Day 4 – Vimy Ridge
Caleb Erb – North Vancouver, B.C.
Hello, today is Day 4 on the Juno Beach Centre Association Youth Pilgrimage Tour of the Battlefields of Belgium and France. Today was an eventful day. We saw the sites where some huge Canadian battles took place, such as Vimy Ridge, and the Battle of the Somme. These are both very close to me personally as my great cousin fought in both of these conflicts and survived.
Seeing the memorial at Vimy is a dream come true for me; reading all about it and then finally seeing the monument right there in front of me. As well, for the Battle of the Somme, just hearing about the mass casualties and how many people were affected, like almost the entire Royal Newfoundland Regiment, was a shock to me. Being there just put it in such a better light or better way for me to understand and learn about that.
One of the things today that really stuck out for me was the difference between the Commonwealth graves, and the German graves. We got to visit the German graves at the Neuville St. Vaast German War Cemetery today as well as Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery. One of the things that I noticed about the Commonwealth graves, or the Allie’s graves, the winner of this war’s graves, is that they are decorated, people are always there. They are filled with flowers, flags, and poppies, and they are well maintained. Visiting the German graves at Neuville St. Vaast, some of the things that I noticed: the German cemetery flew no flags, no German colours or any other flags, no flowers, no colours at all. The grave stones were grey, giving the cemetery a darker and more somber appearance. And there were a lot more graves than in the Canadian section of the Commonwealth cemetery. Another thing that I noticed was on the German graves, there are two names on each cross. With the Commonwealth graves, each soldier gets their own grave and their own headstone. Another thing that I noticed was that the German graves vastly outnumbered all the Commonwealth graves, and that was only one cemetery.
Overall, today was really great. We ended our day in the city of Dieppe and I am really excited to learn about what happened in the battle at Dieppe tomorrow.
I will close with a quote, often attributed to Winston Churchill, that came to my mind when reflecting on today’s monuments and the dramatic difference between the Commonwealth and German graves, as it seemed to be proven true.
“History is written by the victors.”
Sydney Johnson – Saint John, NB
Today, day 3 of the Juno75 Student Pilgrimage, we started the day at the National Canadian Vimy Memorial in Pas-de-calais, France. This monument was extremely special and moving to me as it commemorates 7 former students from my school, Saint John High. During our visit I was able to do rubbings of the engraved names to take home to Canada and to display them in my school. The Canadian soldiers who enlisted from SJHS were Cpl. George Lyman Anglin (Eastern Ontario Regiment, 21st battalion), Lieut. Frederick David Foley (New Brunswick Regiment, 26th battalion), Pte. William Vincent Owens (New Brunswick Regiment, 26th battalion), Capt. Gordon Harrison Tufts (Manitoba Regiment, 27th battalion), Lieut. Ernest Havelock Welch (New Brunswick Regiment, 26th battalion), Pte. Rudolph Stewart Wilson (Central Ontario Regiment, 15th battalion) and Capt. Francis Bassell Winter (New Brunswick Regiment, 26th battalion). Being given the opportunity to honour my local servicemen so far from home is a privilege I will always be grateful for. Seeing so many names of those who served Canada in WWI in such an emotional art form was incredibly eye-opening, and I strongly recommend that any Canadian should visit this monument for themselves if given the chance, because photos do not do it justice. Experiencing this firsthand has been the best highlight of this pilgrimage so far, and I can’t wait to see what the next week or so brings us.
Jayde Marcoux – Toronto, ON
In the morning we drive to Vimy. We went to see the monument first. It was gigantic, much bigger in person than I thought it would be. After we went on a tour of the trenches and learned more about the battle of Vimy. After we went to a German cemetery and saw the difference in how they were buried. Next we went to Beaumont Hamel were we saw the monument, the cemetery and walked through the trenches. We also learned more about the sacrifices of the Nova Scotians. Next we went to Thiepval monument which commemorated the British and French soldiers who died during the battles of the Somme. Overall this was a very emotional and informative day.
Ryan Waugh – Hartland, NB
Neuville St. Vaast German War Cemetery, initially just another point on the itinerary, became a critical part of today’s journey. At first, I didn’t believe that this particular location would impact my experience much, as we had already visited numerous memorials, and their shared theme began to fade from the forefront of my mind. However, this proved to be quite the opposite, as its scale, demeanor, and construction had a significant impact on my perception of our own Canadian cemeteries.
Each metal cross held the names of four German soldiers, two on opposing sides. This impersonal arrangement of German graves suddenly paled in comparison to the Canadian graves, each so caringly decorated and maintained. The Commonwealth attitude, work, and commitment given to our numerous graves is now for more apparent to me, and better appreciated.
The Vimy Memorial was undoubtedly the most anticipated location for me, as its reputation certainly precedes the awe-inducing nature of the monument. Prior to my visit today I certainly had little appreciation for the true scale of the structure, as its size may serve an alternative purpose: a means to allow the true message of the sculptor to weigh on the hearts of those who have the opportunity to gaze upon it.
Shana Quesnel – Dunvegan, ON
Tôt, ce matin, lorsque le soleil brillait nous sommes arrivé au Mémorial national du Canada à Vimy. Bien que j’ai les vu dans mes cours d’histoire et sur les billets de 20 dollar, je n’aurais jamais pu être prêtre pour la grandiosité du monument. La bataille de vimy est souvent décrit comme la plus grande de victoire du Canada de la première guerre mondiale. Pourtant, cette victoire a coûté la vie de 3598 la bataille la plus meurtrière jusqu’à ce jour. La statue le Canada en deuil transporte le chagrin des poches des soldats défunt au travers des décennies. Nous avons eu la chance de visiter les tunnels et les tranchés à Vimy. Nous avons seulement pu nous imaginer le stresse et l’angoisse que ses soldats ont vécu. Le cimetière allemand se distinguait par leur simplicité des cimetières Commonwealth. Bien que les soldats canadiens, ont été commémoré par de grands monuments et les Allemand par une simple croix dans leur vivant il sont tous pareil, des hommes près à mourir pour leur mère patrie.
Jordan Talledo – Winnipeg, MB
Today was really exciting. We went to the Vimy Ridge Memorial and explored the trenches and the underground tunnels. My third great uncle has his name on the memorial and it really felt like such an honour to be where he was more than 100 years ago. It was also really cool learning more about the history and what had happened in Vimy during the First World War. The Thiepval Memorial was also really interesting and all of the memorials were just really breathtaking and beautiful to see. Then in the evening we walked around Dieppe to look around at the sights after dinner. I’m looking forward to another day full of history and sightseeing.
Erin Susla – Oakville, ON
Today I got to explore Vimy Ridge which was gifted to Canada by France and is now a Canadian National Park. The memorial was breathtaking and the helped display the loss Canada faced, as Vimy had the bloodiest day in Canadian history. Learning about the new artillery and tactics they used in order to succeed, like the creeping barrage. A mix of these and the bravery of all the soilder’s helped secure the victory. It was interesting seeing the scaring (caused by the fighting in the underground tunnels) that ran throughout the ridge really shows the lasting impact the war had on these communities and it is still visible today. Then at the Neuville St. Vaast German War Cemetery I had the opportunity to see the graves of German soilder’s. Standing in front of these soilder’s graves as far as I can see knowing that each one represents four deaths, is overwhelming thinking about each person’s personal life and the amount of people who mounted their loss.
Courtney Decker – Strasbourg, SK
This morning we travelled to Vimy Ridge. The soldier that I researched for the trip is memorialized at Vimy Ridge. I read the biography and what I researched and it was wonderful being able to honour him and read his story where he fought and died. The Vimy memorial is a symbol of mourning and wanting to find peace and hope. I felt that by reading the soldiers stories was a way to do the monument justice and to honour the fallen. The sheer size of the memorial and amount of names left me awestruck. Every name on the monument has a story, just like the soldier I researched. I think it is important to recognize and honour the soldiers and I am glad that I am able to do that in person on this pilgrimage.
Another stop today was the Neuville St. Vaast German War Cemetery. In this cemetery there are 45,000 men buried. Standing at one end, I could only see crosses as I looked across the cemetery. Standing there made me truly feel and recognize the words in John Mcrae’s poem “between the crosses, row on row”. Many crosses had 4 names engraved on them and they were still lined up as far as I could see. This was a very solemn place and made me think about the heavy losses suffered by both sides during the war.
Day 5 : Dieppe
Shana Quesnel – Dunvegan, ON
Les plages de Dieppe étaient tranquilles sur notre cinquième jour, loin dans le temps du raid ou de la libération de Dieppe. Il difficile de marcher sur les roche alors je pouvais seulement m’imaginer la difficulté de courir avec 80 livres sur le dos et se faire tirer dessus. Nous avons par la suite aller visiter leur lieu de repos. Dans le cimetière de Dieppe j’ai pu comptabiliser l’immense pertes que le Canada a subi. J’ai aussi pris compte que pour chacun de ses hommes qu’une famille et des amis les on pleurer à la maison en lisant les pierres tombales. Il a plusieurs citations écrit sur les tombes qui ont ressorti. La première est sur la tombe du sergent N. Jones《All he had. He gave.》cette citation rappelle l’ultime sacrifice que le soldat à du faire pour le bien de autre. L’inscription sur la tombe du sapper S.G Oliver 《Into the mosaic of victory was laid this precious piece》Rappelle que la liberté que nous profitons aujourd’hui est possible grâce à l’effort de chaque soldat. La dernière citations qui ma touché est sur le lieu de repos privé J. Sears 《Remembrance is a golden chain death tries to break but all in vain》 Celle-ci nous rappelle notre devoir et celui des générations futures de jamais oublier enfin que leur sacrifice n’ait pas été en vain.
Emma Marie Blackburn – Ottawa, ON
After four days of touring World War 1 sites; remembering the fallen, the successful and the less successful battles, we moved on to World War 2 – beginning with Dieppe. A poorly planned and tragic loss for Canadian Men, walking along the beaches felt unbelievably genuine. It highlighted the immense amount of bravery said soldiers had to storm up them and fight towards their objectives against all odds. For me, the visit to the Hautot-Sur-Mer cemetery was emotionally heavy. Although similar to the other cemeteries we have visited, the graves in this one each had inscription, creating the feeling of a tie with each and every name I read. From 19 year olds to 50 year olds, the names and stories from each grave has started to truly open my eyes to the sheer amount of bravery and courage these men had, and the large sacrifice that they made for me to be here today.
Natalie Mubalama – Ottawa, ON
Aujourd’hui, le 7 juillet, nous avons commencé à découvrir la deuxième guerre mondiale. Nous avons exploré la plage de Dieppe où le raid catastrophique s’est produit. Nous avons fait un peu du parcours difficile des soldats et avons marché le long de la plage sur les roches. J’ai vraiment aimé le fait qu’on ai fait cette marche puisque ça nous a tous permis de se mettre (quelque peu) dans la peau des soldats. Nous avons ensuite visiter le, White, Red, Green and Blue Beach qui étaient aussi d’importants endroits de débarquements. Ma partie préférée de la journée était notre visite au cimetiere militaire canadien Dieppe. C’est aussi mon cimetiere préféré que visité jusqu’à présent puisqu’il y avait sur certaines pierres tombales des messages personnels rédigé par les proches des victimes. Je ne me suis jamais sentie aussi affecté dans les autres cimetières. Les messages laissés par leurs proches m’ont permis de m’imaginer à leur place et certains me donnaient des frissons. Je ne voyais pas le temps passé et je prenais le temps d’analyser les pierre tombales pour la première fois. Ça m’a permis de remarquer des détails que je n’avais pas encore vu et j’aurai pris le temps d’analyser chaque pierre tombale une par une.
Max Bahri – Sherwood Park, AB
The Dieppe raid as we learned was a complete and utter failure in the sense of planning, and yet the Canadian soldiers went above and beyond the call of duty. They even, through the eyes of the Germans, received a military burial. We visited the beaches stormed by the Canadians and saw the tactical disadvantage the soldiers had in their raid. The beach was steep and rocky making it almost impossible to traverse with just the clothes on our backs let alone the 60 pounds of equipment a normal soldier would carry. The sea wall was around 8 feet high when the men trained with a 3 foot wall. So many more odds were stacked against the soldiers and simply being on the beach I felt the sense of impending doom and impossibility the Dieppe raid had.
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 email@example.com.