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.

Two weeks until Return to Vimy Tour attends Commemoration: April 9th, 2017

Walter Seymour Allward, the sculptor of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, was all ready famous when his design was picked for the Vimy construction.  This project took fourteen years from his start to unveiling, 1921-1936.  When I stand on the path leading to the monument I am struck by the whiteness of the stone.  It gleams, even on the days when the skies are grey.  The process of selecting the stone took Allward two years of travel.  It was obviously an undertaking of great passion.  The stone he selected comes from an old Roman quarry in Croatia, at Seget.  I wonder at that task – quarrying and then transporting the stone to France for the stone carvers to transform it into this massive work of art.  My first experience standing at Vimy, made me recall back the narrative in the novel by Jane Urquhart, The Stone Carvers.  She explores the power of art to transform lives and loss and Allward’s commitment to complete this monumental work of art.  I can hear the sound of the chisels of stonemasons ringing around me as I gaze upon the twenty faces of the monument’s human figures and the 11,000 names of fallen Canadians engraved on this luminous limestone.

30 Days to Vimy 100

It's one month ahead of the ceremony until our Fields Of Fire Tours group of 200 stands together at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.  This group comprises gunners and signallers from across Canada - Regular Army and Reservists, serving and retired, and many spouses and partners too.  The serving soldiers were selected by their units to represent them at this centenary commemoration.  Our Vimy 100 tickets have arrived allowing us access to this special event.  All that's left to do is pack and hope for good weather.  We will blog regularly to share our experiences as the tour unfolds.

1 of the 50,000 tickets distributed to Canadians to attend the Canadian National Memorial Commemoration Ceremony on April 9th, 2017.

1 of the 50,000 tickets distributed to Canadians to attend the Canadian National Memorial Commemoration Ceremony on April 9th, 2017.