Tomorrow we return to Canada, our two week journey through four countries and two wars complete. When I applied to take part in this study tour I had hoped that it would give me a fuller understanding of the World Wars and Canada’s participation in these conflicts. Upon reflection I realize that I have learned so much more.
A prof of mine this past year, the same one who encouraged me to apply for this study tour, said that the ground is a primary resource. You can understand an event and its impact so much more by being in the space where that event took place. To see the trenches, the craters, the leftover bunkers and batteries scattered throughout Northern Europe is to see the physical imprint of war on the land and its people. To see cemeteries, dozens over these past two weeks, filled with tens of thousands of graves, is to truly understand the magnitude of the sacrifice given by the “lost generation” and to feel the sense of loss experienced by families and communities the world over. I have walked through cold and damp underground tunnels, I have stood on ridges and between the walls of a trench, and I have mourned over the graves of so many lost. These are experiences and knowledge that cannot be pulled from the pages of a textbook.
I think I speak for everyone when I say that I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this study tour. I had anticipated that the academic value would be immeasurable, but today I realized how beneficial it is to tour Europe with knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides like Geoff and Dave. They are so filled with wonderful stories and facts. As we wandered through cemeteries Geoff would stop and tell us the individual story of a man buried in front of us. As we passed through city streets Dave pointed out minute details and told us about the events that had taken place in the very place we were standing. I know I never would have had such a fulfilling experience here had it not been for their excellent guidance.
In conclusion I would just like to say thank you. To Geoff and Dave for their outstanding leadership. To my peers and now friends who were excellent company when we were all so far from home. And of course, thank you to CBF for making this all possible.