Historical student trips teach more than text books ever could, says speaker
by Sandy Lindsay

November 8, 2015

Service Clubs

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Reminiscing ...

Veterans are piped in at Port Elgin Legion

photo by Michael Crossling
(L) Vern Johnson (Veteran Queen's Own Rifles), Piper Steve Wolfe and Veteran Watt Rogers

The November meeting of the Saugeen Shores men's Probus Club held on Tuesday, November 3rd, was emotional in its leading up to Remembrance Day.

The meeting began with Piper Stephen Wolfe leading in three veterans, Vern Johnson, Watt Rogers and Michael Crossling.

(front to back) Watt Rogers, Vern Johnson and Michael Crossling

Featured speaker Clive Card also brought to the fore through a touching slide presentation, young people and their interest in the history of Canada's role in two world wars.

Card, a retired teacher and principal, lead students from Saugeen District Secondary School (SDSS) on two journeys in 2012 and 2014 to Europe, and into the past, to remember those who fought and died in two World Wars.

"If kids are going to understand historical things, they really do need to be there," said Card.  "For instance, I took a grade 8 class to Brock University and it wasn't until they had to scale the Queenston Heights as General Brock did in 1812, that they could understand what it was like to go anywhere carrying an 80lb. pack.  Until they (students) actually get out and experience things, they can't understand historical concepts."

According to Card, many students had not travelled widely and, therefore, had to learn the rudiments of travel abroad, including things such as acquiring a passport and how to pack minimally.

Working with Veterans' Affairs, the students prepared a flag which was signed  prior to the first trip for the 95th anniversary of Vimy Ridge.

Once in Europe, students traveled by bus with other students from Manitoba and, while the concept was based on war history , they also had the opportunity to visit many historical sites such as the Roman Coliseum, Constantine's Arch, sculpture works, the Forum, the Vatican and the connections to ancient Greeks.

From Rome, the students traveled to Ortona, where Canadians in 1944 helped to liberate Italy.  While there, the students met a woman, who in 1944 at the age of 12, remembered the Canadian soldiers who liberated the country.

"You will never ever forget the first step you take into a Commonwealth War Cemetery," said Card. "Each cemetery we visited, the students gathered around and we had our own ceremony.  Veterans' Affairs gave us the names of soldiers who were in the cemeteries so that the students could visit the gravesites, including the Bruce County fallen."

Unfortunately, the previous Canadian government cut back on funding that paid for the maintenance of the cemeteries.

Click the orange arrow to read the second column

Retired Teacher Clive Card explains the Canadian technique, the rolling advance, used to capture Vimy Ridge

Students placed their biographies with the soldiers' gravestones that they had researched and, for many, it was a shock to see that the ages of the soldiers were often the age of themselves.

They also did 'rubbings' of the names on the gravestones and, upon their return, presented them to various Legions.

Canada's part in the the war(s) is evident everywhere, said Card.  From a Canadian memorial to a museum that is covered in maple leaves, Card said that Canadians are revered in both Italy and France.

"To this day, more than 95 years later ," he said, "in Vimy, the people were in windows and doorways waving Canadian flags because they absolutely revere the fact that Canadians liberated them.  That it was Canadians who captured this ridge after many others tried. They also planted a tree for every Canadian who died.  One thousand men went over the top that day ... 60 showed up the next morning." 

An Ypres, a battle site in 1917, at the Mennan Gate, there are the names of Bruce County soldiers who died.  "Ever since the end of the war, at 8:00 in the evening, every single evening of every day, the local fire department plays 'taps' ... every day since 1918.  You can hear a pin drop and there isn't a dry eye."

Card also explained the battle of Dieppe and how difficult the beach that is covered in pea gravel must have been for those allies who landed.  

"At the 70th celebration at Juno Beach," said Card, "the students found their Bruce County soldiers.  The veterans who had traveled to France for the celebration were fantastic and spent time talking with the students. I also have to say that EMS personnel were amazing and I cannot say enough about them.  The took time on their holidays to volunteer to look after the vets and they were always in their EMS dress uniforms."

"I cannot say enough about how proud everyone should be of these students," said Card, "how beautifully they represented their communities, their school and their country, both in 2012 and 2014.  These kids were absolutely stellar.  The kids made family connections.  They lived things they never would have lived from a history text book.  They met people they never would have met before.  They learned a lot about themselves.  They will be better travelers now because of this experience."

Probarian John Cherrie (R) presents an honorarium to Clive Card which he said will go toward another student trip

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