Vimy Ridge is not for­eign soil

Green Cove mon­u­ment will un­der­mine aura from world-fa­mous site

Cape Breton Post - - OP-ED - Chris­tiane Tan­ner Chris­tiane Tan­ner was born in France and ar­rived in Canada in 1959. She moved to Cape Bre­ton a year later and taught school at Riverview High and Cox­heath Ele­men­tary. She is now re­tired and lives in West­mount.

I re­cently heard an er­ro­neous re­mark in the media by the pro­moter of a pro­posed me­mo­rial in Green Cove to the more than 114,000 Cana­di­ans killed dur­ing the First World War, Sec­ond World War, the Korean War, nu­mer­ous peace­keep­ing mis­sions and other in­ter­na­tional con­flicts.

In the in­ter­view, the pro­moter in­di­cated that many of these vet­er­ans were lost in bat­tles on Euro­pean soil and buried far from their fam­i­lies, on for­eign soil.

This is not com­pletely ac­cu­rate.

The 100 hectares (250 acres) of land on which the cel­e­brated Vimy Ridge Me­mo­rial sits, as well as the aus­tere and be­fit­ting somber Forêt des Ar­dennes that sur­rounds it, is Cana­dian ter­ri­tory.

It was a gift made to Canada in 1922 from France and its cit­i­zens, in grat­i­tude for the sac­ri­fices made by Canada in the First World War and for the vic­tory achieved by Cana­dian troops in cap­tur­ing Vimy Ridge in April, 1917.

It also serves as the place of com­mem­o­ra­tion for First World War Cana­dian sol­diers killed or pre­sumed dead in France who have no known grave.

If some pri­vate bene­fac­tors con­trib­uted to the pro­ject, their names are not men­tioned. That land is Cana­dian ter­ri­tory and there are ar­range­ments be­tween France and Canada (Vet­er­ans Af­fairs) to main­tain the mon­u­ments, grounds and grave­yards that are man­i­cured and kept beau­ti­fully year round.

Hun­dreds of graves are im­pec­ca­bly lined up. On each: a cross stand­ing, a rose and a plaque bear­ing the name with men­tion ‘Mort au Champ d’Hon­neur.’ There is no name if the re­mains were un­rec­og­niz­able.

Huge books are kept at the en­trance of the ceme­tery with all the names. It is all very sober and re­spect­ful of each soldier. There is beauty, re­spect and taste in ev­ery­thing in Vimy.

The Na­tional Vimy Me­mo­rial was de­signed by Wal­ter Seymour Allward, a Cana­dian ar­chi­tect and sculp­tor, and un­veiled in 1936. Twenty sculp­tured fig­ures grace the mon­u­ment. They were carved where they now stand.

Allward once said that his in­spi­ra­tion came to him in a dream. The two py­lons rep­re­sent Canada and France: ‘ Two na­tions be­set by war and united to fight for a com­mon goal: peace and free­dom for the Al­lied Na- tions.’

To some, the py­lons may seem like twin sen­tinels, silently guard­ing a peace­ful world. A beau­ti­ful statue of peace. Carved on the wall are the names of 11,285 Cana­dian sol­diers killed in ac­tion in France dur­ing the First World War.

You will see no names of donors in Vimy. It is not a ‘char­i­ta­ble’ en­ter­prise with tax de­ductible ad­van­tages, It is cit­i­zens pay­ing their due to the brave sol­diers. In other words, Vimy is al- to­gether a very mean­ing­ful and sym­bolic mon­u­ment, loaded with mem­o­ries.

By con­trast, the mon­u­ment planned for Green Cove is vul­gar and is lo­cated in an iso­lated place where it will stand in com­plete soli­tude for most of the year.

Build­ing the mon­u­ment planned for Green Cove will take the aura from Vimy Ridge, which is so mean­ing­ful to the world, and will bring noth­ing of value to our gone sol­diers.

A pri­vate out­fit is not needed to keep mem­o­ries alive. Schools and so­ci­ety at large are do­ing a good job and our young peo­ple are aware of the sac­ri­fices suf­fered by our sol­diers.

I vis­ited Vimy and I was amazed at the num­ber of school buses with Cana­dian stu­dents brought there by their teach­ers. All the guides were young Cana­dian stu­dents ab­sorb­ing the re­al­ity of war and the sac­ri­fice. It was in­deed a lit­tle piece of Canada.

In fact, it was my grand-daugh­ers who ini­ti­ated the trip to Vimy. They were very in­ter­ested to go there. All these young peo­ple were con­fronted with the re­al­ity of the bat­tle­field. There was enough left, kept mean­ing­fully: a wet trench with a prim­i­tive ta­ble and chair, a wa­ter jug and a small basin to wash your­self, and a prim­i­tive oil lamp.

Out­side, bomb­shell craters had been left in­tact and brought vividly to your imag­i­na­tion the hor­ror, pain, screams, agony and fear that the fight­ers en­dured.

It is a vivid un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence. Peo­ple come from all over the world to rec­og­nize their brav­ery and pay their re­spects.

I have heard talk of dig­ging out earth or maybe even re­mains in Vimy and re­turn­ing them to Canada. What a sac­ri­lege! What dis­re­spect!

Please let our mar­tyrs re­main where they are cel­e­brated year round by peo­ple from all over the world. Let them rest in the com­pany of their com­pan­ions of mis­for­tune. Let them rest in peace.

Don’t tear their souls and spir­its away from Earth a sec­ond time.

The Na­tional Vimy Me­mo­rial is ded­i­cated to the mem­ory of Cana­dian Ex­pe­di­tionary Force mem­bers killed dur­ing the First World War. It also serves as the place of com­mem­o­ra­tion for First World War Cana­dian sol­diers killed or pre­sumed dead in France who have no known grave. It took 11 years to build and was un­veiled in 1936.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.