So I’m not going to spew out everything I’ve learned in the past week of training here, because that would be a fool’s errand, but I thought I’d leave you with some pictures of our first few days of training. Monday and Tuesday were spent in the classroom, getting to the brass tacks about what really went down in World War I, specifically the Battle of the Somme (which relates to the Newfoundland Memorial at Beaumont-Hamel) and the Battle of Arras (the fight for Vimy Ridge was part of this one). Our two trainers were unbelievable. So knowledgeable, approachable and funny. And they’re even funnier with a few beers in em! Just scroll to the bottom to see them in action. Love you Jim and Steve!!
Wednesday and Thursday were our battlefield training days. These days were by far the most overwhelming. Actually being on the frontlines and seeing how enormous they were, and how far these battles actually encompassed still and I think always will baffle me. I swear about 3/4s of my pictures if not all have been taken standing near or on a cemetery. We were able to visit some really small, really remote cemeteries that more-or-less demarcate the frontlines. The next few pictures are from Tuesday and Wednesday. It was Wednesday that we really dove into the Battle of the Somme, and I was finally able to see how expansive it really was. Watching movies about WWI simply does not cut it for understanding the scope of everything. I still can’t. Unfortunately I left my camera in my hotelroom by accident for Thursday so that will be the next post!
We drive by this cemetery I believe everyday to get to work. It is overwhelming. The German cemetery’s have a very different feel to them then the Commonwealth/Canadian ones do (that’s a story for another day), and it is rather unsettling. Every cross represents four men. It’s really hard to describe the scope until you’ve been there, but very sad nonetheless.
After the German cemetery and some Beaumont-Hamel frontlines we went over to the Theipval Memorial. It also marks those lost during the Battle of the Somme, so you can imagine how big it is. In comparison it’s like the British version of Vimy. Pictures also don’t really do justice to how huge the monument is. Picked up some sweet postcards at the giftshop. Friends who want gifts send me your addresses!!
In almost every farmer’s field or cemetery we went to Jim would manage to finds some sort of shrapnel or artifact from the War, without even digging anything. I was lucky enough to find something really amazing, some barbed wire!! The lovely Allison also found its matching peg that would have held it in the ground! She let me took a picture of it, so there it is. Also, roughly 15-20 people in Northern France get injured or died from uncovering unexploded devices (like mines or shells) from the First World War alone. Mostly farmers who are using their machinery over where the battles took place. It would apparently take hundreds of years (I think roughly 800) to de-mine all of Northern France. And that’s just the First World War.
With all this powerful stuff we study and are learning we had to unwind somehow, and decided to walk into the town where we’ll be living, Arras. Expect many more pictures to come once we’re officially moved into the town!
Next up, it’ll be the front lines of Vimy, and a very foggy day!