Student visit the grave site of Prince Rupert soldier Donald Montgomery

Student visit the grave site of Prince Rupert soldier Donald Montgomery

Walking the footsteps of Canadian soldiers

The following is a first-hand account of a recent trip to Europe taken by a number of students from Charles Hays Secondary School.

-By Jeremy Angus

Editor’s note: The following is a first-hand account of a recent trip to Europe taken by a number of students from Charles Hays Secondary School, including work experience student Jeremy Angus.

Our tour was headed by group leader Dianne Rabel, a teacher from Charles Hays Secondary (CHSS) and CHSS students Kate McAlister, Abigail Stogrinoffsky, Dianne Rabel’s granddaughter  Laura Tkacsik and myself.

We travelled across four countries: Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, and France.

The first day we arrived in Berlin. Although jet-lagged and tired from our 10 hour flight we carried on. There we met our tour director, who was very understanding of our tiredness and did not make us run like we had to do on the days to come.

In our bus there were two other groups both from Saskatchewan, one from Rosetown and a cadet group from Indian Head.

On the first full day in Berlin we went to Alexander Platz and met up with another Rupertite, Brianne Bartel, who came to Berlin to visit us.

The following day in Berlin we saw the remains of the Berlin Wall, which had long been covered in graffiti by local artists, Reichstag, which was the German Parliament Building, the Brandenburg Gate and the Topography of Terror Museum, which was the building used by Hitler as his headquarters during World War 2 (WW2).

After that we went to possibly one of the saddest places during the trip, the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. It is a place where more than 30,000 people died. The camp was empty, only a few buildings remained and most were rebuilt. We stood in “Station Z” where the SS’s prototype killing machine was located, a place where hundreds of people died every day.

After spending two days in Berlin we travelled to Amsterdam, which was a highlight among many of us who went on the trip and a personal favorite of mine as well.

Amsterdam is home to the famous Anne Frank house where the young girl hid during World War 2 with her family. The Anne Frank house was a small house in a factory where the family and four others hid for two years before being caught in 1944.

Our next stop was Volendam, a model Dutch village that is a popular tourist spot. They made clogs, cheese, chocolate and have various chicken and duck hybrids running around. While we were in Volendam many of my group were in love, whether it was with cheese or handsome clog makers.

The  group then visited our first of many cemeteries, the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, where two Rupert men are buried t, Earl Voshell, 19, and Donald Montgomery, 23, who both fought in World War 2.

Our group would spend a day in Ypres, Belgium and the surrounding regions, the place where the famous Battle of Passchendaele happened.

After a short visit outside the city, we would visit Essex Farm, the place where Dr. John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields. Essex farm’s bunkers have been preserved because this was the dressing station where Dr. John McRae and Dr. Norman Bethune worked.

The last stop outside the city was a visit at the Menin Road South Military Cemetery where Dianne and Laura’s great uncle was buried. Our tour group had a cadet group within it and they offered to salute for them.

We returned to Ypres, just in time to attended the last post service at the Menin Gate, which has happened every day at the same time since 1928.

We attended the ceremony but we weren’t able to see at all. We were blocked from all sight but we could hear just fine. After the ceremony was over we found 12 names of Prince Rupert men who were memorialized at Menin Gate.

Our last country was France and before we visited Paris, our first stop was Vimy Ridge.

Vimy was major Canadian victory in World War 1 and showed the world back then that Canada was more than a colony of British Empire.

Our tour group had a guided tour of trenches, the landscape of Vimy has been forever changed by that one battle. Many craters covered the land, and you weren’t allowed to wander far off the path because there were still land mines deep in the ground which very still much active after almost a 100 years. Among the 3,598 dead, there were 37 Prince Rupert men honored at the Vimy Ridge memorial.

Our second day in France saw us going to the Beny-Sur-Mer Canadian Military Cemetery where two Prince Rupert men were buried: Thomas Phelps, 24, and William Hood, who both participated in the taking of Juno Beach.

During World War 2 there was an operation called Operation Overlord which was amphibious invasion of coastal German Occupied-France. The Canadians were in charge of taking Juno Beach which was our next stop. Along Juno Beach were German bunkers, which we able to go into, and after all that was said and done we left Juno Beach with rocks and sand or other various things people saw fit as souvenirs.

The final day of our trip was spent in Paris which I spent sick with what I call the “French Fever”. I guess my body wasn’t ready to leave yet but my ticket was.

Paris is the city of lights, love and random musical acts on public transport. We would spend the morning on a guided city seeing tour of Paris that ended at the Notre Dame.

In the afternoon we were given free time and let loose in the streets Paris and spent a fair amount of time shopping and getting lost.

The night was spent with a night cruise on the river, La Seine, and frantically repacking our suitcases for our very early flight back home.

We went back home the next day with a very European high in our eyes and a long 10 hour flight ahead of us.

This trip has been a learning experience, we have walked through steps of those who have come and gone, and it will be something we will always remember and carry in our hearts.