More photos of Vimy Ridge at ‘The Habitual Runaway’ on Facebook.
As I mentioned earlier, planning every detail of my travels is not something I normally do. So we really had no idea of how we were going to get over to the island. There are a few options, namely to ferry or fly.
We had decided to fly, and planned to get our tickets on the spot at the airport. We had to return our rental car first of course, and made a bee-line for the Hertz as soon as it opened.
The attendant was friendly and helpful, suggesting to us that if we are really ‘road trippers’, perhaps we would prefer to drive the couple of hours to ‘beautiful Calais‘, turn in and switch out our vehicle for a UK car and take the ferry across to Dover instead of waiting the minimum nine or so hours it would take at the (boring, ugly) airport for our turn to fly.
Yes, you could get tickets for last minute flight – but ‘last minute’ could end up being more than 24 hours.
We thought that was a genius idea and were very excited to see more of France. The direction we chose to backtrack was not the quickest route, a google search would later tell us, but it did take us alongside Vimy Ridge.
We knew when we saw the sign, we had to stop. We would have never ended up at Vimy on our own, and were grateful for the serendipity (and the Hertz guy) that brought us here.
In October 1921, the commission announced the winner: Walter Allward, whose design included twenty symbolic figures associated with war. These figures formed an integral part of a massive stone platform surmounted by two soaring pylons representing Canada and France.
Vimy is one of 8 memorial sites awarded to Canada in France and Belgium. The monument itself stands gloomily evoking sombre emotion over the Douai plains.
The earth still curls, twists and waves in an unnatural manner as a result of bombing, and collapsed tunnels and trenches. Sheep work hard at mowing the grass and disarming the land mines that still lay active in the earth surrounding Vimy Ridge.
The dream that inspired the creator, also from warmuseum.ca;
…I turned my eyes and found myself looking down on an avenue of poplars. Suddenly through the avenue I saw thousands marching to the aid of our armies. They were the dead. They rose in masses, filed silently by and entered the fight to aid the living. So vivid was this impression, that when I awoke it stayed with me for months. Without the dead we were helpless. So I have tried to show this in this monument to Canada’s fallen, what we owed them and we will forever owe them.
Maybe it was the grey dismal day, the cheerless white of the imposing towers, the all too human anguish depicted on the faces of the statues or the knowledge that the majority of lives lost here were YOUNG.
So young, the age of my daughter – and I still feel too inexperienced to endure the horrors of war. Whatever it was, both of us were filled with a despondent woe, literally grieving the lives of all the young men who died here on this very spot, from whichever nation they hailed.
And I felt proud. Not something most of us Canadians usually feel, national pride. Not that we feel the opposite, we just usually don’t give it much thought – another difference that separates us from most of our southern neighbours.
There was so much to see with the cemeteries, interpretation centre, underground tunnels and trenches. Surely we had already spent at least an hour hovering around the glorious monument…
Additional photos in the slideshow.
- History as Monument: The Sculptures of Vimy Ridge (warmuseum.ca)
- Corporal Will Bradbury: Hero of Vimy Ridge and Hill 70 by Roy MacGregor (littleimmigrants.wordpress.com)
- Canada Pays Tribute to All Who Served at a Remembrance Ceremony at Canadian National Vimy Memorial (sys-con.com)
- Chalk this one up for peace (metronews.ca)