Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 08, 2014

We made it to London!

If you have never had the opportunity of watching a group of teenagers meet each other for the first time, let me tell you, you’re missing out! There was some shy awkwardness followed by some “over-laughing” followed by some genuine conversation; I think by the end of the night tonight they were already starting to get to know each other, so if watching them meet for the first time was fun, watching how they get to know each other over the next two weeks is going to be a blast!

There is absolutely no such thing as a soft start on this trip, that’s for sure! After we finally found our way out of the airport (we landed at the new Queen’s Terminal, which is very different from the old one, and figuring out directions while jet-lagged is not my forte!) we headed to Harrow School. This is my fourth year here and I am still astounded by the beauty of this campus every time I see it. It’s like stepping back in time a couple of centuries, and based on the participants’ comments, they are liking it, too!

After a quick stop in our dorms to drop off luggage and an equally quick lunch, we headed “into town” for our tour of Westminster Palace (a.k.a parliament). We had a very … animated … guide. He was very enthusiastic and told us new things about the building, which was very neat. We’ve had great guides every time we’ve been there, so if anyone is wondering if it’s worth the time to go see it, it is!

Because our guide was so enthusiastic, we were about 20 minutes behind schedule leaving the Palace, so we literally put the kids through their paces by walking at a very fast clip to get over to Buckingham Palace so we could see it, Canada Gate, and the Canadian WWII memorial. The adults were very impressed by their willingness to hurry, and it paid off when we actually arrived back at Harrow on time! The plus side to the return trip was that we seemed to have missed thhe rush hour so we didn’t have to push the kids to cram them into the tube cars!

You’d think that would have been enough of a first day, but not for this group! After a bit of down time – long enough for a quick shower or a few texts home – we got to have a brief tour of Harrow. The school has erected a building specifically to serve as a war memorial for the Harrogians (Harrow students) who died during the first and second world wars. The outside walls are covered in the names of the nearly-400 Harrow boys who died in WWI, and the inside contains some of their medals, flags of different regiments the boys served under, and busts of famous students who had leadership roles during the wars. The most famous of these is Winston Churchill, and it was very cool to have Meaghan do her presentation of Churchill while standing beside his bust! We had hoped to get into the assembly hall to see it, but there is a concern about possible asbestos so it’s closed … had it not been Meaghan would have done her presentation in there because that is the room that Churchill delivered his “never surrender” speech at the start of WWII.

The upstairs of the memorial hall is a room dedicated to Alex Fitch, a Harrow student killed in 1918 at the age of 19. His parents wanted him – and the other boys from Harrow who had been killed – to be remembered forever, so they built a room in his honour. In pride of place over the enourmous fireplace is a painting of Alex in his uniform, lit eternally so that the light never goes out on the boys who gave their lives in war. It is a beautiful room, and I am always amazed that the school has an entire building dedicated to remembrance; you don’t see that just anywhere, so it is obvious that the war greatly impacted this school and what would have been this village.

We had a pretty abbreviated walking tour of London today, but it was obvious from what we could see that Britain is taking the centenary of WWI extremely seriously. As we walked through the park there was an exhibit of photos of war artifacts, memorials, or battlefields, taken as they are seen today. They were absolutely stunning, and it was so nice to see that they are making so much of this anniversary … it certainly gives us a different angle to explore this topic from. I don’t think any of us can wait to explore London a bit more on Sunday to see what else we can find that is in remembrance of the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI.

It is an early day tomorrow as we are off to Oxford, and I am sure there will be some interesting stories to tell tomorrow! My fingers are crossed that a) it stops raining and b) no one falls in the water this year!

Loralea Wark
Education Coordinator, The Vimy Foundation заём