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sassoon

Vimy Ridge Ceremony - Bit of a Rant

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sassoon

While I know this topic has been discussed on the forum today, I decided to make a new thread as mine follows a different vein of thought. 

 

Unlike many others, I was not overly impressed with the commemoration ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge today. While there were aspects of the ceremony that I thought were moving (such as the formal Act of Remembrance), there were some aspects that I found to be cringe-worthy. 

 

For example, having singers performing on the monument was just not respectful. When the one singer descended the stairs of the monument, as if he was about to work the crowd at a rock concert, was cringe-worthy. I thought it was the ultimate sign of disrespect to have a concert on the site of a former battlefield where thousands of men died horrible, agonizing deaths. It was not only disrespectful, but disgusting. 

 

The 90th anniversary was much more tasteful. This performance was so much more emotional and respectfully done: 

 

 

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roundtuit

Totally agree with you. I am glad in a way that I could not attend this year. My Grandpa was 229 btn. CE. He often spoke of Vimy Ridge, apparently. Do not know where he served though.

 

Edit: Just spoken to my very elderly Mother. She confirms that my Grandpa (her Father) did indeed serve at Vimy Ridge. He was one of those bringing up supplies with wagons and horses.

Edited by roundtuit
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PerthHuron

i have to agree with you on this one ...

 

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squirrel

It seems to be the norm these days to have a popular singer perform at these events. Mostly they are completely out of context with the the theme of Remembrance and some seem to treat it as an opportunity to "perform their number" rather than something pertinent to the occasion. 

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steve fuller

What a shame 'modern' organisers don't understand the difference between a ceremony and a gig  :/ 

 

Would probably have helped if the people behind the performance came from a military or historical background rather than a show biz / commercial one?

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Norrette

I also much prefer the music of the 90th.  But I think there's general concern that after 2018, interest in the Gerat War will wane, along with us.  There is a need to draw in young blood, so I guess what ever it takes?

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sassenach
29 minutes ago, Norrette said:

I also much prefer the music of the 90th.  But I think there's general concern that after 2018, interest in the Gerat War will wane, along with us.  There is a need to draw in young blood, so I guess what ever it takes?

Sorry, but no. Not "whatever it takes." 

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Steven Broomfield

I agree - "whatever it takes" could well include cheerleaders and strippers.

 

I only saw a tiny bit of the (ahem) concert and it looked dire. Was the female on the piano famous?

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keithfazzani

If things pass into history then so be it, it is the natural order of things. I didn't watch the ceremony so can't comment on this particular event. However in general I have found the modernisation and re-invention of many aspects of the Great War Commemorations to be less than satisfactory. I agree that to do "whatever it takes" opens a Pandora's Box that may well be regretted.

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Norrette

Generations before us may well think our approach to commemoration in the late C20th is also tacky by their standards. I'd rather someone carry the baton than the Great War be consigned to... I was going to say history books, but even they won't be around much longer...so let's say consigned to a few web pages and a single obit style paragraph in the equivalent of a tabloid in perhaps 20 years time. 

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David Ridgus

Norrette

 

I think you are being over pessimistic. I see little evidence of the Great War fading into history, or interest in it waning. The current level of enthusiasm for battlefield tourism was in place before the centenary, and my groaning bookshelves are testimony to the continuing flood of publications. The interest in genealogy allied to the ubiquity of people's involvement in the war means that most families have some link which the Internet has played a great part in sustaining. 

 

When I was at school, history teaching stopped with the Boer War. Now both world wars play a huge part in the curriculum, a curriculum followed by more students as the Government's drive towards more humanities teaching forces schools to up the number of lessons.

 

In this climate I certainly think we don't need to dumb down our approach to remembrance and, for me, one of the most disappointing aspects of the centenary has been that it has become what many feared it would - an extended series of extra Remembrance Sundays, rather than a meaningful exploration of the war in an attempt to understand it better in all its facets. Too much mud, blood and futility and not enough analysis of what, to some people, will be uncomfortable truths about the war. I suspect the likely contrast between the tenor of news, documentaries, and ceremonies for Third Ypres this year and the Hundred Days next, will be very marked.

 

So no, not whatever it takes, but a real effort to wrest control of such events back by people with some semblance of understanding of taste, dignity and history. The academic battle against the 'Lions led by Donkeys' narrative continues, and I think is being decisively  won. Now we need to win a more wide ranging battle in the public's consciousness. I think this is eminently winnable too

 

David

Edited by David Ridgus

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sassoon

Phew...so glad that I wasn't the only one that thought this ceremony was a disgrace to the memory of the Vimy veterans and their families. I just don't think having performers singing songs or acting out skits on such a beautiful, moving monument is the way to go to commemorate. The monument speaks for itself and the atmosphere of Vimy Ridge also speaks volumes that no modern-day singer or actor could ever convey. 

 

Like many of you, I am sad to think the men who gathered at this monument in 1936 (who no doubt felt awe and pride at the grandeur of the architecture) were not respected at the 100th anniversary of this battle. 

 

David, I thought your post was poignant and touching. I agree with you 100%...

 

 

P.S. For what it's worth, many of my students were disappointed with the ceremony and they are the "younger" generation. 

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squirrel

My enduring memory of the Vimy Ridge Canadian memorial is of the first time I went there some years ago. There were several coaches of Canadian visitors and after visiting the caves and having a general look round they gathered at the base of the memorial. They had a piper with them from the Toronto Police Pipe Band who had played "The Maple Leaf Forever" in the caves earlier. He started to play a lament at the base of the memorial and went up the steps, playing as he did so, and then continued playing while slow marching around the memorial for about 5 minutes or so. Apart from the excellent piping, there was absolute silence. Very moving and very appropriate I thought.

No actors, dancers, singers; just a short but poignant and very fitting tribute and one that I will always remember.

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Steven Broomfield
On ‎11‎/‎04‎/‎2017 at 00:38, David Ridgus said:

 

 

When I was at school, history teaching stopped with the Boer War.

 

David

Representation of the People Act, 1832, for me.

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sassoon
On 4/12/2017 at 06:40, squirrel said:

My enduring memory of the Vimy Ridge Canadian memorial is of the first time I went there some years ago. There were several coaches of Canadian visitors and after visiting the caves and having a general look round they gathered at the base of the memorial. They had a piper with them from the Toronto Police Pipe Band who had played "The Maple Leaf Forever" in the caves earlier. He started to play a lament at the base of the memorial and went up the steps, playing as he did so, and then continued playing while slow marching around the memorial for about 5 minutes or so. Apart from the excellent piping, there was absolute silence. Very moving and very appropriate I thought.

No actors, dancers, singers; just a short but poignant and very fitting tribute and one that I will always remember.

 

Wow - wish I could have been there for such a moving ceremony. It was sad that not much was observed (on an official scale) in Toronto this past Sunday. 

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bruce

I am afraid that the ceremony was not as disrespectful as something I once observed there.

As a battlefield tour guide, I regularly take coaches full of teenage students there. On one occasion, about three years ago, I was well ahead of th students as we went to the memorial, as I wanted a picture of one of the names engraved there on.

I was horrified, that bright sunny morning, to find that there as a photographer and three young ladies in various states of undress cavorting on the memorial. 

I snapped.

I am afraid that Anglo Saxon dominated my opinion of them, and told them, in no uncertain terms, where they should stick the cameras, and how they all ought to be ashamed of themselves. It seemed to work, for he grabbed camera bits, the ladies their dressing gowns, and all four of them ran.

Thanksfully none of the Students heard my language, but they were impressed by the effect!

 

Bruce

Edited by bruce

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horrocks

I too doubt that there is any fear of the Great War slipping from conciousness, particularly if the recent stirring commemorations of Waterloo 200 are anything to go by. There is inevitably a peak at major anniversaries, but I think that school visits to the battlefields are now pretty de rigeur, far more so than they were a few years ago, so the next generations will undoubtedly pick up the mantle.

 

Sassoon mentioned the 1936 inauguration of the monument. I knew a lady who, as a 22 year old, attended the ceremony. She once showed me some marvellous photographs of the event. She would go on to marry Johnnie Cooper of SAS fame. Their son is Graeme Cooper, himself a battlefield tour guide, who took me on my first visit to Vimy Ridge, Arras and The Somme, some 15 years ago, and lit a fire that burns now stronger than ever, and which will certainly be passed on to my children.

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John_Hartley
On 10/04/2017 at 16:23, Norrette said:

But I think there's general concern that after 2018, interest in the Gerat War will wane, along with us.

Completely agree, Norrette.

 

It will, I am sure, be different for the following generations who did not know the veterans. They will have the same level of interest in the Great War, as I have for the Boer or Crimean Wars. Distant, not personal - just events in long gone history. They will not even have the interest of researching their family history - some older relative will have already done it.

 

This is not anything to fuss over. It is, simply, what happens with history.

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raindrop

A shame you didn't like the ceremony. I was there, along with about 20,000 Canadians.

I felt the readings, the words from the dignitaries and the videos were very well done and well presented.

The music celebrated the fact that 4,000 or so Aboriginal Canadians were involved with the fighting.  Lorena McKena is very well know

and her music choice was haunting and reflective.

 

All people at the ceremony paid their respect with silence at the right time, singing of the national anthem and welcoming

the music and dance. The remembrance of the soldiers was beautifully done and the empty boots on the hills were 

definitely memorable.  It was an event that will not be soon forgotten.  And that is the point - that the soldiers will not be forgotten.

 

Cheers

Lorraine

Canada

 

 

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ejwalshe

Just returned to Canada yesterday...I was very proud to attend the ceremony, loved the flypast of the vintage aircraft, the flypast following La Marseillaise, and very proud of our many troops who stood before us under difficult conditions...that is all that made me proud.

 

I am still embarrassed, ashamed and very angry with Veteran's Affairs Canada and their spineless project manager who bowed to corporate greed.  

 

The exhibition tents had no place on the lower terrace (or anywhere for that matter) and deprived at least 7,000 of us of viewing the ceremony (some very-intelligent official placed a single video screen in the sun and far too low for anyone beyond the first row to see).  Same official must have been in charge of the toilet facilities...14 toilets for 20,000 people on the lower terrace?  I heard lines were 40 minutes long and conditions were horrible.

 

Solemn ceremony?  Pathetic. Far too much clapping. If only the big-wigs had listened to me and simply followed the itinerary of the 1936 ceremony, it would have been perfect.

 

Prior to the arrival of the dignitaries, it must have caused concern for security as we were becoming an unruly mob on the upper level - fortunately, and true, we were very respectful when they did arrive.

 

On a day where I had planned to take the most photos and video, it turned out to be my least productive day ever.

 

By far, for me, the best event occurred the following day under a tent designed to hold 500-1,000 people, where there were perhaps 25 people in attendance.  Thanks to VAC, apparently, no one had been informed of the events transpiring, including wonderful performances and readings by several groups and individuals.

 

Jason Bradshaw's reading of his grandfather's poem by Private Robert Edward Shaw - killed on the first day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge would have been most appropriate on the day of the ceremony.

 

I was also very proud to have Jason, and a small company of individuals accompany me on the morning of the 9th as we followed in the footsteps of the 16th Battalion, CEF in real-time (100 years after, to the minute, that is).

 

Jason Bradshaw's reading of The Front Line can be found here.

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ejwalshe

Comments from the CanadaRemembers FB site (and one from me).

 

Shannon Thomas-Zufelt Sadly some were not admitted to the celebration because they were still not through the gates by 3:00 due to the number of people there. I find this very disappointing.

 

Mindy Fraser Sooooo, it had a great turnout but you're upset you didn't get there early enough?  Comment: A VAC Sycophant!

 

Shannon Thomas-Zufelt No, I am upset that my daughters school group who are there with a tour company had part of their group allowed in and the remainder of them including 3 of the 4 chaperones were stopped and not allowed in. This is a trip that was planned over a year in advance and they knew there were over 12,000 students alone coming. And it took a long time to get in and over 2 hours to get out. And just to be clear, my daughter was one of the few from her group to get in.

 

Debbie Walsh That's too bad. So sorry to hear any of the students missed out; I know the planning that went into this and that this is a huge deal. I hear the line ups to get in where long and it took a long time. Too bad they didn't cut off the "outside line" and then guarantee all those there on time did get in. I'm glad your daughter got in but understand your point.

 

Pat L Dilts Our group of 4 traveled from Edmonton, took a train from Duoai to Arras then an early shuttle to Vimy and onward to the memorial. We arrived at least 3 1/2 hours before the start time and the area in front of the memorial was closed because it was full. We ended up behind the memorial. We couldn't see the one large screen provided because of people standing and couldn't hear anything through the one speaker. Two women in our party waited 1 hour in line for the toilet and then there was no soap or water to wash. We stayed after the ceremony was over and started to make our way to the memorial to at least touch it. An announcement was made saying due to security reasons, no one was allowed on the monument. We were so terribly disappointed. My Grandfather fought at Vimy and this was the reason we were there. To not at least touch the memorial was heart breaking. We were very happy to be there but extremely disappointed with how it was organized.

 

Mariette Williamson I would like to know how much of our dollars go to TRUDEAU's photographer? Not interested in seeing pictures of Trudeau

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by ejwalshe

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sassoon
On 4/23/2017 at 16:14, raindrop said:

A shame you didn't like the ceremony. I was there, along with about 20,000 Canadians.

I felt the readings, the words from the dignitaries and the videos were very well done and well presented.

The music celebrated the fact that 4,000 or so Aboriginal Canadians were involved with the fighting.  Lorena McKena is very well know

and her music choice was haunting and reflective.

 

All people at the ceremony paid their respect with silence at the right time, singing of the national anthem and welcoming

the music and dance. The remembrance of the soldiers was beautifully done and the empty boots on the hills were 

definitely memorable.  It was an event that will not be soon forgotten.  And that is the point - that the soldiers will not be forgotten.

 

Cheers

Lorraine

Canada

 

 

 

As a Mic'Maq Canadian myself, I still did not appreciate the way the ceremony was played out and how aspects of the ceremony was quite disrespectful. I know this is a late reply but I felt that I had to mention that I was not trying to disrespect Native peoples as my great uncle (who fought and died during the Great War) was a Mic'Maq young man from Newfoundland. 

 

I was still embarrassed to see this display of so-called "commemoration". 

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ejwalshe

Sassoon, there was an Indigenous ceremony the night before on the hill, and Randy Chartrand who happened to be the Firekeeper filled me in on some details.

 

Oh, how I wish I was there (and how I wish I could have been invited...dang, one day I cursed my Irish heritage).

 

It was everything the ceremony should have been on Sunday...a solemn ceremony full of tradition.

 

VAC thought they could and should re-invent the wheel because they thought youth would not get it, that is, a solemn ceremony built on tradition.

 

Apologies to those who take offence, but I'm not holding back any punches...if you liked the ceremony, good for you, but you belong to the group that just don't get it.  With that statement, it's now official, I am now an old **** at 58. :P

 

However, I did see and talked to plenty of youth who did get it - they gave me faith.

 

P.S.:  Randy Chartrand has been President of the CVSDU (Canadian Veteran Service Dog Unit) since 2012.  This 15 year veteran of the Canadian Forces does all he can to help Canadian Veterans and First Responders suffering from PTSD, Operational Stress Injury (OSI) or mobility related issues.

 

http://cvsdu.ca/

 

Edited by ejwalshe

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sassoon

I'm glad that some people were proud of the ceremony but I simply was one Canadian who wasn't. 

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Canadian J

Good idea for a thread Sassoon. I also agree with you. There were parts I did not like either. First and foremost, hanging banners from the memorial was bad taste, IMO. Allward's monument is perfect; perfect as is. The ceremony also seemed to be a collage of mixed and random ideas that seemed, at times, to be nothing more than filler. I must also add that the interperative dance during Elicsapie Isaac was ridiculous, IMO. Her song was fantastic, but the added theatrics were completely unnecessary. 

 

I want to say, however, this is the first Centennial of Vimy Ridge that has ever been commemorated; so how do you commemorate it? At least their heart was in the right place, I believe, by putting in a good effort. I know some people really enjoyed it, and some, including myself, could find room for improvement. It's the same as how I enjoy certain music that others don't. These are my feelings on the matter and they may not be the same as yours, and that's ok with me, and with you I hope as well. 

 

I can see how some who were there may have enjoyed it differently, as I am going off of the CBC broadcast version. I have, however, been to Vimy at a time when there was nobody there, no banners, no symbolic boots that you can take home as a souvenir etc. So from my perspective it looked way overdone. I've been there when there was none of that, and, standing alone, that massive monument and the small piece of France it rests upon, was more than enough to shake my soul.

 

- J    

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