World War 1
Vimy Ridge memorial
The impact of the memorials
by Tom Byard
Tom, from the Chase High School in Malvern, reflects on the impact the memorials on Vimy Ridge and Tyne Cot made on him.
The long journey was well worth the wait, the memorable sights that we were privileged enough to see will be lasting memories, which will remain with me forever.
I was expecting to be shocked by the morbid idea of visiting many memorials and graves, but the reality was very different.
I was awe stricken with some sites, which portrayed the brutality of the battles fought - this gave me an insight into the merciless tactics of war.
Visiting the sites commenced on the second day, as we arrived too late on the first to have the original introduction.
After the short introduction to Nieuwpoort, the local town we were staying in, we visited many memorials, monuments and graves, but there were only a few that had a real impact on me.
The tour around Vimy Ridge, lead by Canadians on four month leave to teach people the facts and reality of war, ended with a beautiful monument to the fallen during the battle to capture it.
The two pylons emphasised France and Canada standing together united, and angels representing Justice, Peace, Truth, Knowledge, Gallantry and Sympathy.
This was by far one of my favourite visits, and will be in the front of my mind for years to come.
The war graves that really opened my eyes was the Tyne Cot memorial - serene and beautiful as it was, knowing that so many men were buried here and each man had a story that can't be summarised with one stone.
I hated to think that so many people gave their lives for the war, and people see them as names carved in stone.
The other real shock to me was Notre Dame de Lorette, where there was a beautiful Chapel, built in the late 1920s, and a grave in which many soldiers and some of the ashes from the holocaust were contained - inside the room you were to maintain silence, to show the utmost respect.
At the Menin Gate in Belgium, and the Somme memorial (the Thiepval memorial), there are so many names of people that had died, with no bodies recovered, in either the Ypres campaign or the Somme - their names are carved in stone.
It was amazing to hear the last post at Menin gate, and a memorable sight.
The other thing we visited was Langemarck, a German cemetery, which does demonstrate the sense of decency towards the Germans, allowing them to maintain their dignity in a proper burial.
There was a mass grave in the centre and smaller graves spread throughout - the graveyard was as peaceful as any other, and an experience I will not forget.
I could continue to explain my thoughts feelings and beliefs on everything I saw, but that would involve writing a book.
I think everyone at some point in their life should visit these historical monuments, to see what happened, and pay their respects.
last updated: 16/10/2008 at 10:22