Blog Prix Vimy Beaverbrook – 21 août 2017

Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Après deux palpitantes semaines, nos étudiants PVB2017 ont fait leurs adieux et ont quitté tôt ce matin. Paul a été escorté au métro pour son retour à Boulogne et Lala a été accompagnée à la Gare-du-Nord pour son train à Sutton. Les participants et les chaperons canadiens ont dit au revoir à leur chauffeur d’autobus, Franky, à l’aéroport de CDG, et ont ensuite pris l’avion pour Toronto. Fondation Vimy tient à remercier notre équipe de chaperons et tous ceux qui ont contribué à faire du programme Prix Vimy Beaverbrook 2017 une expérience incroyable pour nos 16 nouveaux ambassadeurs.

(À noter: les participants blogueront dans leur langue de préférence)

Moving

Lala Israfilova, Carshalton, Sutton, United Kingdom

Hors-du-commune

Paul Toquebouef, Boulogne, France

Life-changing

-Claire Belliveau, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Bridging

-Katy Whitfield, Toronto, Ontario

Inspiring

-Evan Kanter, Toronto, Ontario

Connecting

-Abbey Garrett, Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador

Motivating

-Cecilia Kim, Surrey, British Columbia

Loving

-Maddy Burgess, Bow Island, Alberta

Magical

-Ariadne Douglas, Prince George, British Columbia

Empowering

-Enshia Li, Richmond Hill, Ontario

Thought-provoking

-Hanna Smyth, Richmond, British Columbia 

Enlightening

-David Alexander, Pointe-Claire, Quebec

Real

-Alisia Pan, North York, Ontario

Educational

-Patricia Kennedy, Fredericton, New Brunswick

Surprising

-Rachel Collishaw, Ottawa, Ontario

Le temps

-Yaman Awad, Anjou, Quebec

Learning

-Thomas Littlewood, Ottawa, Ontario

Significant

-Eric Jose, Oshawa, Ontario

Brilliant

-Cole Oien, Calgary, Alberta

Perspective

-Daniel Schindel, Surrey, British Columbia

Blog Prix Vimy Beaverbrook – 20 août 2017

« BVP2017 at Hôtel national des Invalides, Paris. »
Crédit: Katy Whitfield, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Aujourd’hui à Paris, les étudiants de la PVB2017 ont visité le Musée de l’Armée à l’Hôtel des Invalides, où ils ont vu le tombeau de Napoléon ainsi que des œuvres spectaculaires de maîtres d’art sur le thème de la guerre. Ensuite, ils se sont rendus au palais de Versailles et ont passé le reste de la journée à explorer le magnifique site ainsi qu’ont visité l’endroit où se tenait la Conférence de paix de Paris et le Traité de Versailles qui a été signé en 1919.

(À noter: les participants blogueront dans leur langue de préférence)

I sit here on the sidewalk of a busy street, watching the passage of strangers before me. Each one of them have a story, a life worth living. But they are not all strangers, because sitting beside me are the friends and people who are sharing the same experience, the same life-changing opportunity as me. And yet, though we have traveled together, have seen the same memorials and have shared in mourning, we have all been differently impacted by this experience. I myself will never be able to see life in quite the same lens again. My colours of perception have shifted and my horizon has broadened.

I realize now how little I have thought of these soldiers, those men who sacrificed freedom and safe homes so that our future might be a better place. But I fear I am not the only one; sometimes it seems like the whole world is forgetting the importance of remembrance, the importance of standing before a tombstone and paying our respects to those who sleep beneath our feet. For the First World War, our modern world has lost that crucial personal connection that ties lost soldiers to modern families. Today, we look at a grave, we attend a ceremony and, perhaps, we experience a habit; is it something we do because the generations before us did the same? Do we see the stories, the faces buried beneath?

We must see them, we must look at the past through the eyes of those men, so that we may not forget and repeat the mistakes of the past.

Ariadne Douglas, Prince George, British Columbia

Today we went to Paris’ Hôtel national des Invalides & Musée de l’Armée. It was fascinating to see the tomb of Napoleon and the ways it differed from the other memorials that we had seen throughout the trip. We also had the opportunity to see exhibitions on the First and Second World Wars. These were an opportunity to view both wars from the French perspective, after our many visits to Commonwealth Memorials and Cemeteries. The exhibitions were presented in chronological order, allowing us to follow the progression of one war into the next. Being from a town in the UK that suffered from a number of attacks during the Blitz, it was interesting for me to be able to see am entire section on the Blitz during the Second World War.

-Lala Israfilova, Carshalton, Sutton, United Kingdom

« Musée de l’Armée, Paris. »
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.
« BVP 2017 in the Gardens of the Palace of Versailles. »
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Blog Prix Vimy Beaverbrook – 19 août 2017

« Veteran Robert Spencer and BVP2017 students »
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Aujourd’hui est le 75e anniversaire du Raid Anglo-Canadien. En l’honneur de cette importante occasion, les étudiants #PVB2017 ont assisté à des cérémonies officielles de commémoration et ont eu le privilège de faire partie de la garde d’honneur. Plus tôt dans la journée, ils ont visité le Cimetière Militaire Canadien de Dieppe, où plus de 700 des 916 Canadiens décédés le 19 août 1942 sont enterrés.

(À noter: les participants blogueront dans leur langue de préférence)

« BVP2017 students meet the Honourable Minister of Veteran Affairs, Kent Hehr »
Crédit: Katy Whitfield, Fondation Vimy 2017.
Crédit: Katy Whitfield, Fondation Vimy 2017.
« BVP2017 students with the official Dieppe75 poster »
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

« The ceremony at Puys (Blue Beach) »
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Il y a un mot en particulier qui me vient en tête pour décrire cette journée : honneur. En effet, après notre réveil assez tôt, nous sommes repartis dans l’autocar avec les anciens combattants et personnes affiliées que nous avions rencontrés la veille. Suite à des brèves discussions, nous avons assisté à la première partie de la cérémonie du 75e de Dieppe. La Fondation Vimy était représentée par trois de nos participants qui ont récité « La promesse de ne pas oublier ».

Dans le même cimetière, j’observais à nouveau les pierres tombales. L’épitaphe qui m’a impressionné était sur la pierre de J. C. Palms, un soldat américain enrôlé dans les forces canadiennes au sein du Essex Scottish Regiment, et lisait : « Il s’est réveillé du rêve qu’est la vie. »

Par la suite, nous avons été invités à joindre la seconde partie de la cérémonie, près de la plage. Une fois arrivés, nous avons rencontré et chaleureusement salué le ministre des Anciens combattants. Deux autres participants ont à nouveau représenté notre fondation et déposé une couronne. Portant l’uniforme rouge, au milieu du bruit des saxophones, des tubas et des cymbales jouant avec ardeur les hymnes nationaux, je sentais les regards se tourner vers moi. Quel honneur !

-Yaman Awad, Anjou, Quebec

 

« Veteran Alfred Londsdale & BVP Students »
Crédit: Katy Whitfield, Fondation Vimy 2017.

August 19th, 1942 will always be remembered as the day of the Allied landings at Dieppe. Yesterday, we walked along the same pebble-stoned beaches of those brave men; those who landed, fought, and died, 75 years ago. Today, we saw the graves in which they lie. The cemetery was packed with people from local communities and travellers from abroad who came especially for the commemorative ceremony. Two of us stood at the front of the crowd, alongside a 93 year-old veteran Alfred Lonsdale who saw the beaches of Dieppe from a warship in 1942 and then those at Normandy two years later on D-Day in June 1944. Alfred saluted sharply after I laid a wreath at the foot of the Cross of Sacrifice, indeed, at the feet of the ghosts of Dieppe. That’s who Alfred was saluting.

The night before, we participated in another ceremony. We walked between the rows of gravestones, lit by candlelight, reading the names. What jumped out at me, after visiting so many World War cemeteries, were all the different branches of the army represented. So many airmen, so many signalmen, among all the infantrymen. At the end we had time to plant remembrance crosses and commemorate a soldier of our choosing. I sought out an unknown Royal Air Force airman. My grandfather served in the RAF in the 1960’s, and I planted that cross for him. We will remember them.

-David Alexander, Pointe-Claire, Quebec

Crédit: Katy Whitfield, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Today we attended the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. The ceremony was very moving and I felt privileged to be able to participate in this important event. The presentations and acts of remembrance were touching but what had the most profound impact on me were two small boys in the crowd who could not have been more than seven years old. Seeing these two made me realize that remembering the soldiers who died in the World Wars is not enough; we also have to work to keep peace throughout the world so that the horrific conflicts of the past are never repeated.

When I saw these two boys, I thought to myself, « I hope they never have to fight like all the men buried around me had to fight. » All the graveyards I had seen on the program thus far were not only sites of remembrance, but they were also a warning of the cost of war. Throughout the past week and a half, I have seen the impact the two World Wars had on the communities and the people when they were occurring and the impact they still have to this day. Suddenly, everything I had seen became a lesson screaming that we have to preserve peace.

In the First World War, the soldiers fought what they believed was the War to End All Wars – they fought and died for peace. In the Second World War, soldiers fought against the Axis – they fought and died for the freedom of occupied and oppressed peoples. It is not enough for us to remember their sacrifice. We have to work so that their deaths have a lasting impact. We have to work towards peace!

Patricia Kennedy, Fredericton, New Brunswick

Crédit: Hanna Smith, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Blog Prix Vimy Beaverbrook – 18 août 2017

Abbaye d’Ardenne.
Crédit: Hanna Smith, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Aujourd’hui à  Dieppe, les étudiants de la PVB2017 ont eu l’honneur et le privilège de rencontrer et de passer du temps avec des vétérans de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale. Dans la soirée, ils ont participé à une veillée aux chandelles soulignant le 75e Anniversaire du Raid Anglo-Canadien tenue au Cimetière Militaire Canadien Dieppe. Cette commémoration a été organisée par les associations d’Anciens Combattants et de Mémoire.

(À noter: les participants blogueront dans leur langue de préférence)

Crédit: Hanna Smith, Fondation Vimy 2017.
Crédit: Katy Whitfield, Fondation Vimy 2017.
Crédit: Hanna Smith, Fondation Vimy 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La batterie allemande de Longues-sur-Mer.
Crédit: Hanna Smith, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Today we visited Pointe-du-Hoc, a German controlled cliff side taken by American soldiers during the Normandy invasions of the Second World War. I read a plaque as I approached the cliffs that explained how American troops used rope ladders to climb the vast distance from the beach shore to the top of the cliffs. This seems like it would have been an insurmountable feat, as the climbers were simultaneously being shot at by machine guns with a two kilometre range. I stared from a German observation post to the bottom of the cliffs in awe of how the attacking forces were able to overcome this obstacle. The area was fortified by the German army with concrete casemates and gun pits. I had the chance to walk through these structures, and the large concrete and steel walls enveloping me led me to believe that I would have felt relatively safe when the Allies invaded, and I realized how difficult it must have been to overwhelm the Germans within these secure structures. Exploring Pointe-du-Hoc was an invaluable experience for me as I was able to fully comprehend the magnitude of the area’s cliffs and the power and sturdiness of the German defenses mightily taken by attacking allied forces.

-Eric Jose, Oshawa, Ontario

 

Crédit: Katy Whitfield, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Come dusk, the cemetery was cast with orange light. We stood as a little red-jacketed Canadian congregation, clutching maple leaf flags and crosses of remembrance. At the commemorative vigil for the 75th anniversary of Dieppe, I took in everything: the kilted men with bagpipes, the soldiers, the cadets, the veterans, the story of Robert, an 18-year-old Canadian soldier, who died minutes after he hit the cold waves on the beach – the very beach on which we had trekked just hours before, all holding hands, alive.In a letter home Robert wrote, « Maman, I promise I shall make up for all the pains I’ve caused you. »

So many of us were red-eyed, I myself was unaware I was tearing up as well. Every one of us in our red-jacketed congregation care deeply for peace, freedom, camaraderie, honour, joy. We are not numb to the overwhelming grief of hundreds of thousands dead. We will not roll our eyes and sigh, « you know, war is all for nothing ». We will not numb the courage and valour with which it is possible to live and to protect.

The final procession wound through the cemetery. Upon the gravestones, our shadows flickered like ghosts. Lost boys. I swear they were there.

Enshia Li, Richmond Hill, Ontario

 

Crédit: Hanna Smith, Fondation Vimy 2017.
Crédit: Hanna Smith, Fondation Vimy 2017.
Crédit: Katy Whitfield, Fondation Vimy 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

« Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, Omaha Beach« 
Crédit: Katy Whitfield, Fondation Vimy 2017.
« Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, Omaha Beach« 
Crédit: Katy Whitfield, Fondation Vimy 2017.
« Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, Omaha Beach« 
Crédit: Hanna Smith, Fondation Vimy 2017.
Crédit: Katy Whitfield, Fondation Vimy 2017.
Crédit: Hanna Smith, Fondation Vimy 2017.
Crédit: Hanna Smith, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Blog Prix Vimy Beaverbrook – 17 août 2017

« A chance meeting in Arromanches with veterans of the Second World War.»
Crédit: Katy Whitfield, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Aujourd’hui en #France, les étudiants PVB2017 ont visité le @CentreJunoBeach, ont partagé un moment spécial lors de leur propre cérémonie privée sur la plage, et ont visité l’emblématique Maison des Canadiens. Ils ont également visité le port de Mulberry et les cimetières Beny-sur-Mer, Arromanches et Bayeux. La meilleure partie de la journée a été lorsque le groupe a rencontré les vétérans de la Deuxième Guerre Mondiale Harry et Len!

(À noter: les participants blogueront dans leur langue de préférence)

« Juno Beach Centre. »
Crédit: Katy Whitfield, Fondation Vimy 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.»
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 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. »
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 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. »
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.
« Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery. »
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.
« Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery.»
Crédit: Katy Whitfield, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Blog Prix Vimy Beaverbrook – 16 août 2017

« Notre Dame de Lorette, Ablain St.-Nazaire French Military Cemetery »
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Aujourd’hui, les étudiants de la PVB2017 ont visité le Musée Lens 14-18 et plusieurs cimetières, dont le Cabaret Rouge, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette et Givenchy-en-Gohelle. Après avoir passé quelque temps à L’Anneau de la Mémoire, ils ont quitté la région d’Arras et se sont rendu à Bernières-sur-Mer pour entamer la partie du programme traitant de la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

(À noter: les participants blogueront dans leur langue de préférence)

« Notre Dame de Lorette, Ablain St.-Nazaire French Military Cemetery »
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Today the BVP2017 participants were privileged to visit the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette French Cemetery and the Ring of Remembrance. The early hours of the day were very foggy, and the ground was consequently covered with a thick coat of mist. As we entered the cemetery, the thousands of crosses peering out from the layer of fog was a sight I will never forget. It gave the place a feeling of true eternal rest for the more than 40,000 French soldiers buried there. Besides the fog, the sheer number of crosses was shocking. There were thousands upon thousands of crosses in front of me. And then I looked behind me, and there was an equally gigantic number. Behind the central church, I saw even more including the numerous mass graves in the forms of burial pits often holding over 1,000 soldiers. The cemetery was certainly beautiful and it definitely honoured the soldiers well, but I also found that the huge number of graves in front of my very own eyes was nothing but shocking and saddening. Beside the cemetery was the Ring of Remembrance. Its purpose was to list every soldier who fell during the First World War in Northern France alphabetically. There was no order by rank, nationality or allegiance. Only the names of every single man. With nearly 600,000 names listed, the monument actually gave me a feeling of hope and unity, and I ultimately departed feeling very positively moved by it.

Cole Oien, Calgary, Alberta

Private Frederick Joseph Belliveau lived a quiet life; Born and raised in Joggins Mines, Nova Scotia, he became a bookkeeper. His life was peaceful and quiet until the First World War broke out in August 1914. Frederick enlisted with the 42nd battalion in River Herbert, Nova Scotia, on May 29th, 1916 and he was killed in action on April 9th, 1917 during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

I couldn’t comprehend how I could properly commemorate a fallen soldier. What could I say to someone who gave everything for their country? All I can say to Private Frederick Joseph Belliveau is thank you. Thank you for being brave, thank you for fighting for your country, thank you for the risk you took and in the end, thank you for offering the ultimate sacrifice. You gave your today for our tomorrow. That sacrifice, your remembrance and your legacy is ours to hold high and never let die.

Before we parted I left two gifts: The first, a Canadian penny, because a penny is symbolic that I visited the soldiers’ grave. Le deuxième cadeau, un drapeau de l’Acadie; le drapeau de notre patrie. Never did I believe that I would be able to meet Frederick Joseph Belliveau, but I’m so thankful that I was able to. I now know that no matter what happens to us, we’re strong and can get through anything.
Nous sommes toujours Acadie fort.

-Claire Belliveau, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

At the Noyelle-sur-Mer Chinese cemetery, row upon row of CWGC headstones are inscribed with the date of death: 1917. The graves are not for typical soldiers on the Western Front, they are for the Chinese labourers who worked behind the scenes clearing battlefields, digging trenches, and building roads and railways. They struggled with language and were separated from family and home yet they got barely any recognition for their service. From a Western perspective, they died unglamorously, mostly from the Spanish Flu. It’s possible their families never received the news of their deaths. Even if they did, the words would have been incomprehensible, much like how the epitaph is meaningless to the average person visiting these graves. The translations are nowhere near perfect. One of the four different types of inscriptions reads “a noble duty bravely done” when in fact, I would translate 勇往直前 (yong wang zhi qian) as “continued courage and perseverance even in the face of great adversity”. Proper recognition of the contributions and bravery of these men is lacking. They travelled long distances from the ports of Qingdao to the Western battlefields, and it may be an even longer road to reconciliation, recognition, and understanding of a truly global picture of the World Wars.

-Alisia Pan, North York, Ontario

« Ring of Remembrance »
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.
« Noyelles-sur-Mer Chinese Cemetery »
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.
« Noyelles-sur-Mer Chinese Cemetery »
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.
« Juno Beach, Normandy, France »
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Blog Prix Vimy Beaverbrook – 15 août 2017

Courcelette Canadian Memorial
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Aujourd’hui en France, les participants PVB2017 ont commémoré le 100e Anniversaire de la Bataille de Côte 70. A cette occasion Cecilia a présenté le Sergent japonais-canadien Masumi Mitsui qui a reçu la Médaille Militaire pour la bravoure, et Maddy pour sa part a présenté Sergent ukrainien-canadien Filip Konowal qui a reçu la Croix de Victoria.

(À noter: les participants blogueront dans leur langue de préférence)

Canadian Hill 70 Memorial
Crédit: Peter Last, The Hill 70 Monument Project

Filip Konowal may have been born in the Ukraine, but everything he had, he gave to Canada. Today, I had the opportunity to visit Hill 70 to commemorate his life, his sacrifice, and his valour. In 1915, Konowal he enlisted with the 77th (Ottawa) Battalion. Once overseas he was transferred to the 47th (British Columbia) Battalion.

Three days before the Battle of Vimy Ridge, he was promoted to acting corporal, successfully leading his men to their objectives. During the fighting at Hill 70 and Lens, Konowal served on a mopping-up party. Even after the quick capture of Hill 70, Konowal grew restless, claiming in a later interview “I was so fed up standing in the trench with water to my waist that I said to hell with it and started after the German army.” Acting alone, Konowal accounted for no less than three enemy machine gun posts, taking them with just his rifle, bayonet, grenades and bare hands. This act earned Filip a Victoria Cross for bravery. Late in the day of 22 August 1917, Konowal was severely wounded by a gunshot wound to the neck and face. He was evacuated, recovered, and even went on to serve with the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force late in the war.

Back in Canada, Filip Konowal’s physical and emotional injuries began to take their toll; he began to suffer hallucinations and in one instance, killed a man while coming to the aid of his friend who was being attacked. Due to his war injuries, which included severe brain trauma, Konowal was found not criminally responsible for the murder and placed in a hospital for treatment. Gradually healing from his wounds, upon release, Filip married a war widow. He wasn’t honored for his service until 1956, when other veterans raised awareness and funds to send Konowal to meet the queen who awarded him with a Branch Merit award. He would later work as the personal caretaker and messenger of the Prime Minister’s office on Parliament Hill. When Filip Konowal passed at the age of 72, his government record was labelled “died in service”, as he devoted himself entirely to our country. I am honored to have been able to commemorate him.

-Madelyn Burgess, Bow Island, Alberta

Enshia & Alisia, Villers Station Cemetery
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.

On this day 100 years ago, the Canadians attacked Hill 70 and today we visited the site where the battle took place. It was there that I shared the story of Japanese-Canadian soldier Masumi Mitsui. Although he was one of many Japanese soldiers who served during the war, his story applies to many of these brave soldiers. Due to discriminatory recruiting, Japanese-Canadians had a difficult time enlisting when the war broke out; some even travelled to different provinces to enlist.

They were also treated poorly at the front, as other soldiers made racist remarks and doubted their abilities. Additionally, there was a language barrier between the soldiers of different races, which was one of the reasons Mitsui was put in command of the Japanese soldiers from the 10th Battalion as he was fluent in English. Thirty of Mitsui’s thirty-five men lost their lives during the Battle of Hill 70 and all of them showed great courage in the face of danger. It is heartbreaking to know that later, during the Second World War, the veterans and their families, along with 21,000 other Japanese-Canadians were interned. Throughout the years, the Japanese-Canadian soldiers persevered through many different struggles and hardships. These soldiers, though they were not as recognized, also lived, loved and laughed in their homes and in their communities and made the ultimate sacrifice for us. “At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

-Cecilia Kim, Surrey, British Columbia

Fauberg d’Amiens Arras Memorial (Flying Services Memorial)
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.

I didn’t want to show tears in front of him because he was such a strong and resilient character; Captain Gordon Budd Irving didn’t fear the war. He occasionally complained about how boring his journey started but more often he wrote to his sister Fern, thanking her for fresh cake in a tin or telling her funny stories about the pals they knew. The worst parts of war never seemed to have gotten to him, the loneliness of being in the Royal Air Force never disconnected him from family and home. Reading the seventy-five letters that he sent home made me realize that he was truly daring and loving – he gave advice to his dad about selling the car and worried if his family would overwork themselves.

When I got to the Arras Flying Services Memorial, it took a while to find his name because subconsciously I wished for his name to be inscribed somewhere reachable, down to earth, just like his personality. But he was near the top of the rectangular column. Looking all the way up, I realized that is where he belonged – against the background of the clear sky that he fought so hard in. There is no longer a need for the Sopwith Dolphin to soar in the sky and Captain Gord is no longer flying in the skies. Never have I ever wished for more beautiful words to flow from my pen, these words just don’t seem enough. I do hope the words I whispered to him at the Memorial were enough to give him a sense of direction back to his school, his home, so that although he was reported missing on the August 11, 1918, he does not feel lost and can find his way home.

-Alisia Pan, North York, Ontario

Villers Station Cemetery
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.
Lochnagar Crater
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Blog Prix Vimy Beaverbrook – 14 août 2017

Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Aujourd’hui, les élèves de la PVB2017 ont visité le Mémorial national du Canada à Vimy. Il s’agit d’une journée importante et émouvante pour nos participants. Le groupe a visité le nouveau Centre d’éducation de Vimy, a participé à une cérémonie, a déposé une couronne de fleurs et tous les élèves ont reçu une médaille de pèlerinage de Vimy. Plus tard dans la journée, ils ont visité le Cratère de Lichfield, le cimetière allemand Neuville St-Vaast et ont complété la journée en visitant les tunnels souterrains de la Maison Blanche.

(À noter: les participants blogueront dans leur langue de préférence)

I had the honour of commemorating Ellis Wellwood Sifton today, one of the four Canadians who received the Victoria Cross during the Battle of Vimy Ridge. While his battalion was under heavy fire from German machine gun nests, Sifton single-handedly rushed one of them, eliminating the crew and knocking over the gun. His comrades arrived, and they held off a German counterattack, but Sifton was fatally shot. His sacrifice saved the lives of dozens of men in his battalion, earning him the Victoria Cross. I hoped his final resting place would reflect and honour his sacrifice on the battlefield. As I exited the bus when we reached the destination, I was shocked. The cemetery was surrounded by a field of wilting crops trapped in sunburnt dirt. I feared the appearance of the cemetery would mirror the conditions of the field.

As I reached the gates, my fears were set aside and I stared at the cemetery in awe: the inner side of the wall was surrounded by rows of beautiful flowers and the ground was covered in green grass. I felt confident and ready to commemorate this heroic man but struggled to deliver my rehearsed words. I myself sometimes struggle to make menial sacrifices, and this daring man was prepared to run into almost certain death to save the lives of his comrades without a second thought. I left the cemetery with the utmost respect for this fallen hero, and promised to attempt to instill a fraction of his valiant qualities in myself.

-Eric Jose, Oshawa, Ontario

Today, we had the amazing opportunity to visit the Maison Blanche sousterraine (underground tunnels). These tunnels were where many Canadian soldiers stayed before the Capture of Vimy Ridge, and they are consequently an incredible legacy to Canada’s First World War story. For me, it was nothing short of inspirational. As we descended from the sweltering midday sun into the chilly pitch-black mystery of the sousterraine, I was in awe of it all. This awe was specifically due to two aspects of our journey through the caves. First, they were covered with inscriptions and engravings on the walls by the Canadian soldiers who inhabited the caverns over 100 years ago. I could see the legacies left behind by many of these soldiers, and often times they were among the last that they ever left. Whether it was a crude drawing of a farm animal or a detailed and loyal depiction of their respective regiment, these legacies gave a very personal connection to the soldiers. I felt even more respect for those men seeing what they had been through. As a history lover, I absolutely adored those extra stories and legacies that we were privileged to see.

-Cole Oien, Calgary, Alberta

Philip Robinson, Durand Group, Maison Blanche.
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Driving through the French streets draped in Canadian flags could only add to the immense pride that I was to feel at Vimy Ridge. I knew right away that this was going to be a once in a lifetime experience. We started off with a tour through the trench lines leading up to the Ridge. The close proximity of the German and Allied trenches was incredible as I was able to visualize what it might be like to be there and see the enemy and have that personal connection to the man that you might have to kill.

Visiting the German Cemetery Neuville St-Vaast was intense. The rows after rows of crosses enveloped you as everywhere you looked there were thousands of fallen soldiers. I have never seen anything like it and it was an eye opening experience to the sheer volume of men that gave their lives during this war. The highlight of my day though was re-visiting the Vimy Ridge Memorial at dusk. The solitude allowed me to connect on a personal level with the monument. The group work allowed us to reflect on the experiences we have had so far. As the sun set in front of the Virtues it truly was a perfect end to a perfect day.

-Daniel Schindel, Surrey, British Columbia

Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Blog Prix Vimy Beaverbrook – 13 août 2017

Crédit: Rachel Collishaw, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Aujourd’hui en France, les étudiants de la PVB2017 ont visité des sites importants de la bataille de la Somme, y compris Beaumont Hamel, Thiepval et le musée de l’Historial de la Grande Guerre. Au cimetière de Neuve Chapelle, Yaman a donné une présentation puissante sur les contributions des soldats Sikhs dans la Première Guerre mondiale.
Noter bien que: les étudiants se présenteront dans leur langue maternelle.

Today was our first day in France. After all we did today, our visit to Beaumont-Hamel left an impression so deep and significant that I will truly never forget it. Being a Newfoundlander myself, Beaumont-Hamel and the tragic story of the “Blue Puttees” is forever seared into our cultural memory. We lost a whole generation of young men from which our Dominion, (and now province), has never fully healed. Seeing the Caribou Monument, the shell craters, and trenches triggered something inside me to the point where I was overcome with emotion. The fact that I was there in remembrance of my great-grandfather and that I was commemorating my soldier there added to this emotional connection. I had never been to Beaumont-Hamel, having only seen the monument through photographs and video at home, but for some reason it felt like I had seen it before. The overwhelming response of love and support I received from my fellow Beaverbrook Vimy Prize participants after doing my soldier presentation was inspiring and heart warming. The connection I have developed not only to the fallen comrades, but also to my fellow BVP recipients is overwhelming, and I have never been filled with so much emotion. I hope that my great-grandfather, Fred, and my soldier, Cecil, would be proud and touched by my actions here today.

-Abigail Garret, Conception Bay, Newfoundland & Labrador

 

Aujourd’hui, je me suis senti très fier de présenter au groupe – lorsque nous étions en train de visiter le monument commémoratif de Neuve Chapelle – le soldat canadien sikh Buckam Singh, dont l’histoire a été oubliée pendant plusieurs décennies. Cet homme a souffert beaucoup et il est mort seul, sans avoir droit à un rituel religieux. Dû à l’absence de Sikhs au Canada à son époque, personne n’est venu visité sa tombe… jusqu’à ce qu’un historien ait retrouvé sa médaille de victoire dans une boutique anglaise.

Ensuite, nous avons visité Beaumont Hamel. J’ai adoré observer les réseaux de tranchées qui zigzaguaient dans l’herbe. Un caribou symbolique dominant le paysage se tenait majestueusement par-dessus un support. Abbey, l’une des participantes, nous a distribué à chacun deux drapeaux de Terre-Neuve et Labrador que nous avons planté devant les tombes de nos choix.

Finalement, lorsque j’ai aperçu le monument à Thiepval, c’était immense ! Les drapeaux français et britannique donnaient l’impression que ces deux pays se serraient la main. Il y avait un cimetière derrière la structure, séparé en deux sections : une section pour les soldats français où se tenaient des rangées de croix portant la mention « Inconnu » ; et une section pour les soldats anglais un peu différente, où les tombes étaient conçues d’après les standards de la CWGC, malgré que la plupart étaient également des tombes de soldats inconnus.

-Yaman Awad, Anjou, Quebec

 

Immense archways, thousands of inscribed names, a cemetery placed against the background of a picturesque countryside; today we visited the Thiépval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, dedicated to the missing British and South African soldiers who fought at the Battle of the Somme. As I walked through the memorial, my heart dropped at the sight of all the names of the soldiers who lost their lives in one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War, and whose bodies have not yet been found. Continuing down the stairs of the memorial to the cemetery, I saw the graves of the French and British soldiers; the French on one side and the British soldiers on the other. The difference between the two nationalities could be easily spotted as there were stone crosses erected at the graves of the French soldiers, while for the English soldiers, there were the rounded Commonwealth tombstones that we had seen previously at other cemeteries. As I approached the French crosses, I realized that they all bore the same inscription, “Inconnu,” or “Unknown.” Row after row, there were crosses without the names of those who were buried there. When I saw this, my heart shattered. All these fallen soldiers once had names and identities, which have been buried under the horrors of the war. I now have an understanding of the contributions made by those who served their countries and felt a greater need to commemorate the fallen soldiers. I will continue to remember these soldiers and to search for and share their stories with others so that we will never forget those who gave up their lives so that we may live ours in peace.

-Cecilia Kim, Surrey, British Columbia

Y Ravine Cemetery, Beaumont Hamel
Crédit: Rachel Collishaw, Fondation Vimy 2017.
Historial de la Grande Guerre – Musée de la Première Guerre Mondiale
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.
Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme
Crédit: Rachel Collishaw, Fondation Vimy 2017.
Y Ravine Cemetery, Beaumont Hamel
Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Blog Prix Vimy Beaverbrook – 12 août 2017

St. Julien Memorial. Crédit: Rachel Collishaw, Fondation Vimy 2017.

Aujord’hui le groupe PVB2017 a participé à un saillant d’Ypres, en visitant le Christmas Truce Memorial, le Hooge Crater, le Mémorial de Saint-Julien et de nombreux autres sites. Ils ont également visité le cimetière militaire allemand Langemark, ce qui provoque des émotions très différentes que celles de la Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
À noter: les participants blogueront dans leur langue maternelle.

Today was our day for the Ypres Salient Tour, and so we visited Tyne Cot Cemetery. 11,950 soldiers are buried there. Commonwealth, British and a few Germans are all present in that sea of marble, the sword of sacrifice standing (protectively or threateningly?) over them all.

There were two soldier commemorations that took place there, both beautifully moving. We found a soldier who had lived in the same house as one of our chaperones. It made me think. There is a word in English, “to sonder”, which means to wonder about the lives of all the people around you and realize that they are all individuals, with a life at least as complicated as yours. That is what I felt today.

Every single man in the Great War was an individual, a unique human being with his own stories. I was surrounded by 11,950 stories. Some, buried as Soldiers of the Great War, Known Only Unto God. But we know a little. This one was from Scotland. This one was Australian. We can guess more. We can guess that somewhere there is a family who remembers. Somewhere, their names liveth for evermore.

-David Alexander, Pointe-Claire, Quebec

Today, we visited the Passchendaele New British Cemetery where I commemorated a soldier. Alexander Decoteau was a Cree-Canadian soldier who was shot by a German sniper on the morning of 30 October 1917. I had the greatest honour of sharing his story and bringing his legacy to the rest of the group, and back home with me.

Alexander was a remarkable, wonderful man who lived his life to the fullest. He was one of Canada’s greatest athletes and first Indigenous police officer. Before the war, Decoteau entered a race not realizing that it was a bicycle race. Undeterred, he borrowed a bicycle and won the race. He was posthumously inducted into the Saskatchewan and Alberta Sports Halls of Fame in 2000 and 2001.

We should not remember him just because he won races, we should remember him because he never gave up, regardless of the circumstances. What joie de vivre can a man possess that he looks upon every obstacle and overcomes them? Like all the soldiers of the Great War, we must remember him. He gave his life for the future, for our future. I will remember him, I will pick up his torch and tell his story. He has been part of my journey as I partook in his past journey; he is now a part of who I am and I will carry him with me wherever I go.

-Ariadne Douglas, Prince George, British Columbia

Why?

Why should Percy Louis Barber and men like him be remembered? Is it because of the millions of lives they affected indirectly by making the ultimate sacrifice on the fields of war? Or maybe it’s because of the willingness and undying love to step up to the call when asked upon. What’s tragic about it is the fact that many of these men are not recognized or remembered by people because they weren’t lucky enough to be published, or recognized by an officer. Nevertheless men like these need to be recognised and Percy Louis Barber is no exception.

Percy at the early age of 21, like many others, had borne the scars of war multiple times. He pushed through his wounds and what must have been fear to resume his role leading troops to the front lines; battling along side his comrades in the most demanding circumstances for one and a half years. He inspired his students just as he did his soldiers that he led into combat.

So once again if you were to ask me the question why Percy Barber should be remembered I would say that the sacrifice and endless suffering that often extended past the war could not have been for nothing. These young innocent men who fought valiantly for our freedom at the very least deserve our respect as the sun sets where they lay in Flanders fields.

-Daniel Schindel, Surrey, British Columbia

Christmas Truce Memorial. Crédit: Rachel Collishaw, Fondation Vimy 2017.
Hooge Crater. Crédit: Hanna Smyth, Fondation Vimy 2017.
Langemarck German Military Cemetery. Crédit: Rachel Collishaw, Fondation Vimy 2017.