If you have a story about a loved one or relative who died at the battle of Vimy Ridge or Passchendaele in the First World War, a group of Sacred Heart High School students who will be visiting these battle sites in May wants to hear from you.
The students are prepared to visit any gravesites with a local connection. Being able to learn the story of a solider with local connections who died at one of these battles will make it a much more meaningful experience for the students. In addition, the students will make every effort to visit the gravesite and say a prayer there if it is in a graveyard that is close to their trip route.
The group of 44 students, plus teacher chaperones, will be travelling to Europe at the end of May where they will visit the Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele battlefields as well as the Juno Beach Centre, a Second World War museum and cultural centre in Normandy. The centre pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives in the Second World War, including 5,500 killed during the Battle of Normandy.
Sacred Heart High School teacher Roland Cardinal, who is a chief organizer of this student trip, notes that having a number of stories about soldiers with local connections who were involved with Vimy Ridge or Passchendaele or with the Normandy invasion will make the trip so much more memorable for the students.
Anyone with a story related to Vimy Ridge or Passchendaele or Juno Beach should contact Mr. Cardinal at Sacred Heart High School on 613-831-6643 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Besides visiting the Vimy Ridge Memorial, Juno Beach Centre and other battlefields, the students will also be visiting Amsterdam and Paris on the ten-day trip which begins May 19.
The most publicized celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge are occurring in April, which is when the battle happened a century ago but the Sacred Heart student trip has been planned for May when there will be fewer visitors there, allowing for a hoped-for better experience at the site.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a First World War battle that saw Canadian troops take a fortified hill, forcing the German forces to retreat. The Canadian victory has been attributed to a mixture of technical and tactical innovation, meticulous planning, powerful artillery support and extensive training.
The battle marked the first time that all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force participated in a battle together. It has become a symbol of Canadian national achievement and sacrifice.
A 250-acre portion of the former battleground now serves as a memorial park and site of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.
This Vimy Memorial is dedicated to the memory of Canadian soldiers killed in the First World War. France ceded to Canada perpetual use of this site on Vimy Ridge on the understanding that Canada would use the site to establish a battlefield park and memorial. The memorial was unveiled in July 1936.
The memorial is constructed on the highest point of Vimy Ridge. The memorial contains many stylized features including 20 human figures. The front wall of the memorial is 24 feet high. Twin pylons rise to a height of 30 metres above the memorial’s stone platform. One pylon bears the maple leaf for Canada while the other has the fleur-de-lis for France, symbolizing the unity and sacrifice of the two countries.
The Battle of Passchendaele was where Canadian troops overcame almost unimaginable hardships on a muddy battlefield in northwest Belgium to win a victory over the Germans in the fall of 1917. But the victory came at a high price as more than 4,000 Canadian soldiers died in the fighting with almost 12,000 wounded.
The Canadian victory at Passchendaele added to Canada’s growing reputation in the First World War as being the best offensive fighting force on the Western Front.
Juno Beach was one of the five beaches in Normandy where the Allied invasion of occupied France began on June 6, 1944 in the Second World War. Taking Juno Beach was the responsibility of the Canadian Army, backed up by the British Royal Navy and other Allied navies.