly be a peaceful resting place for the fallen of the most horrific battle? The irony of it stands out, though it also brings it all together. In the midst of where there was once terror and warfare there was a peace that surpassed understanding.

Elizabeth Gagné, Regina SK

 

Visiting Beaumont-Hamel today was nothing less than incredible. Learning of the approximately eight hundred Newfoundlanders who were killed, leaving a whole generation left without men, lead to both tremendous benefits and brutal curses. The men who died at Beaumont-Hamel brought into my mind some of the social and cultural shifts that took place throughout this time period on the home front. The shift that affected me the most, due to all the women in my life, was that with all the men gone, women were forced into the factories. While this change didn’t immediately change the prevailing sentiment at the end of the war, it did lay the backbone for the future women’s rights activists for the cultural shifts to come. However, this tremendous advancement didn’t come without tremendous sacrifices – the loss of the sovereignty of a nation. As Newfoundland was unable to overcome its mass human losses due to its relatively small size, it faced incredible economic pressure to give up its sovereignty, inevitably leading to its induction into Canada, which opposed the beliefs of many native Newfoundlanders at the time. These emotional explorations and cultural revelations, through both the ups and downs, lead to both emotional and intellectual changes within me, that I hope to be able to take advantage of in the future.

Eric Weidmann, Fort Saskatchewan AB