Dans son rapport annuel de 1926, Sir Fabian Ware, le fondateur et vice-président de la Commission impériale des tombes militaires, explique la raison derrière le maintien de plusieurs petits cimetières du Commonwealth isolés dispersés sur les différents champs de bataille de la Première Guerre mondiale:
« Durant la guerre, certains sites autorisés ont été choisis, certains près des tranchées, où les morts pouvaient être enterrés, et on a promis aux soldats que s’ils y ramenaient leurs camarades morts, ce qu’ils faisaient fréquemment au péril de leurs propres vies, ceux-ci y resteraient en paix pour toujours. Cette promesse a été tenue dans la plupart des cas, sauf à quelques endroits où les sites originalement choisis ont été finalement déclarés inappropriés. » (Ward, Gibson, Courage Remembered, p. 49-50).
Durant notre programme du prix du Pèlerinage de Vimy, de grandes distances sont parcourues dans un effort de permettre à chaque étudiant de visiter la tombe d’un soldat au sujet de qui ils ont fait de la recherche.
Si vous connaissez un étudiant âgé de 14 à 17 ans, encouragez-le à soumettre sa candidature dès aujourd’hui pour le 2018 Prix du Pèlerinage de Vimy afin qu’il puisse participer aux commémorations. Appliquer ici! http://bit.ly/2w4rIjg
Le 2018 Prix du Pèlerinage de Vimy est rendu possible par le parrainage de la Banque Scotia et par le soutien constant d’Histoire Canada.
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
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.