Thelus Remembers: Thelus Se Souvient 1917 2017

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.

Colin Norris leads the parade of gunners along Rue des Artilleurs, Thelus.

Colin Norris leads the parade of gunners along Rue des Artilleurs, Thelus.

Gunners on parade: (left to right) LCol Sonny Hatton, HLCol Steve Gregory, HCol Charles de Kovachich, Maj John Stewart, HCol Dale Murray, LCol Lance Knox, MGen (retd) Stu McDonald, HCol John Irving, Brad Woolven, Scott Wisdahl, LGen (retd) Mike Jeffrey, LCol (retd) Bob Elliott. Photo courtesy of Major Richard Gratton.

Gunners on parade: (left to right) LCol Sonny Hatton, HLCol Steve Gregory, HCol Charles de Kovachich, Maj John Stewart, HCol Dale Murray, LCol Lance Knox, MGen (retd) Stu McDonald, HCol John Irving, Brad Woolven, Scott Wisdahl, LGen (retd) Mike Jeffrey, LCol (retd) Bob Elliott. Photo courtesy of Major Richard Gratton.

Red and white to commemorate and to celebrate.

Red and white to commemorate and to celebrate.

Everybody loves a parade and you get to wear your favourite soccer hat.

Everybody loves a parade and you get to wear your favourite soccer hat.

Inspite of the school holiday, young people attend too.

Inspite of the school holiday, young people attend too.

Everyone in Thelus attends.

Everyone in Thelus attends.

Mayor Bernard Milleville addresses the crowd of Canadians and Thelusians at the Artilley Memorial ceremony.

Mayor Bernard Milleville addresses the crowd of Canadians and Thelusians at the Artilley Memorial ceremony.

Master Bombardier Caron-Corriveau of 5e RALC speaks with local resident of Thelus at the photo exhibit.

Master Bombardier Caron-Corriveau of 5e RALC speaks with local resident of Thelus at the photo exhibit.

Mayor Bernard Milleville and David at the photo exhibit - some extraordinary images I have never seen before from family photo collections and town archive.

Mayor Bernard Milleville and David at the photo exhibit - some extraordinary images I have never seen before from family photo collections and town archive.

Thelusians share stories and connections with Canada.

Thelusians share stories and connections with Canada.

Portes drapeux - flag carriers from Thelus Veterens' Associations participate in the ceremony. 

Portes drapeux - flag carriers from Thelus Veterens' Associations participate in the ceremony. 

Thelusian French veterans of the Algerian war attended and mixed with Canadians guests. Thelus coat of arms can be seen in the background.

Thelusian French veterans of the Algerian war attended and mixed with Canadians guests. Thelus coat of arms can be seen in the background.

Energetic flag waving.

Energetic flag waving.

Home made Canadian flags are waved and poppies adorn parade wear.

Home made Canadian flags are waved and poppies adorn parade wear.

Personal and thoughtful gestures of Remembrance are found everywhere.

Personal and thoughtful gestures of Remembrance are found everywhere.

Thelus Remembers 1917 2017.

Thelus Remembers 1917 2017.

Artillery Monument at Thelus

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.

Artillery Memorial to First World War, Thelus

Artillery Memorial to First World War, Thelus

Vimy April 2017 Commemoration Tour with 200 Canadian Gunners and Signallers: Behind the Scenes

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.

CJ                                                                                                                                

Canadian Artillery Monument at Thelus

Canadian Artillery Monument at Thelus