Vimy Ridge memorial breathtaking, Edmonton student tells livestream viewed by thousands

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Vimy Ridge memorial breathtaking, Edmonton student tells livestream viewed by thousands

Hundreds of students packed the Vimy Ridge Academy gymnasium Thursday to learn about the historic battle that lends its name to their high school.

The students linked up with 10,000 others across Canada to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

They heard speeches from students and dignitaries, including Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell and Canadian Armed Forces members, all livestreamed on large screens at schools across the country.

But it was the presentation by Vimy Ridge Grade 12 student Josh Hidson and teacher Graham Fleming that really captured everyone's attention.

The two spoke live from a town square in Arras, France, where the main offensive took place for Vimy Ridge, sharing what they've experienced through video, pictures and interviews.    

'Absolutely breathtaking'

"The memorial itself was absolutely breathtaking," Hidson said.  

"One of the most inspiring things for me on the way there was all of the French homes on the sides of the streets were displaying the Canadian flag and if that doesn't make you feel proud as a Canadian I don't know what will.

"To experience that, and to see how proud the world is of the Canadian effort at Vimy and the appreciation of the French people for what we sacrificed there and the memorial itself was absolutely breathtaking.

"You see it in textbooks and you hear  from other people, but being there was just absolutely incredible."

​Members of the Canadian military were also in the gym at Vimy Ridge Academy watching Hidson on the big screen.

Retired Master Warrant Officer Ed Dziepak, who served 35 years in the Army and the Air Force, became emotional.

"I thought it was just tremendous; it was really moving, I had almost tears, I still do," he said as his voice started to break.

The video conference, an initiative of the Centre for Global Education, helped students from coast to coast share their own connection to the anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge through song, stories and poetry.

'Significant impact'

Vice principal Michael Chute said the commemoration was hosted by the school to show students the importance of the battle.

"I think this makes a significant impact," he said.

In previous years, Chute has accompanied several students from Vimy Ridge to France to take part in commemoration ceremonies.

"The students that I usually take are in Grades 11 and 12 so they are 17 and 18 years old," he said.

He points out that some soldiers who died at Vimy Ridge were as young as 16. 

"I note to them, 'Here is somebody that is a year younger that paid the ultimate sacrifice and will never get to experience the joy and the freedoms that we do.' 

"So it's very moving."