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John Burke's Paris 2000
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Monday and time to set off back home.

We make a stop at the Canadian war memorial at Vimy Ridge, site of so many deaths during the Battle of the Somme in the First World War.

On 9 April 1917 all four Canadian Divisions stormed the Ridge - the highest ridge of land for miles and a German stronghold. 3,600 Canadians died on the first day alone.

In the grounds of the memorial the shell holes and craters have been left. Indeed most grounds are roped off due to live unfound munitions.
When you look at the size of some of these craters, imagine the weight of earth that was blown skyward. Remember that 2/3 of that earth fell back in the hole from which it was torn.

Between April 1917 and the end of the war, 19,000 Canadians gave their lives for their country and their allies. Their bodies lay buried in the fields and villages near Vimy.

Every tree, every blade of grass, was blown away, leaving a terrain of mud and trenches, rats and lice. In gratitude for the sacrifice and bravery of the Canadians, the French planted this area afresh with seeds sent over from Canada.

It is, for most people at any rate, a place for silent thought and reflection on the hell that was the Front in the 1914-18 war.

One older lady, travelling on her own, came up to me. "Were there other trenches than here?" she asked, "My father was in the trenches..."

Behind my suddenly misted eyes, other people were clambering on the walls of the memorial.


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