Vimy, Ypres and the WWI battlegrounds

On the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy, we decided to pay homage to the Canadians who volunteered to fight on French soil, and we headed to the WWI battlefields of Northern France and Belgium.

We arrived at Vimy on a beautiful spring day, and the emotions ran high even before reaching the Vimy grounds, as we climbed through the village of Givenchy-en-Gohelle, and every third or fourth house displayed a Canadian flag in a window. Goose bumps even before seeing the monument…

There were few visitors that morning, but the white monument, against a brilliant blue sky, had a splash of red from a group of young Canadian students who had come as part of a school project to also pay their tribute, and who were singing “O Canada” when we arrived.

We walked through the hallowed grounds, without being able to fully understand what it must have been like to live, crawl, and maybe survive for months on end in these muddy, filthy trenches, sometimes within 50 feet of the German soldiers. We looked at the list of names, carved into the white stone, a list of the names of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who were killed in France but whose final resting place is still unknown.

As we were leaving the monument, the students (who had each researched the story of one particular soldier), were sharing their thoughts.  A young girl turned to a name etched in the white stone, addressed the soldier whose body had never been found and, after describing what she had learned about his short life, said: “You came here so that, one day, I could go to sleep without worrying if I would see the sun rise tomorrow”.

We also visited the Menin Gate in Ypres where every night at 8:00 PM, traffic is stopped and buglers play “Last Post” as a tribute to those who gave their life to help free Belgium over 100 years ago.