FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Twenty of the Fort St. John cadets have officially returned to the Energetic City from a trip three years in the making.
The group of cadets, lead by former Commanding Officer Ken Lane, left for Europe on April 3rd for a trip to help commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Lane says that thr group originally arrived in London where they spent the first two days of their trip. In the U.K., the cadets visited Shorncliffe Army Camp, where the Canadian Expeditionary Force was founded in 1859. The camp was also the site of a Canadian military hospital during World War I.
After taking the ferry across the Channel from Dover to Calais, the group travelled through Normandy to visit several sites from both World Wars, including Juno Beach. For Lane, one site in particular that stuck out in Normandy was the Beaumont-Hamel memorial to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment from the First World War. He explained that the site contains trenches from both sides of the Western Front that have been preserved, allowing the cadets to see and experience the battlefield after the fact.
The trip to the Vimy Memorial itself took place on April 9th, where they attended the anniversary commemoration along with 20,000 others. For Lane, the thing that struck him the most about the site was the walk to the memorial itself. “You’re walking along the edge of a road, but all of the land there is still covered in craters,” said Lane. “Some of these craters you could drop a house into them, they’re massive. You try and imagine what actually happened here.” Lane said that the group was also struck by the size of the Vimy Ridge Memorial. The twin pylons of the monument are 27 metres in height, and tower over 100 metres over the plains to the east of the ridge.
The ceremony itself featured no shortage of dignitaries, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Governor General David Johnston, French President Francois Hollande, and Princes Charles, William, and Harry all spoke about the sacrifice made by Canadian troops during the battle.
The group concluded their trip by visiting Paris, taking tours of the city by bus and boat on the Seine, along with a trip to the Eiffel Tower. After departing from Charles de Gaulle International, it was a nearly 24 hour trip back to Fort St. John by way of Toronto and Vancouver. The group arrived back at around midnight on Wednesday morning.
Overall, Lane concluded by saying that the whole troupe felt that the trip was one of a lifetime.