Two years in the planning with the Thelus Mayor, Bernard Milleville, the Return To Vimy Tour day to join the town of Thelus in commemoration of the rededication of the Artillery Memorial was my favourite experience of the entire tour. All the artillery members in attendance, active service and retired, were led by piper Colin Norris, as they paraded down the flag festooned main street. While tour members were readying themselves to parade from the Mairie (town hall) to the Artillery Monument, I had the chance to run ahead in the street to take photos. While I was waiting, townspeople came up to me to say "Merci beaucoup, pour notre liberation". Two elderly people whose living rooms fronted the street, hand cranked their windows open and stuck their hands out just to hold my hand. They waved, shouted "bonjour", smiled, and were so welcoming. Thelusians dressed in red and white, waved flags, and passed out chocolates. During the formal speeches at the monument, in the spring sunshine, the whole town came to acknowledge our visit and remember the fallen. After the parade, refreshments and desserts were shared. A photography exhibit of photos, some previously unseen, curated from many family collections and the town archive, from the First World War and between the wars, were on display. Here, the Thelusians chatted with soldiers, and shared their experiences and family stories about the photos. It was a very special, intimate experience that I won't forget. Reflecting on the tour as a whole, this was my highlight of all the commemorative events. A celebration of liberation, inspite of the fact that the entire town of Thelus was destroyed 100 years ago. Thelus Remembers 1917 - 2017 Thelus Se Souvient.
Recently, I saw this shared image on Twitter for the first time.. As we get ready for the Return to Vimy Tour, the photo is a reminder of the utter devastation of the town of Thelus. The picture depicts the unveiling of the Artillery Memorial in the village of Thelus in February 1918, while the war was still nine months from ending. It was the second monument built on the ridge by Canadians. Thelus was submitted to particulary intense bombardment by heavy artillery in the period leading up to the attack on the 9th of April. Lt-Gen Sir Arthur Currie is shown about to remove the Red Ensign to unveil the plaques on the monument in front of assembled senior gunners from the Canadian corps. The monument stands today as it did in 1918 in the center of Thelus which has now been rebuilt around it. The town of Thelus, in cooperation with Fields of Fire Tours, will host the gunners once again on the 8th of April, 2017 in a service of commemoration with villagers, school children, and representatives of the Royal Artillery and South African Artillery, which also supported the corps at Vimy.
The town of Thelus is preparing for the crowd that will descend upon them in April 2017 during commemorative events for Vimy 100th. There will be a rededication of the artillery monument built by the Canadian Artillery Corps. The monument, erected in April 1918 and unveiled by General Sir Julian Byng, is getting some much needed care and attention in order to rededicate it to the Canadian Field Artillery along with the British and South African Gunners who served with them. We were very impressed in December 2016 with the mayor and his administration as they collaborated with us about the town's plans, all ready underway for this huge gathering.