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13 November 2014

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Vimy Ridge memorial

the Vimy Ridge Memorial symbolising Cana

Connections with the dead

Jo, from the Chase High School in Malvern, feels a special connection with soldiers who share her name.

It was like a gateway into Heaven: a passage into another world.

It made me think of the stable door in The Last Battle (the final book in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis), but I'm not sure why; nothing about it was small or dark or humble.

This was no stable – this was a vast memorial to those who had died in the Great War, in particular, the 66,000 Canadian soldiers who gave their lives.

Detail of the Vimy Ridge memorial

Pylons of the Vimy Ridge memorial

The figures of Justice, Peace, Truth, Knowledge, Gallantry and Sympathy loomed over me: constant reminders that war was none of these things.

The Weeping Woman, gazing longingly down to the grave of the dead Canadians, made me feel small.

The two main pylons in the centre of the structure represented France and Canada – two countries united in the common goal for peace.

The stone cannons, overgrown with laurel leaves, in the hope that they may never be used again.

The Vimy Ridge Memorial stood in striking white limestone, dramatic against the clouded sky.

Even in the gloom, the glare from the stone was intense, and my eyes squinted with the task of searching among the names.

I moved all around the sides until I came upon the 'B' section.

I did not expect anything, or necessarily want, to find anything, but part of me ached to see my family name engraved forever in the stone.

Jo Barr

Jo Barr

Three times my wish was granted: S. Barr, T. Barr and V.T. Barr all stared at me from along the rows of names.

I felt overwhelmed that my name, which I believed I would not see, was repeated three times on this foreign war memorial in France.

I shared my attention between the three men that I never knew and wondered about their lives.

They were not my relatives, but I couldn't help feeling connected to the, because of the sake of their name.

How long would it be before another Barr came to honour them?

Would anyone ever find their names again and feel that bond which is not easily described?

Men die, names pass, faces fade and memories are lost, but Vimy Ridge possessed a timeless quality that, although it will one day be gone, was formed by such strong emotions and longings that what it represents will never be forgotten. 

If you have an interesting story about World War 1, involving a member of your family, we'd love to hear it.

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last updated: 16/10/2008 at 09:51
created: 08/09/2008

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