Day 4: Somme France, Vimy Ridge

October 29th 2014

This day may have been the longest one we had. The bus left at 8:30 am back to Iepers to pick up our new tour guide, Conrad. He was a lot better than the previous tour guide. He was very aware and had extensive knowledge of even the little battles and sights in Belgium and France. He pointed out a field, in which many people know that allies and axis stopped fighting at Christmas and played a game soccer. He stated a Christmas song,  Pipes of Peace, by Paul McCartney depicts this action. You can watch the music video here:

Conrad also mentioned that in the passing of the village Minnsen, Adolf Hitler was an information runner in this brigade posting.

 

Vimy Ridge

This site, words can not explain the emotions I felt when I was standing here.

Right away you can see the motor explosions, the mining explosions and the vast amount of land that the two fronts fought for.
The symbolic meaning of the statues on the memorial, one bearing the maple leaf for Canada and the other the fleur-de-lis for France, symbolize the unity and sacrifice of both countries. The most top figures represent Justice and Peace.  The figures of Hope, Charity, Honour and Faith are located below Justice and Peace on the eastern side, with Truth and Knowledge on the western side. Around these figures are shields of Canada, Britain and France.
The Spirit of Sacrifice is located at the base between the two pylons. In the display, a young dying soldier is gazing upward in a crucifixion-like pose, having thrown his torch to a comrade who holds it aloft behind him. This is a reference to the torch in the In Flanders Field poem.

“Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.”

Walking to the front of the memorial, you go down steps. On each side of these steps is a father and mother, which represents the parents of the fallen. In the not so middle of the ledge is a young lady. She is cloaked and her head is down, along with her closing eyes. She is known as Mother Canada, and represents the young country, Canada.
Right under Mother Canada’s’ gaze, is a helmet, sword and branches. Next to it, I found a plaque for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.

Our next stop was the visitors center for Vimy Ridge. Here we entered the Canadian and German trenches. Again, you could feel the battle as I looked upon the field that was bombard.

Newfoundland Memorial Park: Newfoundland, Highlanders 29th Division

Another Canadian site, and even better, fellow Canadians! Yay. At this park the NFH took the ridge early in the morning on July 15th. 83% of the battalion lost their lives trying to take the hill.
By this time my mind is overwhelmed by what I’ve seen and hearing the numbers of those killed just increase was a lo to take in.

We didn’t have that much time to complete this site, as it would have taken over an hour to walk around the area. But here there the battling seemed pointless as the land that was gained was very small for the number of lives that were told to rush machine gun fire. However the Newfoundland Highlanders manged to break the German defense and fire and achieve victory. Hence why the symbol that stands is a Caribou.

The last destination that we visited for The Great War, was Thiepval. Just by looking at the picture and video, the size of this monument is amazing. The Thiepval Memorial for the Missing, is the largest memorial for the missing soldiers. Over 72,000 men who were lost in the Somme battles between July 1915 and March 1918 are engraved within the pillars of the monument. Over the years some of the bodies have been identified.

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