20. Albert and Vimy Ridge

This blog post was written by BBV chorister, Emily Flanagan, and Birralee Blokes chorister, Charlie Stewart. 

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Wednesday 24 April 2019

Thankfully, we were given a nice sleep in this morning which was greatly appreciated after our long day yesterday. We then split off into little groups and experienced the culture of a French township, whilst also purchasing snacks for the day. It was interesting to rely on our sense of direction without the safety of google maps at our finger tips. All in all it was an eventful morning!

After exploring Albert, we hopped on the bus and went to the Canadian World War One Vimy Ridge Memorial. The Memorial commemorates Canadians who fought in World War One.

Surrounding the base of this monument are the names of 11,285 soldiers who remain lost. It is composed of two pillars which have a variety of statues surrounding it. The statues represent peace, charity, honour, hope, faith and justice.

The monument was hand made and all of the 11,285 names were hand carved into the stone. The landscape around the monument has been conserved in its WWI state as a reminder of the destruction of war.

Many mines around Vimy Ridge remain undetonated due to the sheer number of them (the sheep have to mow the grass because it’s too dangerous for a person to do it!).

As Australians, this monument provided a new perspective on what different countries did to commemorate their fallen after WW1. Although we are not Canadian we were still greatly moved by the memorial as it represents a devastating loss of life, as evidenced by the confronting amount of names.

We then had lunch, before visiting a museum that contains Canadian artefacts from the war. We were separated into three groups by Paul and were given guided tours through the recreated trenches. We found the entire restored area very peaceful, so much so that it is almost impossible to imagine the violence that occurred there.

Throughout this experience we learned of commonalities that Canada and Australia share; both countries entered into the war due to their connections to Britain, and the fact that they were both young nations at the time. It was intriguing to see how their experiences in the war shaped them in their identity as a nation.

After this we returned to our Albert residence. Some of Birralee stayed for some down time whilst others left to explore the Musée Somme, a re-designed underground bunker tunnel which now serves as a museum for war artefacts.

With a short 3D film, weapons, uniforms and scene recreations on display, this was another insightful experience for us. One thing in particular that was quite incredible to see was that to this day fields are plowed, rivers are dredged, and badges, items of uniform, bullets and shells are being discovered. This was incomprehensible for us – how this century old war continues to impact these people today.

We then returned to the famed Corner Pub for an early dinner, and went straight to bed at 7:30pm to prepare for a very, very early wake up call. Tomorrow is Anzac Day, the culmination of our entire 2019 Europe Tour!

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We invite you to keep following our journey of this epic Europe tour!

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