Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 12, 2016

Our experience in Belgium was jam-packed with First World War history. From large cemeteries to extraordinary memorials, to seeing a collection of artifacts found in local fields, the day was full of new sights and experiences! One of the stops that stood out to me the most was the church in Messines. It had originally been built in the 11th century, but it was destroyed by artillery fire during the First World War. Before it was destroyed though, the people of the village removed all of the artifacts to ensure they weren’t damaged, and later on put them back when it was rebuilt. What is even more interesting is that before it was destroyed, it was used as a hospital for the German army. It is rumoured that Hitler was treated in the crypt, just a few hundred metres from the British front where future British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was stationed.

The feeling of walking among the very same places that First World War soldiers fought is completely unique and surreal for me. The fact that most of the region isn’t more than ninety years old is hard to comprehend. Even the sheer number of cemeteries found on the Ypres salient is very shocking to me. I look forward to continuing our journey of seeing First and Second World War battle sites for the remainder of the program.

– Graham Devitt, St. Catharines, Ontario

Click here for photos from Belgium on our Facebook album

Collage - August 12

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 11, 2016

Hello from Messines, Belgium.

This morning we left Harrow and headed to St. Pancras station to board the Eurostar train to Lille! We enjoyed taking in the beauty of the scenery of both the English and French countrysides on both ends of our Chunnel crossing.  At Lille we met our fantastic driver Franky who will be with us for the remainder of the program.

Next stop Belgium!  We began our visits of monuments and memorials at Essex Farm-the advanced dressing station where Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae composed In Flanders Fields. Emily gave a wonderful presentation about McCrae’s life and service and then led us in a choral reading of the famous poem.

We then headed to the Passchendaele memorial where Andrew spoke to us about the significance and losses of territory and men on the battlefields surrounding Ypres.  To give more context behind the battles in the Ypres Salient we spent time at the In Flanders Fields museum-we saw incredible artefacts and watched powerful reenactments of primary texts told in four voices-English, French, German and Flemish.

We ended our night by taking part in a special wreath laying ceremony at the Menin Gate. Representing Canada, France and Britain respectively, Roseline, Charles and Sabrina reverently presented a floral wreath on our behalf. How special to be part of this ritual commemoration which has been happening nightly since the end of the First World War.

Tomorrow we embark on a tour of many important historic spaces with visits to nearby battlefields, cemeteries and memorials on the Ypres Salient. As we journey onward together, we continue to honour, reflect and remember them.

-Katy Whitfield and Hanna Smyth, BVP Coordinators

Click here to view photos from the day on our Facebook album.

Photo collage August 11-v2

 

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 10, 2016

Hello from London! It’s been another amazing day in this enchanting city. We started our day with a scenic drive to Oxford University where we met two knowledgeable women, Dr. Alice Kelly and Dr. Emma Login, who spoke to us about women in the First World War and the significance of war memorials. They provided us with the tools needed to be able to look at historical events with critical lenses. They also spurred engaging conversations about the decisions and controversies surrounding memorials.

Our lunch we strolled through the cobblestone streets, and were inspired by the fact that so many acclaimed scholars had walked the same paths. The day ended with an amazing dinner at the Admiralty restaurant in Trafalgar Square, after which we embarked upon the BVP Amazing Race that took us to the Globe, National Theatre, Tate Modern, and Millennium Bridge. We even saw Tower Bridge. Today was an exciting end to our England experience and we look forward to traveling to France and Belgium tomorrow!

 – Haleh Zabihi, St. John’s NL and Hannah Hardy, Albany, PEI

Click here to view photos from the BVP 2016 program!

August 10 photo collage

 

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 9, 2016

From this point forward, we’ll be sharing posts from our students as they begin to reflect on the experiences they have through the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize program:

To me, one of the best parts of visiting a new country is the new perspectives and new insights that I am able to gain from others, and that I am able to share with others.

We have just finished the second day of our European adventure, but it is fair to say that each of us has already gained a ton of new perspectives and insights. For me, the highlight of the day was the visit to the First World War exhibition at the Imperial War Museum. The exhibition was a unique learning experience, because it presented the First World War from a British point of view. While in Canada, I have only learnt about wars from a Canadian perspective. Even though Canada was still part of the British Empire during the First World War, Britain was much closer to the frontlines, and thus her people had a more direct experience of the war compared with Canadians. It was refreshing to compare and contrast the British involvement in World War One with the Canadian experience. For example, in both countries, women became a significant part of the workforce during the war; however, Britain was much more united throughout the war, and did not experience a conscription crisis that would divide up the nation. I was also intrigued by the involvement of other nations in the British Empire, such as India, which sent more than one million volunteers, a figure that took me by surprise. I would likely not have been able to gain these insights from a Canadian textbook or a Canadian history class. That is the beauty of visiting a museum in a different nation.

In the evening, I had a chance to share new insights with my friends as well. The BVP group was divided into 4 mini-groups, with each being given a critical thinking question and being asked to conduct a presentation on their answers. The question that my group received was regarding the unethical actions during the two world wars. In the presentation, I talked about the Nanjing (aka Nanking) Massacre and the heroic actions of the German John Rabe, who used his influence to save thousands of Chinese civilians.  Not everyone in the group knew about what happened in Nanjing, and far fewer knew about John Rabe, an honourable soul who stood on the ethical side despite being a member of the Nazi Party. It aroused thinking of how people can retain or lose their morals in a hostile environment, and the importance for us, the youth of the 21st century, to gain knowledge of and remember these events in history.

Needless to say, I am already in love with the BVP trip, because of the new perspectives and insights on history not just from the sights we visit, but also from each other. I can’t wait for the journey ahead with this amazing group that I’m so fortunate to be a part of.

– Andrew Yin, Richmond Hill, ON

 

So far this trip has been absolutely phenomenal!  We have seen famous landmarks and impressive decadent buildings at every corner. Today we had many meaningful conversations and experiences, such as visiting war memorials and museums that portray the subject matter in a light that I’ve never seen before. One thing people hear about when researching travel experiences is the description of the world that we read about becoming real. That description couldn’t be more accurate!

It has been amazing to get to know my fellow scholars and facilitators, I got to hear some of their insights and opinions today and have been very impressed. I’m looking forward to spending the rest of the trip with these people and getting to know them more.

It has already been a life-changing experience and we’re not even halfway through. I cannot wait to hear the rest of the presentations from the BVP scholars, and to see what else is coming on the horizon.

– Merren Russell, Halifax, NS

 

Please click here to view BVP 2016 photos on our Facebook album

Website collage Aug 9

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 8, 2016

Hello from Harrow-on-the-hill!

We all arrived this morning after a relatively easy flight with just a little bit of turbulence as we crossed over the Atlantic. Everyone in the group is doing well and are super excited to finally be here in London! We had a lovely little picnic lunch and then ventured into Central London on the Tube (London Transport) for a guided tours of the Houses of Parliament. Our tour guide was very informative. Students were impressed by the large murals, decorative ceilings and to be inside the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Many have commented on how the British parliamentary system can be likened to the governmental structures in Canada. Our first glance of the beautiful Big Ben clock and hearing the ringing of 4 o’clock chimes from the tower were definitely highlights today. We also did a brief walk over to the park across from the Houses of Parliament to see monuments to Nelson Mandela, Sir Winston Churchill, Former British-War-time David Lloyd George. As one participant commented “everything I’ve read about is coming to life!”

It is a delight to see and hear our participants’ reactions to seeing such well-known buildings and commemorations to famous British people they know. Tonight we heard our first of the BVP presentations from our participants and learned about the life and work of Sir Winston Churchill and Sir Robert Borden. We were impressed by their knowledge and research, use of primary sources materials to bring their presentations to life. The weather is perfect here and all our amazing BVP participants are now resting soundly after a fantastic but long first day here. We cannot wait for all that is planned tomorrow as we visit the Churchill War Rooms, do the London Memorials walk by our UK coordinator Hanna and spend some time getting up close and personal with Imperial War Museum researchers and curators.

Goodnight from Harrow!

Katy Whitfield, Education Coordinator

 

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 7, 2016

Historian John Hope Franklin wrote: “We must get beyond textbooks… and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey!” Indeed today, we will begin to live out the words that Franklin wrote and will share our stories and experiences through daily blog posts of our 2016 BVP Program experiences.

The departure day for the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize has finally arrived! After many months of creating, planning and preparing, to selecting 16 outstanding scholars from across Canada, England and France, we are now ready to gather together and begin this journey together!

Today our scholars will travel from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland to Toronto where they will meet each other, our two chaperone facilitators Paul and Renato and myself, Katy, Education Coordinator, as we begin our journey flying across to the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, our French and British participants will travel to Harrow School in London where they will be met by our UK BVP coordinator Hanna!  

Over 102 years ago, at the outbreak of war, men left their homes and enlisted to serve in the First World War. They were motivated by the excitement of an adventure, a sense of patriotism and responsibility. Tragically for many men, who enlisted, their lives were forever changed by the experience and for some, they never returned and for their families; their lives were never the same again. Fortunately, because of their sacrifice for our freedoms, today our BVP participants have the incredible opportunity to travel with the purpose of learning about, honouring and commemorating many soldiers who served in the First and Second World Wars.

As ambassadors for their families, communities, provinces, and countries, our BVP participants will visit battlefields and cemeteries, museums and other historic spaces; they will learn from veterans, scholars, curators and from each other. They will also participate in ongoing discussions and activities which will help them to make sense of their experiences and will work together to document what they have learned in order to share with their families, classmates and communities upon their return to their home countries. The 2016 BVP program will indeed be a learning experience of a lifetime!

We are all very much looking forward to meeting everyone face to face; even though there has been much discussion through social media over the past few months between the participants. Each participant has expressed to me how excited they are and how privileged they feel to have been selected as part of this year’s BVP team.

Each day, one or two of the participants will share their experiences with you on this blog-their observations, comments and reflections. Each of them brings their own knowledge and experiences and will provide their unique perspectives in our documentation of the 2016 BVP Program. We hope you will follow along!

So let us begin– to travel and explore… and tell the world the glories of our journey!

Sincerely,

Katy Whitfield, Education Coordinator

Click here to see photos from the program on our Facebook page.