Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 15, 2019

in front of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial


On this last day of the First World War portion of the #BVP2019 program, the students visited the Canadian National Vimy Memorial where they were met by Peter Kraven and Jean-Pierre Godbout to discuss the design and restoration of the memorial. Later in the day, the students visited the Vimy Centennial Park and then were guided through their exploration of the Maison Blanche underground tunnels by the Durand Group. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).


At Maison Blanche, our guide’s presentation about Aleck Ambler’s First World War experience in the souterrain was very touching. I cannot imagine how profound Ambler’s son’s experience must have been, visiting his father’s engravings for the first time at age 84, ninety years after their creation. Standing on the exact spot where Aleck Ambler originally engraved his art, then where his son visited the same engravings, made me feel like I was somehow a tiny part of the Ambler family story. I was impressed at how detailed Ambler’s inscriptions were, the act of crafting those carvings struck me as being a heartfelt display of care for his craft.

The engravings served as a poignant reminder that many other artists died during the war and were never able to express themselves again. Their art is especially meaningful to me as it demonstrates the ubiquity of creativity, even during times of conflict and strife. Despite seeing some of the worst in humanity during the First World War, beauty in art can persist and thrive, as exemplified by the extraordinary engravings made by soldiers underground.

– Phillip Darley


Seeing the Canadian National Vimy Memorial tower over the landscape was a surreal experience. I wondered about the many lives that had been lost and felt guilt. Out of over 11,000 names engraved on the monument, I only really knew the story of one: Reay MacKay. The first time I saw his name was on a memorial at his high school, standing where he stood over a hundred years ago. Back then, I had no idea who he was, nor did I know of his sacrifice. The second time I saw his name, I was reading the war diaries of his battalion, where I learned about the circumstances of his death and then gradually learned more about his life. Today, this journey has culminated with me standing on the land that he led his company to capture, where he sacrificed his life.

His remains will never return but by taking an etching of his name back to his high school, I hope to bring his memory back to his hometown.

– Rose He


Aujourd’hui, j’ai rendu hommage à mon soldat. En le présentant devant sa pierre tombale et son endroit de repos, j’ai compris son histoire et établi un lien émotionnel avec lui. Je ne l’ai pas connue personnellement, pourtant je ne l’oublierai jamais. Lorsque j’ai lu ma lettre qui lui était adressée, j’ai senti que je lui parlais en personne.

En créant ce lien avec mon soldat, j’ai réalisé l’impact que cette guerre avait, non seulement sur ceux qui ont perdus la vie, mais aussi pour tous ceux qui leurs étaient liés émotionnellement. Au cimetière Neuville St Vaast, j’ai été surprise par le nombre de croix. Je sentais que les soldats m’entouraient. En remarquant les quatre noms sur chacune des croix, j’ai réalisé à quel point cette guerre était dévastatrice pour tous. Le nombre de personnes affectées par la Première Guerre mondiale est beaucoup plus élevé que je l’avais d’abord cru, car nous ne rappelons pas toujours ceux qui étaient liés aux soldats, comme celui que j’ai présenté. Cette guerre n’était pas seulement dévastatrice en termes de pertes de vie, mais aussi pour tous ceux qui ont attendu en vain le retour à la maison de leurs proches après la guerre.

– Andréa Jackson

seated in a circle at Vimy
in the tunnels at Maison Blanche
at Vimy Centennial Park

at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial
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