This morning, our VPA 2019 recipients visited the Mons Memorial Museum where they received a tour from the museum’s curator Mr. Rousman. Afterwards, they visited St Symphorien Cemetery where George Lawrence Price, believed to be the last Canadian soldier killed during the First World War, is buried. In the afternoon, the students travelled to France and visited Bourlon Wood Canadian Memorial and the South African Memorial Delville Wood. Read the students’ posts about their experiences. (Please note: participants will blog in their language of preference).
Le moment qui m’a le plus marquée aujourd’hui est la visite du cimetière de Delsaux Farm, où Keneisha a présenté Private Vincent Carvery au groupe devant sa tombe. Ce soldat noir a vaillamment combattu pour l’armée canadienne durant la Première Guerre mondiale. Devant sa pierre tombale, Keneisha a lu sa biographie, puis lui a récité un poème qu’elle avait composé. Le contexte social durant lequel Private Carvery s’est engagé était horrible et sa volonté de servir un pays qui, pourtant, le rejetait m’ont tous deux touchée. Quel bel hommage lui a-t-elle fait! Voici une des strophes qui m’ont touchée le plus.
« Private Vincent Carvery
When they pulled you up
When they cut you short
So damn Black
When they told you it’s a White man’s war »
Depuis le début du programme, j’ai été impressionnée par la connexion que tous ont créée avec les soldats qu’ils honorent. Je crois que ce qui a rendu la présentation de Keneisha si spéciale, c’est la proximité qu’elle semblait avoir avec Private Carvery. Il m’a semblé inconcevable qu’un soldat noir puisse se voir refuser d’entrer dans l’armée seulement à cause de sa couleur de peau. J’ai alors compris que la guerre à l’époque n’était pas seulement entre les tranchées sur les champs de bataille d’Europe, mais aussi entre les membres d’une même nation. Cela rendait certainement les atrocités de la Grande Guerre encore plus intenses pour certains groupes de personnes, faisant face à la fois aux bombes et à la discrimination de leurs pairs.
Rosalie Gendron, Lévis QC
The land and geography of the Ypres Salient had the most impact on me. Although the Second Battle of Ypres and the Battle of Passchendaele took place two years apart, they were fought on nearly the same land. The Ypres Salient was a small area of land controlled by the Allies surrounded on three sides by the Germans lines. The German occupation of the hills gave them a strategic advantage: they were able to see any Allied advance and could shoot into their reserve lines.
When you walk on the Ypres Salient, you must remember that this land was fought on for four years. During these four years, there was a Christmas Truce, the use of chlorine gas for the first time, the Allied bombing of Hill 60 and the Caterpillar and the suffering in the mud at the Battle of Passchendaele. Over the years, the Ypres Salient has slowly recovered from the war. Now, it is rich farmland with few scars of battle. This land that we were walking on was once a desolate, mud covered wasteland of fighting. Every step I took, I knew that I might have been standing where a soldier once took his last breath. I was walking upright without fear, something that would have been impossible during the First World War.
Katie Clyburne, Halifax NS
Standing in the St Symphorien Cemetery, I felt a presence that wasn’t like any other cemeteries we previously visited. A happy medium- both sides of the war lay peacefully in close proximity to one another. Standing in one row of headstones, I saw one commonwealth soldier who is believed to be the first to die in the First World War on one side of me and one of the last commonwealth soldiers killed on the other. In another section, I stood only a few feet away from both German and commonwealth soldiers. Both laid next to one another, not divided but rather united. As we walked around in complete silence, there was a calmness that was present. My surroundings were beautiful. The twisted paths gave an additional level of uniqueness. The silence made everything seem peaceful as I could hear the birds chirping and the wind was lightly blowing as if to make sure I didn’t overheat. It’s hard to imagine that over one hundred years ago, these two groups were fighting one another and now, they lay in peace next to eachother. As I sat in the cemetery completely quiet, I knew I would never find anything else like this.
Cassandra Gillen, Point-Claire QC