2008 Battlefields Tour

We Will Remember Them

For the sixth time in as many years, a group of eight young Andreans recently returned from the battlefields of the First and Second World Wars to remember the young men who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. The students sought out and paid tribute to St. Arnhem BridgeAndrew’s College Alumni who died in battle; men who left campus, never to return. For seven days, they walked the sacred grounds of battle, laid wreaths and held services in remembrance of the fallen and, perhaps most importantly, gained a better appreciation of the finality of conflict and the role Canadians played in the bloodiest wars in human history.

The invasion of Normandy remains one of the most significant moments of the Second World War. On five separate beaches, American, British, and Canadian soldiers participated in the largest amphibious assault in history, penetrating Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. Sixty-four years
Juno Beach Memorial later, the St. Andrew’s boys stood on Juno Beach where the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada stormed ashore on that fateful day in June 1944, and laid a wreath by the House of the Canadians. In the Colville American War Cemetery, 9,000 Americans who died in the battle for Normandy are laid to rest. Each student was taken back by the sheer size of this Garden of Stone. They had no idea they would see many more just like this one.

They went on to visit Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery in Normandy. Here 2,000 Canadians rest in perpetuity. Then they journeyed north into the battlefields of the First World War. Here they saw cemeteries on either side of the road as we drove along; they
Beny-Sur-Mer Canadian Cemeterywere everywhere. While in Ypres, they were invited to participate in the service at the Menin Gate. Inscribed throughout the monument are the names of 57,000 soldiers whose remains were never found. These men, who fought and died in Flanders Fields around Ypres, are remembered daily by the playing of Last Post and Reveille at 8 p.m.

They then continued into the Somme battlefield, walked in the trenches, and continued to see cemeteries filled with thousands of soldiers. The death and destruction of the Great War became somewhat evident when cemeteries routinely had 10,000 markers, including a German cemetery with 40,000. At their final service at Vimy Ridge, many of the boys were visibly moved by the experience. Geoffrey Ruddock, a grade 10 student had this to say:
Beaumont-Hamel Memorial Plaque

“We had a chance to listen to the stories of the locals near the battlefields, and do many interesting things, like walk through the trenches and through German tunnel systems underground. Along the way we visited many Canadian, French and German cemeteries. We visited the graves of fallen Andreans and paid our respect to them, as well as all the other soldiers who had died. I think we all learned a lot on the trip, and gained a new perspective on war. Everyone will remember it for years to come.”

In the end, an extraordinary group of boys went on an extraordinary journey. These students spent their March Break learning about the sacrifices of so many that came before them and were profoundly changed. We are taught on November 11 to pass the torch of remembrance so that future generations will never forget the sacrifice. I believe that come this Remembrance Day, all those who participated this year and in previous years will say a prayer of thanks, stand tall and have a better idea of what we are remembering. The torch has been passed to them and they have made a solemn pledge: We Will Remember Them.

Story by Dave Stewart, Head of History Department