Thursday, April 10, 2008

Too Many Names

When World War One began in August of 1914, everyone believed that it would all be over by Christmas.

Young men the world over heard the call and signed up.  One of those young men was my grandfather, Harry Dean. 

A Restored Trench at Vimy

Over the course of the next four long years, he fought in the trenches of the Western Front.  I don't know what he hoped to find in France, but what awaited him was a battlefield of mud and horror.

Vimy Memorial

One of "the lucky ones", he managed to survive the war and its terrible battles, including the Battle of Vimy Ridge, considered by some to be a high point in the history of Canada - a battle that solidified our status as a nation.

Vimy Memorial

In a field, on a hill outside of Arras is a monument to that awful day of triumph.  Carved into the sides of it are the names of young men killed in battle, whose bodies were never found.  Eleven thousand two hundred and eighty five in all.  A further six thousand nine hundred and ninety eight names are carved in the Memorial Arch of the Menin Gate at Ypres.

Some of the  11,285 Names

Vimy is a beautiful monument, a place of silence and of ghosts.

We went today to pay our respects to my grandfather and his comrades. 

Also there were a group of men from England, finding the name of an ancestor.  I quietly stepped away.

The Former Battlefield 

Surrounding this spot are fields of lumps and hillocks and holes - the long-ago battlefields, left to heal as nature sees fit.  Grass covers the mud and trees grow, but the scars in the earth remain.

More Names

It's a powerful testament to all that was lost in those four terrible years.



Anonymous said...

Oh My God! This is were I grew up, I ran in those tranchees ..... my parents live at about 10min drive.... I wish I had known before, then we could have made arrangements!! oh what a shame.

Well thinking of you, enjoy your stay, which you seem to be doing anyway!...LOL
We'll call you when you are back.
Lots of Love, xox Valerie

Tara said...

Oh Barb

how poignant! I think names on a wall are spine tingling

Juliet said...

Thanks so much for sharing these very moving photos and thoughts. My grandfather fought in these trenches, too, and somehow survived.

Barb McMahon said...

Valerie - ooops! It was such a short visit, though. Just long enough to know that we need to go back. Next time, we'll make plans.

Tara - yes it's very poignant, very powerful.

And Juliet - what can I say? I'm glad you appreciate this.