Today in Dieppe, the BVP2017 students had the honour and privilege of meeting and spending time with veterans of the Second World War. In the evening, they participated in an emotional candlelight vigil on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. The vigil was organized by the Association of War Veterans and Memory and was held at the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery.
(Please note: the students blog in their language of preference)
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
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