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Beaches and Battlefields brings history to life

By: Community Submission

 | Nov 06, 2012 - 1:50 PM |
Students were responsible for placing a silk rose at the grave of a soldier when they visited Vimy Ridge. Here, Chelmsford Valley District Composite School student Bailey Kay shows her respect. Supplied photo.

Students were responsible for placing a silk rose at the grave of a soldier when they visited Vimy Ridge. Here, Chelmsford Valley District Composite School student Bailey Kay shows her respect. Supplied photo.

In the early morning hours of April 9, 1917, 20,000 Canadian soldiers began their assault on France’s Vimy Ridge.

That day, Canadian soldiers managed to take control of this famous Ridge — a feat that no other country had been able to do. The capture of the Ridge was such a remarkable achievement, that France actually donated the land on which the Vimy Ridge monument is built, to Canada.

It is an impressive monument, and one that students from Chelmsford Valley District Composite School and Lively High won’t soon forget.

This past April, students from these two schools began the same trek those soldiers took when they attended the 95th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Students from CVDCS and Lively were among 4,000 Canadian students who made the march, much like the soldiers on that eventful morning. The weather conditions were almost the same — cold, grey, rain, wind.

The students who made the hour-long trek did Canada proud. They were asked to maintain silence during the walk up to the monument, and silent they were. Can you imagine 4,000 high school age students being silent for an hour? You could actually hear the birds singing.

Along the route, the French residents were out waving Canadian flags to show their respect for the thousands of Canadians whose lives were lost that day. Canada’s Governor General was there as well, and spoke to some of our students. It is a day that was widely covered by Canadian media, and it will be etched in the memory of each student who attended.

It didn’t end there. CVDCS and Lively students then jumped on the bus and began their journey to Juno Beach, where Canadian soldiers landed on D-Day. That day, Canadian soldiers made it farther in-land than any other Allied Force.

The Museum at Juno Beach is truly one of the best museums to visit. There is a mock “landing craft” that actually makes you feel like you are in one of the assault vessels that landed on D-Day.

The surrounding TV footage of the landing was made more real as the “boat” swayed back and forth with the pounding waves.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the trip was at the cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer.
Thomas Sagle, a Grade 11 student at CVDCS, found the tombstone of his relative who died at Juno Beach. Both Thomas and his two grandfathers came on this trip specifically to find this grave and pay their respects.

Even though the tour was called Beaches and Battlefields, students still had the opportunity to visit the iconic Eiffel Tower while in Paris.

Only one elevator was working, but several students patiently waited the two hours to get to the top for a view of Paris that just can’t be matched. Last year, Peru — this year, Paris. What part of the world will CVDCS be off to next?

Susan Robinson is a music teacher and guidance instructor at Chelmsford Valley District Composite School. 

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