Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 15, 2013

Our day started out by dropping David Houghton, President of The Vimy Foundation, off at the train station in Arras. David joined us here for two days and it was great having him with us as he presented the Vimy Piligrimage Medals to all of the scholars at Vimy the other day, and he got to experience some of the same things the kids did. Hopefully we can get other board members interested in coming for a few days each year so they, too, can see how great this experience is and how wonderful these scholars are.

We carried on to Perrone and the Historiale, or Great War Museum. It is one of my favourite museums because even though it is quite small it presents the war from German, French and British perspectives, which is not the case in most museums. This multi-perspective approach reflects our own philosophy for the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize in exploring issues from more than one perspective. In our case, we bring kids from three Allied countries – Canada, Britain and France – together to explore war from all three viewpoints, and I believe this is one of the things that makes our program so unique.

We had lunch at Thiepval, then went into the museum there to use the washroom before moving on to the monument for some presetations and time to explore the monument. Max became more familiar with the washroom than he probably wanted to when he got locked into one of the stalls. It had a floor-to-ceiling door, and walls that were solid on all sides as well. We managed to get him out with the use of some screwdrivers and force; the fact that the woman behind the counter knew exactly which tools to hand me when I told her what was going on leads me to believe this was not an isolated incident.

The rest of our afternoon was spent at Beaumont-Hamel, a site that I think impressed the group. The history there is incredible, and the guide gave us an excellent overview of the whole site. It’s no wonder Newfoundlanders have conflicting emotions on Canada Day: it’s hard to celebrate the birth of your nation when that birthday is the same day as the battle that wiped out so many Newfoundlanders that every street in the province was impacted.

Alison found her soldier are La Chaudiere today, and we had a few presentations after supper. We hope to finish up all the WWI presentations tomorrow before we get to Juno Beach, so there will be a few done on the bus I think!

I’ll close with the remaining journal excerpts, as they really have been excellent. Enjoy, and I’ll see you tomorrow in Juno!


“The cemetery that got me the most was the German one. Even though I couldn’t go in, I was able to inspect the names of the student soldiers. I really didn’t expect to see so many Jews who gave their lives for Germany, and since they were students, it made me realize that during that time, Jews had almost completely joined German society and felt a connection to their country. Amazing how in no time a people can turn on a minority that has been integrated in their society for so long. Being students, I also wonder what effect they could have had on the world had they survived or had there been no war. Maybe we’d already have the cure for cancer or have explored more or space. What a waste of talent.”

“Menin Gate has amazing acoustics, so the trumpet resonated like I’ve never heard it. Standing there and listening to those notes that can be heard and understood in so many countries, I was really proud to be with the group in my Vimy jacket. It made me feel like we have a duty to learn and pass on what we know.”

“Visiting Vimy Ridge today was a surreal experience. It was like visiting a site only talked about in legends and then suddenly having it come to life. All the research, all the preparation could not have prepared me for the moment in which I experienced the place where my country was born. I do not have words to describe it, other than it was something out of my imagination now brought to life. Walking through the tunnels and following the footsteps, the very footsteps, of our Vimy soldiers as they prepared for battle was like being part of a movie. Except this time there were no bombs, no fear, no grief, no madness, only comprehension as each member of the group came to terms with the sacrifices made by our Canadian heroes …. All in all, I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to become a Vimy Pilgrim and have the Battle of Vimy Ridge become such a real part of my life.”

“When I went to the battlefields in Year 9, we visited Vimy but never in the same level of detail that we discussed today …. I now understand what they meant when they quote Vimy Ridge as the foundation of a Canadian state; the pride and the knowledge that the Canadian students and guide feel for the Battle is immense. I enjoyed learning about the significance of the memorials and peace, hope, etc.”

“Today was definitely the day I learned the most. Visiting lots of cemeteries is quite emotionally draining, and seeing other people tear up at their soldier presentation is really moving and makes me realize that every soldier had a story and that makes the numbers seem overwhelmingly large. It was especially like that at Tyne Cot on the wall, where a whole person’s being is summarized in a name and there are thousands of names.”

“The tunnels at Vimy, the only place where you were completely safe, were dank, dark, and cramped. The 950 soldiers in that one tunnel, sitting up to their knees in mud, waiting anxiously to go up top on April 9th, 1917, and attempt a deadly objective. I can’t even manage to imagine the thoughts that must have been flashing through their minds, images of loved ones, thoughts of their friends who were cut down by German gunfire, or being ripped apart by artillery shells. The courage of the soldiers going up over the trenches is enormous. We shall never forget. We will hold the torch high and honour their memory. It is our task, and we will not forget.”

“When we visited the German/Allied front lines, what surprised me was that something so beautiful could come from something so horrific. We walked through the woods and up the trail, and as soon as we reached the top, the gloomy forest turned into something almost magical. Birds sang, sunlight shone through the trees, butterflies flew – in the aftermath of an explosive underground attack against the Germans. It just proves that life goes on, but we can never forget.” кредит на карту