Students prepare for victory
When Matthew Taylor's grandmother died last year, his family found boxes of mementoes his grandfather had kept from the Second World War.
"We never knew about this stuff, because he never talked about it," said the Grade 11 Eastview Secondary School student. "We have boxes of his uniform and letters. It's crazy what you can find."
Encouraged by his history teacher, Clint Lovell, Taylor called the Royal Canadian Legion in his grandfather's hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, as well as the Red Cross. He discovered his grandfather was part of the South Saskatchewan Regiment.
His four medals provided great information about his service record: he was in for the duration of the war right to D-Day, and he volunteered, he wasn't conscripted.
Taylor knew his grandfather returned to Holland for the 50th anniversary celebrations marking the end of the war. And now Taylor wants to be among the thousands of Canadian students to participate at next year's 65th anniversary -- expected to be the last celebration.
The prospect is a tempting one for Debra Kelsall and Ashley Bye, as well. Like Taylor, they've both tracked down family involved in the military.
Kelsall has the canteen and a photo of her great-grandfather, who fought in the First World War, as well as a letter he wrote from the war referring to Canadians as Canucks and Germans as Fritz.
"It's almost like this letter was written by a character in the moviePasschendaele," she said.
Bye's great-great-great-grandfather fought in the First World War for the British, and she happened upon the connection when her grandmother was sent a picture of him. She then tracked down his number, position and some genealogy and a photo of his burial plot in Egypt.
It's those stories that Lovell has been encouraging his students to track down over the years. And trips to the war sites and the cemeteries help make it real for them.
"A lot of us have our DNA in some of those (war) cemeteries overseas," Lovell told his class yesterday. "Next year is a fantastic anniversary" of the liberation of Holland by Canadians.
David Robinson, co-ordinator of the remembrance tour, swung into Taylor's class while visiting Barrie and Orillia yesterday to discuss the trip. All the Canadian students making the pilgrimage will be paired with a Canadian soldier who fought in the war. Only 78 Canadian soldiers who fought in Holland are still alive and many are expected to make their last trip back.
For those planning to participate, the activity begins in the fall when the Dutch government will send tulip bulbs to all the Canadian students planning to make the trek. The bulbs are expected to bloom here at home while the Dutch and Canadian visitors celebrate Holland's liberation.
The tour begins in France and stops at all the major battle sites before continuing to Belgium and Holland where the kids will attend liberation day ceremonies with Dutch and Canadian dignitaries.
In Holland, he promised, the students will witness first-hand how well Canadians are regarded and they will feel the gratitude of the Dutch people.
"They're going to treat you like you've never been treated before," he said.
Lovell, no stranger to taking students abroad to follow in the footsteps of local soldiers who have fought in the war, hopes to fill a bus of 40 with students from his school. But all the schools will be participating, so they can combine students from local schools.
All the participating Canadian schools will also be twinned with a Dutch school. Lovell has already made contact and initial arrangements with a Dutch history teacher for the Eastview students.
Details about the trip, as well as fundraising ideas, can be found at victoryineuropetour.ca.
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Canucks in Holland
Canada's most notable role in bringing about the end of the Second World War was the liberation of the Netherlands on May 5, 1945. To this day, the Dutch Royal Family sends 10,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa each year as a show of thanks. Two days later, Germany's High Command of Armed Forces signed an unconditional surrender at a schoolhouse in Rheims, France. The following night, a final surrender was signed at a villa just outside Berlin.
In May 2010, thousands of Canadian students and teachers will visit the Netherlands to commemorate the 65th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day and Canada's liberation of the Netherlands.
The tours will include visits to Arnhem, Normandy, Passchendaele and Vimy, as well as several war cemeteries.
Organizers hope to have 7,600 Canadian students take part to symbolically represent each Canadian soldier that died fighting in the Netherlands.
Victory In Europe