Vimy Ridge: Heaven to Hell

Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Vimy Ridge: Heaven to Hell premiered last night on History Television in Canada. Despite some not-so-great computer animation for the battle recreations, it was quite good. The program focused on the work of a group of British historians and archaeologists working on a dig at Vimy Ridge and used the recreations to tie items found to the history of the site. The individual stories of three Canadians involved in different parts of the battle (air reconnaissance, sapper, and infantry) were used to provide a personal touch to the artifacts found, training leading up to the events of April 9th, and the horrors of the battle itself. If you get a chance to see it, I would recommend you check it out. It re-airs on April 8th and again on April 9th on the History Channel (check local listings).

While I felt the program itself was well done, I had mixed feelings about the archaeological excavations taking place on the site. Curious as the next person, I’m always eager to find out more and the “discovery” of personal items, empty shells, and equipment certainly helps make history “real” to many people. I think the events at Vimy Ridge (and the war as a whole) are very important and need to be understood, especially if we hope to prevent ourselves from repeating them. Yet, it also made me uncomfortable and very sad. Not surprisingly, just under the topsoil, the archaeologists found partial remains of a number of people – feet and leg bones mostly. The crew at the site discovered a tunnel system that had caved in from an explosion and hadn’t been open presumably since the battle. This was fine until they discovered a number of places where soldiers had carved their names, hometowns, names of girlfriends/wives, notes to parents, regimental emblems, dates, and pictures scratched into the stone. It might just be me, but it seems too soon. I’m glad it was only at the end of the documentary that they showed this part as I couldn’t watch it for very long. I recognized almost every hometown they showed carved into a wall, some of which I’ve visited. There’s a difference between excavating an ancient cemetery and a battlefield less than 100 years old. At least there is for me. It made me think of how our two remaining veterans from the Great War would feel watching this and having to relive it all over again. Yes, I did enjoy the program but I would have preferred if they hadn’t excavated part of the site. How long before they should be allowed to do so? Difficult to say. I’m not ready for it yet though.

One of the most striking things I noticed, and which was pointed out by the narrator, was the use of the maple leaf for various regimental/company insignia (not sure if that’s the correct term or not). We have to remember that Canada, at the time of the Battle, was barely 50 years old and our current flag (red maple leaf) was not officially adopted until the mid 1960’s. However, as early as Confederation, the great maple leaf was a symbol that Canadians rallied around. Alexander Muir’s song, The Maple Leaf Forever, was written in 1867 and it was hugely popular (more so in English speaking Canada).

Thanks to everyone for the concern over the medication issues. Things seem to be settling down now. Made it into work with little or no dizziness and therefore no nausea (knock on wood). Still not feeling great but doing much better than I have been. Staring at my computer screen for 7 hours might take its toll but it’s where I do most of my work so I don’t have much of a choice. I think what really did it for me was the threat I made to myself about calling the specialist’s office and possibly having to go back and see him.

And just because Big Brother finally left a comment on my blog, and I know he's a HUGE Firefly/Serenity fan (as is Wandering Coyote) - Happy Birthday to Edmonton actor, Nathan Fillion.


* (asterisk) said...

I saw your bro's comment. That's cool. My family is largely in the dark about my blogging escapades.

Glad you're feeling a little better. Baby steps, y'know?

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