Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 16, 2016

Today I finally had the opportunity to commemorate my soldier, Private Henri Cariou, at his final resting place in Aulnoy, France. I knew it would be an emotional experience, but as I stood by his gravestone in a foreign town I came to a realization. I chose Henri because he came from the same place I do. He looked out at the golden prairies, cut by sharp blue sky, and saw home just like I do. He felt the bitter winter cold and the first summer sun, that warms you right to the bones. That is what we have common, not a stone in France.

Having done this research, I know that Private Cariou will forever be in my heart. I am incredibly happy to have been able to have visited his grave, but I am not convinced that it is where his spirit lingers.

– Abby Vadeboncoeur, Emerald Park, Saskatchewan


When we visit cemeteries and memorials and battlefields it feels natural to change mindsets from one of having fun amongst friends to one of respect and solemnity. Yet, when that battlefield is in a public place normally associated with joy, should we treat it the same way?  In June 1944, 340 men lost their lives, 574 were wounded and 47 were captured during the Battle of Normandy at Juno Beach. Today, without knowing, we walked on the very same beach. Some walked into the water and others like me, watched them laugh and enjoy themselves. It wasn’t until we began to leave did our chaperone-facilitators point out where we were. Right at the landing spot of the Queen’s Own Rifles Regiment on June 6, 1944. The first battalion to meet their beach objective.

Today, there are probably still remnants of the horrors of the battle and a couple played with their dogs. Anywhere else that paradox would seem inappropriate, but when a war is as all encompassing as the First and Second World Wars, here in France, how do we decide what is a site of remembrance,  pocket in time, and what sites should be allowed to continue to evolve? Where can we laugh without guilt or must we always be solemn? Or can it change, like most things with time and place?

– Sarah Verrault, London, Ontario


Click here for photos from the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Facebook album.

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