August 9, 2022
Day 10 - August 18, 2022
Today was a very emotional day. Although the horrors of war are emphasized, you don’t realize the extent of them until you step on the grounds themselves. In the morning, we visited L’Abbaye d’Ardenne, the location in which 20 Canadian soldiers from the Second World War were held as prisoners before their execution. Just standing on the ground of the execution site felt very disturbing and sickening because of the terror they must have faced, but definitely such an enlightening experience as well.
Next, we attended the Dieppe ceremonies in the evening. The entire experience was absolutely incredible and surreal but I just felt in over my head. Being surrounded by veterans and family members of veterans really added a new perspective on the way in which the war influenced the population. In particular, the ceremony and the cemetery itself was made even more emotional through the discovery of the fact that the soldier I researched in high school, Captain Douglas Gordon Purdy, rested in the very cemetery. It was through the completion of the research for that project that piqued my interest in history and is one of the reasons why I was so interested in applying for the program in the first place. Throughout my research 2 years ago, I was able to get into contact with his great-niece who supported me a lot through the process and tomorrow, I get the opportunity to retell his story to the group. I could not think of a better, full-circle way to conclude this program – same soldier from the very start to the very end.
My last few days in Normandy have truly been incredible, a delightful combination of history and scenery.
Waking up every morning, a chilly wind greets me. Perhaps the remnants of an older gust, the day starts off with a tone of reflection. At Juno Beach, I can almost taste the salty Atlantic sea foam, reminding me of Peggy's Cove Lighthouse in Nova Scotia. I wonder if the 20 Canadian soldiers who were executed at Abbey d'Ardenne also thought of their homeland, a final memory before eternal rest. Spreading the coarse sand on my feet around the scent of marine flora, I can envision the same beaches 78 years ago. From being covered by the price of war to a breathtaking museum today, the wonders of time have left much for the current to interpret.
Tonight, I also had the honor to participate in a Dieppe Remembrance Ceremony, as part of the 7th guard. Ultimately standing in front of the Stone of Remembrance, the moment of silence was serene, but filled with emotions. As the flame developed under the flap of regimental flags, I will never forget this moment.
Normandy has been incredible, a delightful conclusion to my 2022 Beaverbrook Vimy experience.
Aujourd’hui, nous avons visité la plage de Dieppe. Dans ma présentation de groupe sur comment la topographie et la géographie ont influencé le combat, j’ai abordé le raid de Dieppe car l’issue de ce dernier reposait en partie sur la géographie et la topographie de la plage. Être sur place m’a vraiment permis de mettre en perspective les renseignements que j’avais absorbés, comme le fait que l'avancée des Alliés avait été grandement obstruée par plage les galets lisses dont la plage est composée. Également, la pente abrupte de la plage encadrée de falaises offrait inévitablement un avantage aux officiers allemands postés dans la ville de Dieppe. De plus, dû à la pente, l’eau s’approfondit très rapidement et les vagues sont très hautes. Voir ces caractéristiques en personne était particulièrement émouvant, car cela m’a donné l’opportunité de cimenter tout ce que j’avais appris depuis le début de mon projet de groupe et de me mettre plus clairement dans les souliers des soldats qui ont combattu ce jour-là.
Tonight, we were invited to attend a special ceremony in commemoration of the Dieppe Raid. As I strolled through the headstones of the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery while awaiting the beginning of the ceremony, I was able to reflect on the sacrifices that Canadian soldiers made during the Second World War that influenced the success of the D-Day Landings. Furthermore, I was moved by the deep appreciation the citizens of Dieppe have for Canadians. To this day, the stunning cobblestone streets of the city are lined with Canadian and French flags, illustrating the profound relationship between the two countries.
At the ceremony, I felt incredibly fortunate to receive the opportunity to pay my respects along with veterans of various countries, diplomats, and youth of other organizations. The most captivating aspect of the ceremony, for me, was an interpretative dance performance held at the end for the attendees. I was instantly engaged by the intricate movements of the dancers because I felt the initiative was highly innovative. I had never seen dance be used as a medium for commemoration. This inspired me to pursue and be open-minded towards unique ways that can be employed to educate the public in order to keep soldiers’ legacies alive.
Day 9 - August 17, 2022
For my blog today, I wanted to reflect on the past two days we spent at Juno Beach. Yesterday, we arrived at the beach first and had time to walk around and explore. Some of my friends and I decided to go for a swim at sunset and it was a beautiful time. This time provided me a moment to reflect on all that I have learned on this trip and Canada’s role in both World Wars. We talked in the water and shared what we already knew about Canada’s effort at Juno Beach. I learned from my friends in the place where the Canadians actually went through to get onto the land – in the place itself, and it blew my mind. I truly was able to feel more connected to my country – by learning from my fellow Canadians about Canadians – this experience was surreal for me. However, it really came together when today we went to the Juno Beach Centre.
With a guided tour, I went through the German bunkers and was able to see what the Canadians were up against once they landed on the shores of Juno Beach. After the guided tour, we were able to walk through the museum and learn more about the battle, the future battles and the individual information about soldiers and technologies. This was definitely a full circle moment for me because I was able to look back on the moments I had the day before on Juno Beach and feel more meaning in yesterday’s memory because I felt at peace then. The Canadian soldiers fought exactly where I was sitting with my friends, and now that memory has added more weight in my heart.
We also visited the American War Cemetery, which was very different than the Commonwealth cemeteries we have been visiting throughout mainly the first week of the program. It was valuable to be able to pay my respects to the Americans who gave their lives but also to compare and contrast the different ways in which different countries chose to commemorate their soldiers.
I am excited to see what the next last days hold.
I found the visit to the American Cemetery at Normandy particularly thought-provoking today. It was definitely different from all the cemeteries we had previously visited, with its wide walkways and white marble crosses cordoned off from neatly manicured, green lawns. It certainly had a grand feel to it, but it also had a lack of personality/emotion to it that a lot of my peers also pointed out. The monuments bore inscriptions along the lines of: this chapel was erected by the United States of America for its sons who fell in the liberation of Normandy…etc. I found these inscriptions interesting because of their heavy emphasis on traditional American values such as freedom — it seemed to me as though they were not only commemorating the soldiers but trying to shape the narrative of the war, trying to impart the story that they wanted to be told.
Setting aside the issue of the merits of such an approach, these inscriptions and the general design of the American cemetery made me reflect on the many Commonwealth graves we had seen. On one hand, the inscriptions on many Commonwealth memorials such as “their name liveth forever more” seemed to, in their relative ambiguity, leave more room for grieving and personal understandings of what war meant. But on the other hand, I wonder if that ambiguity is not just as purposeful and deliberate as their American counterparts. We know that the Commonwealth memorials were mostly erected by what was then the Imperial War Graves Commission, and designed and dedicated by Englishmen. If they had written something as bold as “they died for freedom,” the British would have immediately opened themselves to calls of hypocrisy. I also found myself questioning the way the Commonwealth graves emphasised uniformity and equality regardless of religion or nationality; why are they equal in death, when many of these soldiers, including Canadians, were not equal to their British comrades in life? I cannot help but think that maybe the Commonwealth cemeteries are not proud because its architects knew the Empire was not entirely something to be proud of. They are not as patriotic because the dark side of patriotism already loomed so large. And they do not laud freedom as loudly because many of their occupants were not free — not as the Americans were.
As someone who grew up seeing movies like Fury and Saving Private Ryan, visiting the Normandy American Cemetery today fulfilled some of my expectations and provoked new ideas on how cemetery design molds visitor reaction.The marble-clad site had the cleanest and sharpest design out of any I had seen so far. Stepping into the central rotunda, with its wall-carved text framing a simple wooden cross inspired a feeling of sacred reverence. Seeing the multitude of home states marking soldiers’ graves hammered home the scope of loss that left no corner of the country untouched. At the same time, I wondered if the manicured lawns, polished headstones and larger than life maps appeared too clean, as if brushing over individual struggle and agony with blue and white paint. In particular, the exclusion of epitaphs for each soldier felt like shuttering a window into thousands of unique last words and wishes. Simultaneously awe-inspiring and distanced, today’s cemetery visit sharpened my awareness of how every minor detail combines to influence my cemetery impression.
Day 8 - August 16, 2022
« Ce fut une journée légèrement moins chargée que les précédentes, mais tout aussi intéressante et instructive. Nous avons visité les locaux du Commonwealth en France. Nous avons pu apprendre comment les cimetières et les pierres tombales étaient fabriqués, entretenus et mis en place. Nous sommes actuellement à Caen et nous avons fait un arrêt inoubliable à la plage de Bernières-sur-Mer. Cette journée est l’une des meilleures selon moi. »
We awoke this morning in Arras, and swiftly headed west. Stopping by the Commonwealth War Graves Commissions Experience, we saw behind the scenes of the breathtakingly manicured cemeteries and memorials we've been visiting for the past week, the hard work and intricate care taken with each headstone and rose bush. Our next stop was Amiens, to see a breathtaking gothic cathedral, untouched by the war. My free time afterwards was spent exploring the cobblestone streets, eating a local croissant, taking it all in. Then off to the coast, to switch our focus from the First World War to the Second. We saw that historic shore, and took our meal as the sky crept towards dusk. Some of us even took the liberty of dipping our toes in the temperate water.
Now, writing this while still drying from the waters of Juno Beach, I am amazed by every aspect of the fact that this is real. This program, travelling through Europe, it's been a dream since I was first selected, and since landing in Brussels I've slowly woken up to the reality that it is genuinely happening. I'm here, I'm real, I am running my Vimy satchel up Juno Beach, feeling so thoroughly Canadian.
We walked into the sand which turned into kelp which turned into water. We skipped and ran into the warm sea as the sun was setting on us. It was beautiful. Tonight, I and my new friends swam on Juno Beach. As I went into the salty ocean, I thought about the men that sacrificed their lives on this beach over 75 years ago. I hope they can see me and my friends. I hope they can see our smiles and our joy. I hope they know how incredible we felt drifting into the water in peace. I hope they know that they are the reason we are there, why we can enjoy the beach with happiness and hugs. Wherever they are, I thank them for tonight.
Day 7 – August 15, 2022
Through visiting multiple historic sites today, I believe that one of the most prominent themes between each of the sites is that of duality and the reversal of expectations.
After arriving at the Vimy monument this morning, I was absolutely mesmerized. Beforehand, I was hesitant about finally visiting Vimy simply because of how highly it was spoken of and I didn’t want it to fall short of expectations. However, after walking around and presenting on Stewart Allen McTavish, one of the many soldiers commemorated on the memorial, the experience felt both ephemeral and surreal. However, this feeling of admiration was directly contrasted following a visit to the German cemetery Neuville-St-Vaast that holds 44,833 soldiers. The size of the cemetery alongside its simplicity really highlighted just how many stories there are on the “other side” to create an overwhelming sensation and reinforce the overall futility of war. Since both landscapes contained a decent amount of soldiers who participated in Vimy but from both sides, this juxtaposition really reinforced the sheer amount of participation beyond just a simple statistic.
Second, the duality between war commemoration above and below ground was really highlighted with the Vimy monument and the Maison Blanche tunnels. On the tours of Maison Blanche today, one thing that the tour guide mentioned that really hit home for me was that the landscapes, including the grand monuments and ethereal cemeteries, above land were made to commemorate the missing and the dead whereas it is only in the landscapes below that show the stories of the living. I thought that it was a very poetic reversal of roles as usually, the underground is usually shrouded with connotations of death. I think that this underground graffiti symbolizes the fossilization of the bonds of friendship and embodies the idea that you die twice – once when they bury you in the grave; the second time is the last time that somebody mentions your name.
My visit to the Vimy Ridge memorial was powerful. Prior to my visit today, I did not know what to expect. There has been a tremendous amount of attention paid to the Vimy memorial to the extent that many deem it overrated. But upon stepping foot on the memorial, I was in awe. The size and the details of the memorial were truly beautiful.
After learning about Vimy Ridge through visiting the battlefield and walking through the tunnels, I still feel that this battle represents something remarkable to Canadians. However, I think that too much of the significance is attached to idea of the birth of a nation. Rather than a "birth," I feel it is more fitting to call it an emergence of a nation on the international stage. Despite this, witnessing the Vimy monument in person, walking up the steps and seeing the names of the fallen soldiers, was truly a powerful experience that I will never forget.
Day 6 - 14 August 2022
As I stepped off the bus, I was confronted with thousands of tombstones, their stark concrete crosses arranged in perfect symmetry across the ridge. We arrived at the Notre Dame de Lorette French Military Cemetery, which holds the graves of over 40,000 French soldiers. I was warned that visiting these cemeteries day after day would result in desensitization; however, every time I see the cross of sacrifice, the engraved names of the fallen soldiers, the countless rows of tombstones, I am overwhelmed with emotion, stunned by the sheer number of graves, and mesmerized by the memorials and architecture.
Minutes later, we visited the Ring of Remembrance, which starkly contrasts the adjoining cemetery. 580,000 names are inscribed across the wall panels, irrespective of nationality. Representing unification and equality, this modern memorial provides a different, and perhaps more authentic and honest, perspective.
My experiences of this week have been unforgettable—stepping beyond simply an understanding of the war by connecting to the individual experiences of soldiers. I feel incredibly grateful and honoured to be here and to share these experiences with my fellow recipients.
Today we visited the Bagneux British Cemetery, Hibers Trench Cemetery, and the Quebec Cemetery to listen to the soldier tributes of my peers. Thus far, the tributes have been one of my favourite parts of the program. Learning about the stories behind the names and seeing their headstones humanizes the war. Every name has a story. Some of the soldiers lost their lives at such a young age and the older ones could've already started families. They all had loved ones who never truly got to say goodbye. The cemeteries and memorials have truly been spaces where we can reflect on the war, everything we've learned, and ask ourselves: "was it all worth it?"
Later, we visited the Ring of Remembrance where 580 000 fallen soldiers are remembered with their names written onto panels. They are written without rank and all are from different nationalities and cultures. It portrays the idea of peace, unity, and equality.
We also visited Neuve-Chappelle Indian Memorial, where we discussed racism during the two world wars. We learned about how minority groups were treated and segregated from the white soldiers. It was interesting to think about why these memorials were built, for whom and what they truly represent.
I've learned a lot during the program and I am extremely grateful to have this experience. I can't wait to see what the next half of the program brings.
Day 5 – 13 August 2022
This fifth day of the Vimy Program was actually one that I was looking forward to. I think the mobilization and treatment of colonies in the World Wars is something that is only recently gaining the academic attention it deserves, and is a topic that is very much still missing from high school curricula and public awareness. As Canadians, we know that the First World War was formative in the development of our national identity, but how often do we ask if the war did the same for other British colonies? What about French colonies? German? And the occupied countries, like the Belgians and the Dutch? Even neutral powers like Spain and Portugal?
One fact that I found myself surprised to learn today from William’s excellent presentation at the South African Memorial was that even during the First World War, there were multiple active fronts being fought in Africa. I feel almost ashamed to admit that, but the reality really is that when in the West we speak of a “world war,” what we really mean is a European war, with a few hundred thousand non-European soldiers thrown in if you’re really “progressive.” But now as I write this, I remember things that I had once known but forgotten, evidence of a global conflict that I had left by the wayside because it didn’t fit the European war framework built into my head: that a majority of Allied beef had come from Argentina, that Japanese seizure of German colonies in China is the reason why cities like Qingdao are even Chinese, that the defeat of the Ottoman Empire was the catalyst for nearly all the conflicts that still rage in the Middle East today. These are things I will definitely endeavour to keep in mind as I continue to visit more memorials — that when we speak of soldiers “united in death” or memorials that commemorate peace, we shouldn’t forget that outside Europe the world experienced war very differently, and in many places racism, imperialism, and even neo-colonialism endure to this day.
For today's blog, I want to reflect on my soldier presentation on Captain George Clarence Gliddon at Bailleul Cemetery. The significance of this soldier is that he is the great-uncle of a volunteer that I work with at the Elgin Military Museum, named Robert Gliddon.
To commemorate Captain George Clarence Gliddon, I prepared the poem below.
“From the steps of Trinity College, a dark future looms
The flip of a coin, a road to impending doom
From Valcartier to England, the journey blooms
For King and Country, for profession and pride
On the Western Front, the forces collide
You’ve worked like hell, the fatigue you hide
One early morning, an aerial sound sharpens
A bird-like machine, your fear is certain
It circles and scouts, delivering its burden
At home in peace, a package is sent
The memorial medallion, a family’s torment
Captain George Clarence Gliddon, your service presents”
Completing this part of my journey, I feel closer to Rob and George. Although not directly related, my connection emphasizes the generational importance in our personal histories. I feel at peace with the land and people, while recognizing the scars of the past. While walking through the cemetery, I envisioned a healed future, holding the fragility of peace. While mourning emotionally, I am delighted to present to my fellow peers about someone that I am passionate about. Finally, I thank the Vimy Foundation and sponsors for supporting youth to learn about our timeless past, which in turn prepares us for a perpetual future.
Le Musée de l’historial de la Grande Guerre, visité aujourd’hui (le 13 Août), présente différents artéfacts de l’avant-guerre et de la guerre. Nombreuses œuvres de l’avant guerre portent un message colonial, violent et cru prônant la supériorité européenne. Ces messages étant autant présents pour les Britanniques que pour les Français et Allemands. Une assiette présentant un soldat français tenant à la gorge un marocain en lui annonçant qu’il ferait un portefeuille de sa peau présente bien cette idée. Cette glorification de la violence commise par les Européens dans les colonies remet de l’avant l’aspect impérialiste de cette guerre. Alors que même un pays déclarant l’égalité des êtres humains dans son pays depuis 1789 n’accorde aucune importance à la vie humaine.
Dans ce même musée, une statue de Marianne, la figure représentant le peuple français lors de la Révolution française, est aussi présentée dans ce musée. Cette figure était cette fois assise, poing fermé et la main sur le pommeau d’une épée. Elle surveillait ainsi l’Europe prête à s’opposer à des changements s’opposant à sa propre définition de la liberté. Que ce pays désire changer cette définition soit l’Allemagne ou une de ses colonies, elle est prête à faire tomber l’épée. La figure de libération est devenue la figure de la tyrannie coloniale.
Pour ma part, le fait de présenter ces pièces aussi crument me permet de saisir à quelle point le mythe que l’alliance de la Grande Guerre est le héros civilisé est mensonger.
L’aspect colonial de cette guerre est brillamment et crûment mis de l’avant dans ce musée.
Day 4 - 12 August 2022
Uniformity. That was the first thought that entered my mind looking at the first gravesite from afar. Row upon ordered row of identical blocks standing like a silent army at attention, individual culture and heritage pressed out and replaced with drab. When I looked at a French, Commonwealth or German gravesite, my mind immediately conjured a field of uniform figures: ranks of French Poilus in blue, British Tommies or Canadians in khaki, German Landsers in grey – as if all those millions in each military could be summed up in one caricature. I couldn’t help thinking: once I’ve seen one, why see the others?
But look carefully and within the uniformity are little details that reveal unexpected personal diversity.
In the French cemetery at St. Charles de Potzye a close look reveals elegant Islamic tombstones amidst a sea of crosses. They memorialize the Moroccans, Algerians and Tunisians who fought for France, one of the first on the scene to defend Ypres.
In a secluded corner of the New Irish Farm stand 6 tombstones recognizing the loss of Chinese labourers working to support the front. As they were denied a name in service, their tomb inscription is a simple number (No. 33996 for example).
In Tyne Cot cemetery, the Star of David highlights the names of Jewish British soldiers (Levy, Taylor and Seideman) who contributed despite vicious anti-Semitism at home.
In St. Symphorien cemetery, Polish and Danish German names: Griwalski, Lawniczak, Somplatzki, Jorgesen, reflect how even the German side was not a uniform block. Minorities, whether conscripted or volunteers, contributed to success in critical battles like Mons.
Across the cemeteries are phrases I never expected to see on European battlefield gravesites. Hadha-al qabr al-mahrum (“This is the tomb that calls one to Allah”). Shi bai fang liu (“a good reputation endures forever”). T’hay hafshosah tzurah b’tzor hachaim (“may his soul be bound up on the bond of eternal light”). These inscriptions reflect soldiers’ surprising and powerful diversity in life but unity in death
Aujourd’hui, nous sommes allé.e.s au Mémorial de « Beaumont-Hamel ». Un Mémorial qui commémore tous les soldats de Terre-Neuve et Labrador qui ont malheureusement perdu la vie pendant la bataille de la Somme sur le site de Beaumont-Hamel. Ce que j’ai trouvé le plus intéressant lors de cette visite est de voir toutes les tranchées et d’avoir eu la chance de marcher dans celles-ci. J’ai appris cependant que l’attaque planifiée à Beaumont-Hamel, par les soldats de la Terre-Neuve et Labrador, a vraiment tourné au désastre. Une de leurs mines souterraines a été déclenchée bien avant toutes les autres, ce qui a donné un avantage aux Allemands de l’autre côté, puisque la position des soldats alliés a été dévoilée. Cette erreur a causé une énorme perte chez les soldats de Terre-Neuve et Labrador et ils n’ont pas pu réussir à capturer la ligne allemande comme c’était prévu. Ceci m’a vraiment touchée puisque l’attaque aurait pu se dérouler d’une manière beaucoup moins tragique, avec beaucoup moins de victimes si seulement la mine avait explosé en même temps que les autres.
The tree told me stories. Today, I came upon a tree during my visit to Beaumont-Hamel Memorial. The tree was named “the danger tree.” She was about six-feet in height, with branches covered in a smoky brown color. Her body was bare and damaged, without signs of life upon its shrunken frame.
The one feature she was most proud of, her leafy arms, have now disappeared, vanishing in the embrace of Nature. Yet, what has remained stood firm in the strong gale, gazing and longing for the past. In her eyes, I saw the reflection of gruesome scenes at the Battle of Somme: a site of unceasing cries of artillery shells and machine-gun bullets, of “be-careful, stay safe!” from you comrades, of constant struggles to reach landings, of screams and silent voices. Her arms tightly hugged me, and word by word, she whispered her stories like my grandmother would. I stood, listened, and looked at her scarred body drowned under a sea of trenches.
Day 3 – 11 August 2022
Today was an amazing day. My soldier presentation was this afternoon at Artillery Woods Cemetery and the sun was shining so brightly down on Arthur Gill’s grave. As I read his biography, I felt so close to him, my hand on top of his headstone and my feet on the ground he is buried in. After I finished my tribute I knelt down and thanked him, I told him that his mother would’ve loved to see his grave site. I want his family to know that I remember him and I love him, just as his family did and everyone else in his hometown of Sally’s Cove. This was such a unique experience, I am so grateful I got to share this moment with my hero and friend Arthur.
Nous avons aujourd'hui visité des places très intéressantes et importantes en Belgique. J'ai pu faire la présentation de mon soldat. C'est un soldat Algérien et musulman qui a combattu pour la France pendant la Première Guerre mondiale. Nous avons beaucoup de choses en commun; j'ai alors vraiment pu me mettre à sa place. J'ai beaucoup aimé le fait que dans le cimetière de Saint-Charles de Potize, les tombes des soldats francais et celles des soldats étrangers ont été mélangées. Ils n'ont pas séparé les tombes des soldats chrétiens et musulmans et je pense vraiment que c'est une bonne initiative qui permet entre autres de montrer leur gratitude envers ces soldats étrangers mais également de montrer qu'ils ne font qu'un avec la France.
Today, as a group we toured the Ypres Salient. This is an area in Belgium that was deeply impacted by the First World War and was the scene of several battles that played a very important part of the Western Front and winning the war. Today, I had the opportunity to walk where soldiers fought and gave their lives. I felt the most connected as I can be as I was retracing their steps and learning the information and facts about battles like Passchendaele and the Battle of Ypres – I felt so much more connected to the soldiers. This sentiment was truly realized when we went to Tyne Cot Cemetery. Upon arrival, there was a memorial for the officers and men of New Zealand who fell in the battle of Broodseinde and first Battle of Passchendaele. They worked so hard to keep the land for the Allies, and they were honoured beautifully in the cemetery. At this cemetery, there were endless gravestones and although tragic, seeing them in mass helped me realize the true magnitude and devastation war creates.
In all honesty, it was overwhelming to me. It is difficult for people to understand how many lives lost when hearing a number of casualties, but being able to see each gravestone and read each name made me realize the impact of war and the value of human life and sacrifice. The soldiers who lay to rest there and the names of the walls, will forever remain in my heart and mind. Thank you for all you did.
Day 2 – August 10, 2022
Aujourd'hui, lors de la première journée officielle du programme, nous avons commencé par visiter le cimetière d'Essex Farm. La vue de toutes les tombes tournées dans la même direction était à couper le souffle. La disposition des tombes représentait très bien les notions d'unité et de diversité, car vues d'un côte, elles etaient exactement pareilles, comme nous sommes toutes égales dans la mort, tandis que de l'autre côté, ells affichaient les inscriptions différenciant chaque tombe et donc chaque soldat. Le moment le plus émouvant et touchant de la journée fut sûrement d'apercevoir la tombe de Joe Strudwick, le plus jeune soldat canadien décedé au front. Réaliser qu'il avait seulement 15 ans, soit l'âge de mon petit frère, a vraiment mis en perspective l'incroyable perte humaine que représentent les Guerres mondiales, la perte de gens comme nous qui avaient leur propre famille, leur propres mets et chansons préférés. Au-del de toutes les statistiques et les faits appris en salle de classe, cela ma aide a humaniser les histoires que jai et que je vais entendre.
The program started with a bang for me as I presented both my soldier project and my field presentation during our visits to the massive Menin Gate. While I expected to be terrified, when it came down to it, the presentations felt quite natural and easy. Something about the group of people I’m with has made for a focused and friendly environment. Later in the day, after our trip to the In Flander’s Fields Museum and a lovely group meal in a local restaurant, we went to witness the nightly Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate, which I got the opportunity to be involved as well. The feeling of standing in the center of that enormous structure delivering the exaltation, and guiding a wreath across to its resting place, left an almost holy feeling in my chest. The awareness of the size and history of those actions has been playing over in my head since. Although it is too early in the program to say, I am anticipating each day’s activities as I hope they continue to be as memorable, emotional and educational as they were today.
Day 1 – August 9, 2022
As this is my first program abroad, I am very excited to experience the BVP program with fresh eyes alongside our participants this year. All the students and chaperones have arrived safely in Montreal and we are now about to board our plane for Brussels, Belgium. Our lead Educator Sean and the Vimy Foundation team have put together a truly explorative itinerary for our participants, with discussions that allow participants the opportunity to learn about both World Wars. In my opinion, what makes the Vimy Foundation's pilgrimages (Like BVP 2022) so special is that, not only are participants observing the broader, more worldwide effects of war (through battlefield sites, memorials, and museums), but they are also experiencing and feeling the personal stories from their soldier projects. This trip offers the participants to explore Canadian war history in a whole new way and I am very delighted to be on this journey with them for the first time!
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