Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 10, 2013

I am giving full props to our UK Education Coordinator, Gabriela Frei, tonight for her skill at getting us all over London for the past few days, but today in particular!

It was an early start to the day, heading first to the Palace of Westminster, which is also known as British Parliament. We had a great tour, and our guide actually stopped at some WWII items for us this year. I am continually amazed by the kids on this trip: they are all exhausted, mentally and physically, yet they continue to be enthusiastic and engaged in everything we do; I am not overstating it when I say I am blessed to be able to work with such great kids every summer.

Because the Tube is even nuttier than usual on Saturdays we walked a lot today, which was great as it meant we got to enjoy fresh air and sunshine; the weather has been really great again for us this year, which always makes a difference. On our walk we saw the Cenotaph, where the Remembrance Day celebrations are held (although here it’s also called Armistice Day). It was interesting to compare this war memorial with those in Canada and France; three very different takes on what remembrance is about, and one of the great things about this experience is having the kids from all three countries there to talk about the differences and similarities. We also saw the WWII memorial to women in the war, which was pretty interesting given there isnt one like it (to my knowledge, anyway) in either Canada or France.

Our walk concluded at the Imperial War Museum, where we had a picnic lunch and heard presentations on Espionage, Minorities in War, Lord Kitchener and The Impact of War on Children and Youth by Andrew, Nicole, Roxanne and Aidan respectively before heading into the museum itself. Most years we give an hour and a half and the kids ask for more time, so this year we gave them two hours but they have shut down most of the exhibits as they prepare for the Centenary of WWI next year, so an hour and a half would have been perfect. Nonetheless, the kids enjoyed what they were able to see, and I think they learned a lot as well, judging from the conversations I overheard on the tube after.

Our next stop was Leicester Square for some free time shopping and dinner out in groups. Our original plan had us going to Covent Garden, but thanks to the intel of Elly and Roxanne, we learned the tube was not running from the station we were at to that section of town at the moment, so Leicester Square was Plan B. (And since this was the area the Canadian soldiers hung out in from 1939-1942 as they waited in England for the actual battles of WWII to begin, it was actually a fitting stop!) There were some adventurous participants this year as one group enjoyed sushi! I think the down time was appreciated by the entire group, and I know the souvenir shops appreciated our down time as well!

Our final stop for the night was the musica, We Will Rock You. What significance does that have to war, you ask? Absolutely none. However, I know from experience that the kids on these kinds of trips need to have something non-serious and non-gloomy to break up the topic of war a bit, and this definitely provided that break! The tube ride home also provided some cultural experiences on top of the show as it was a zoo! The kids handled it like pros and stuck together the entire time, not getting separated by the crowd once! They have really started to bond and they are looking out for each other – it never ceases to amaze me how quickly this happens. The really random thing on the tube, however, was bumping into Nataly, who was a participant on the trip in 2009! Thomas, who was also a BVP scholar that year, is giving us the tour at Vimy again this summer as he is working there as a guide, so 2009 is putting on a strong showing!

It is a VERY early morning tomorrow as we head to the ferry from Dover to Calais, where we’ll meet up with Caroline from last year who is going to show us around her area and explain how it was affected by the war. We’ll then head to Ypres where we’ll have our first soldier presentations and we will participate in the Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate. I am not sure what my internet access is going to be while we’re there: I’ll blog if I can, but don’t panic if you don’t see an update for a few days!

Thanks for the great time, England – see you next summer!

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