It was a packed second day for the educators participating in the 10th annual Juno Beach Centre Battlefields Tour. After an early breakfast in Arras, we headed to the Vimy Ridge memorial, arriving just as the Canadian and French flags were being raised. For many in the group it was their first time seeing the memorial in person, which made for an emotional experience.
Kim St. Yves from Medicine Hat College in Alberta had this to say about his experience at Vimy:
“In my classroom back in Alberta, I have a poster sized picture of the Vimy Memorial that I had taken 20 years ago on my only other previous visit to the site. I teach both social studies and English, and I always ask all of my students if they know where the monument is and what the monument represents. Unfortunately, on almost every occasion, the students (who are taking these high school courses at a community college, so are usually in their early to mid-twenties or older) do not recognize the memorial or know anything about Vimy. Today’s visit to Vimy brought back for me those exact feelings from my prior visit of immense pride In our Canadian soldiers and their accomplishments at Vimy as well as the overwhelming sorrow for those who lost their lives and their youth on that ridge. Seeing Vimy again today strongly reinforces my need to continue to help my students better appreciate the importance of Vimy Ridge and all of Canada’s war efforts. Every Canadian should get this chance to visit Vimy, Dieppe, and Juno Beach to get this outstanding perspective of military history.”
Jason Palmer from Princeton Secondary School in British Columbia remarked:
“I’ve read books and watched movies about Canada’s involvement in the Great War but nothing made the soldiers’ sacrifice resonate with me more than walking the scarred landscape of Vimy Ridge. The devastated terrain makes the history real and it is contrasted with the Vimy Ridge monument which is absolutely breathtaking. The monument is a fitting tribute to the valour and bravery of the Canadian soldiers and something that every Canadian should experience.”
Our tour historian, Chris Evans, briefed the teachers on the historical significance of the Battle for Vimy Ridge, and Marie-Eve Vaillancourt discussed Canada in 1936, when the monument was first opened.
Following a quick tour of the trenches and tunnels with our Vimy guides Shane and Avery, we jumped back on the bus and headed to Cabaret Rouge Cemetery, to visit the graves of Canadian and British soldiers fell or went missing during the fighting in the Somme.
To give the educators a broader perspective of the war, we headed over to the German war cemetery at Neuville-St.-Vaast, where 44,830 German soldiers killed in the First World War are buried.
Overall, it was an emotional morning for the teachers.
In the afternoon we headed west to the coastal village of Puys, just outside Dieppe. Stand by for more details about Day 2!
Dispatches from Juno shares all the news, events, and stories from the Juno Beach Centre in France and Canada. Interested in contributing a story to the blog? Email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.