Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 18, 2014

Our morning trip this morning took us about 20 minutes down the road from Bernieres to Longues-sur-Mer, where there are some German guns and lookouts to explore. Most of them look to be in exactly the same shape they were in when the Allies captured them, which is pretty impressive considering it has been 70 years and a lot has taken place during that time.

After we got back on the bus I put on the movie Saving Private Ryan, which we played as we drove to Omaha Beach. I cry through the opening 20 minutes every time I watch that movie … there’s something about having seen those beaches for yourself and knowing some of the stories of the men that took those beaches that really hits home when you watch it after being here. Seeing the footage of what the beach looked like on D-Day right before walking the beach definitely put the expanse of soft sand into perspective. We walked the beach for about 20 minutes before getting back in the bus and heading up to the Omaha Beach visitor’s centre and cemetery. (Franky is worth his weight in gold for cleaning up the bus after we get on it with our sandy shoes and feet!)

I overheard a lot of discussion about the differences between the American and Canadian Normandy beach centres during and after lunch. The kids seemed to like both equally for different reasons, though there seemed to be consensus that the Juno Beach Centre should end with the They Walk With You video as opposed to the room that talks about Canada after the war as that would have had more of an impact heading onto the beach than that last room left them with.

Our final stop of the morning actually happened after lunch – good thing our timing was a bit more flexible today! – as we took in Pointe-du-Hoc, the cliffs where the American Rangers scaled the cliffs at Utah Beach to capture the high ground. There are massive shell craters all spread all over the grounds, and while we didn’t have a lot of time there, I think everyone had a good time. I told them not to go into anything they couldn’t get out of and we didn’t have to rescue anyone, so they listened well!

Our drive to Dieppe took about three hours due to traffic, and it was a pretty quiet bus, broken only be the odd snore. (You know the kids are having a good time and learning lots when theyf fall asleep 15 minutes into a bus ride and don’t wake up for a couple of hours!) The nap seemed to have done them good as they were all in top form for the evening vigil at Vertus cemetery in Dieppe. Tomorrow marks the 72nd anniversary of the Dieppe Raid, so most of the ceremonies are being held tomorrow morning, but this evening’s ceremony is always pretty special. We were at City Hall early so when the first bus – carrying the veterans – pulled in, we were able to jump right on it. I have been at this ceremony for four years now and I am starting to recognize faces from year to year, and they recognize us and our jackets as well! I think the kids had a wonderful time meeting and chatting with the veterans and their wives, and Debbie, the woman in charge of organizing their excursion, told me the veterans liked it even more than we did.

There were not as many people at the evening ceremony this year as there have been in the past, and we were down to three buses from five when I first got to attend this event. The biggest gathering was two years ago, of course, for the 70th, so seeing the dwindling crowds makes me even happier that we are here for this. The group was the star of the show as all of the veterans and politicians wanted to speak to the youth, each of them telling the participants how nice it was for the youth to be here, and thanking them for their presence. We got to form part of the third honour guard, standing at attention for five minutes at the memorial stone along with some other veterans groups, and this was a real honour for the group.

One of the highlights of the night was getting to meet Joan, who, at 18, was a bride of two weeks when her husband was killed in the Dieppe Raid. She has come to the ceremony in Dieppe every year and has laid a wreath at the memorial for her husband’s regiment, but now, at 90, her son thinks she is getting too old to come to this and this may be her last time over. Debbie told me on the bus ride home that their group is going to skip the reception so we can go with Joan to lay her wreath this year. She said this would be an honour for Joan, but I really think it’s more of an honour for our youth.

Every year the Education Committee debates whether we should start this scholarship earlier and miss the Dieppe ceremonies, and every year we keep it as-is because everyone – scholars, chaperones, veterans and citizens – get so much out of having youth here participating. The entire purpose of this scholarship is to get youth thinking about the past and understanding the importance of remembrance, and I can’t think of a better way to get them to understand that than by having them at these ceremonies, especially when I see attendance dropping.

We have been blessed with yet another group of outstanding scholars this year. I have thoroughly enjoyed working and laughing with them, discussing things with them, and learning from them. I am having a hard time processing that tomorrow effectively wraps up the programming with them … it doesn’t feel like this year should be over already.

Loralea Wark
Education Coordinator, The Vimy Foundation займы онлайн