It was on that hallowed ground, 100 years ago, where Canadian soldiers showed their mettle to the rest of the world.
The website vimyfoundation.ca notes the historic battle in Vimy Ridge, France, which happened April 9, 1917, “is commonly highlighted as a turning point in Canadian history, where the four Canadian divisions fought together as a unified fighting force for the first time. While 3,598 Canadian soldiers were killed during the battle, the impressive victory over German forces is often cited as the beginning of Canada’s evolution from dominion to independent nation.”
A group of Grade 11 students from Langley Christian School wanted to carry the memory of what happened in Vimy Ridge through their school and to the public.
“We wondered what it was like for the men having to dig trenches,” said Adam Clay, who was part the group. “We put money in and bought equipment and were able to create a film.”
Over a period of several weeks, the teens dug a trench using hand tools including shovels.
It wasn’t always a pleasant undertaking. They dug in the cold and even in the snow, and at one point, the trench partially collapsed, burying an underground tunnel.
“We worked until one, two in the morning a couple days,” Clay said.
The students who saw the project through from start to finish include Clay, Marshall Campbell, Garth Smith, Matthew Baier, Brody Macdonald, Dylan Goulet-Jones, Jarid Foster, and Seth Lorensen.
“It was great,” Campbell said. “We really got us into the mindset of great-great grandfathers who went out there and gave it their all. And we’ve got to remind (people), it wasn’t that they just went out there and dug for a day. Those guys, some of them were conscripted, some of them were guys off the farm, some even our age, really.”
It started off as a school project for a “small amount of marks,” Clay said.
But for members of the group, it was much bigger than that.
“It was an opportunity to do something big, something the school would actually notice,” Clay said.
Campbell said the trench — dug on Clay’s family’s property in south Aldergrove — is a tribute to the military men and women three generations removed from today.
A 15:39-long video related to the project is on YouTube and Campbell, who produced the short film, is happy with the result.
“It was a pretty ambitious goal to begin with, but we all worked really hard, we’re all really passionate about this… I was getting worried but we were all like, ‘We’re going to get this done, we’re going to make this good.”
Campbell spoke about why the group chose to commemorate First World War soldiers.
“I think it’s something that’s quite often overlooked,” he said.
The war that spanned from 1914 to 1918 was a clash of the colonial method of warfare and mechanized war, Campbell noted.
“It was an attrition war,” he added. “I think about 80 per cent of casualties were done by artillery, so it was just guys waiting in the trenches, shelling all day.”
Clay’s bloodlines trace back to both the First World War and Second World War.
His great-great grandfather was shot during the First World War and had a metal plate inserted in his head as a result. He also served in the Second World War.
Clay admits he never fully understood what his great-great grandfather had to go through — until now.
“After of digging the trench, being in the trench… it’s cold, it’s wet… it’s not a fun time,” Clay said.