Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – 12 August 2017

St. Julien Memorial. Credit: Rachel Collishaw, Vimy Foundation 2017.

Today the BVP2017 group took part in a Ypres Salient Tour, visiting the Christmas Truce Memorial, Hooge Crater, the St. Julien Memorial and many others. They were also able to visit the Langemark German Military Cemetery, which strikes a very different chord than those of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Please note: participants will blog in their mother tongue.

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 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. Credit: Rachel Collishaw, 2017.
Hooge Crater. Credit: Hanna Smyth, Vimy Foundation, 2017.

Langemark German Military Cemetery. Credit: Rachel Collishaw, 2017.
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