Vimy Ridge

March 31st -April 16th, 2007




For one glorious fortnight, I had the privilege of travelling to Lille, France for the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge with 350 of the men and women of the Canadian Forces. They are, without question, the finest people you could ever meet, and the some of the funniest. Their esprit de corps, passion, dedication, heart, and the fact that an American 'Lincoln' was posted on a door in the corridor of our hotel,where it stayed put, not to mention affording the best two weeks in memory; are a few of the reasons they are of a calibre nonpareil.

This gallery is dedicated, with great fondness, to them.

With thanks to the Canadian Forces Artists Program, Directorate of History and Heritage and the Department of National Defence for this opportunity and for their generosity.


"It is easier to ask for forgiveness, than it is to ask for permission." ~ Army adage



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March 31st

Leaving the Toronto Airport, bound for Canadian Forces Base Trenton.

April 1st, Trenton

Eric, Colonels Bludd and Brink, three of the Loyal Eddys.

Drill practice in the rain.

Sometimes, yelling does pay off.

Padre McLean and troops assembling at CFB Trenton Airport.


Mounting the Airbus for Lille.

April 3rd

Slag heaps near Arras. They were there in the First World War, too.

Avion is located between Arras and Lens.

Avion, the location where the remains of Private Peterson, and the comrade who tried to save him, were exhumed in 2003.






Private Herbert Peterson had been one of the more than19,660 Canadian soldiers from the First World War who have no known grave, 11,285 of whom are listed on the Vimy Ridge Monument.


April 4th

Trench, Vimy Ridge.


View from a German trench, looking towards a Canadian trench less than ten metres away.

The tunnels where the soldiers would wait, in silence, for days. Listening.

Vestiges of their names and messages remain carved in the chalk walls.

On the grounds of the monument, behind the electrified fences, thrive 3,600 Scotch Pines imported from Canada, one for each Canadian soldier who perished in the four days they fought to take the objective. The pockmarked earth remains a testament to the 1,500 shells that were exchanged, per minute, during the pitch of the battle. Ninety years on, our spring is wrapped in lovely innocence. Inhaling the newborn freshness, you adore the tenderness of the young green, and listen to the sweetness of the birdsong. Then, a sorrowful realization collapses the gentle idyll: for it is a mass grave, the realization of which, is the lowest form of treachery.

Proceeding from the trenches and tunnels, we saw one beer can on the other side of the electrified wire. Unlike the others, it lurked just out of reach.

As she tore the elastic band from her hair to lash two twigs together, "I saw this on Survivior.", Ally handily retrieved the offending beer can.

Major Jackson at the Maple Leaf Cafe, Givenchy. It is the only restaurant within miles of the monument.

How could any Canadian possibly resist? Oh, the canny French.

One of the impeccably groomed Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries. Many of the dead remain, as Kipling wrote, 'Known unto God'.


April 5th

Funeral rehearsal, Captain Gauthier and Colonel Bludd.



MCpl George Duff smiling, doubtless, in eager anticipation of a delicious box lunch.


Kent, now, here's a man who really knows his kilts and sporrans.You can just make out the Vimy monument in the distance.

Liz Newman, one of three medics who selflessly perform the Lord's work, like, giving me moleskin. Seriously, the medics bear with fortitude the evils that man is capable of inflicting on others.

Please do not misconstrue this respite to be pro-smoking propaganda in any way, shape or form.

Mike (signing the guest registry at La Chaudiere Military Cemetery) and Kyle, the DND reporters who commandeered the painting and me. They could be stand-up comedians if they ever get tired of the army thing. "Not likely, Bubs."

Mercure Lille Aeroport Hotel

First inspection of the Distinct Environmental Uniform with white belt.

Although, personally a big fan of the Cad-pats, they do look fetching in their DEUs.

Richard Troute. He, of the wicked, WICKED, sense of humour.

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