Nick Wall (left) was among 15 Army cadets from Chilliwack who visited Vimy Ridge this month, along with thousands of other Canadians. (Submitted photo)

Chilliwack cadet reflects on visit to Vimy

‘I landed my boots onto the old battlefield and froze in the presence of the memorial,’ writes cadet

By Nick Wall

Special to The Progress

The 1725 Royal Canadian Army Cadet’s journey to France started April 6, with a gorgeous intro to the streets of Paris.

We were mesmerized by the history left behind by the French and how modern day Paris has surrounded and embraced its ancestor’s masterpieces. All the time and effort put into maintaining this artistic style of architecture really made our cadet corps appreciate how society back then flourished with revolution and technological advances to the way of human life.

Upon our arrival to the Palace of Versailles, I couldn’t help but feel very jealous of the French kings of France and how they lived a life of pure luxury and elegance; aside from the revolutions and diseases I wouldn’t mind being a king. As we made our way through the 1,000 room Palace of Versailles, the corps was in awe to the detail put into the tapestries, paintings, statues, and busts of the once kings, queens and saints of France.

Once we had finished the tour of Paris and Versailles we thanked our guide and set a course for Vimy Ridge. April 9 was a very emotional day for the group, having put on our uniforms, we made our way to the memorial.

Once I hopped onto the crowded bus I could already see what was left of the Canadians struggle for the ridge, all the artillery craters and destruction had been covered by fields of grass that the sheep now stood upon, not knowing of the UXOs below. As I reached closer to the memorial I landed my boots onto the old battlefield and froze in the presence of the memorial, shivers and pins made their way down my spine even though it was not my first time there.

During the ceremony they had speeches, songs, and dances to commemorate all the Canadians soldiers at Vimy Ridge in 1917. Throughout the ceremony I thought to myself how wonderful yet saddening Vimy is.

The day after the ceremony we made our way back to Vimy, as I stood gazing upon the hills of France I could see what was once a battlefield full of craters in the mud and all other consequences of war, left behind by the soldiers of both sides who fought for the soil I now stand on.

Once we left Vimy we made our way towards Belgium, seeing Beaumont Hamil, Ecoivres Military Cemetery (where our soldiers we all paired with were buried) and all the other Commonwealth cemeteries riddled all over the farmlands of France. Passeondale and Ypres were the next stop on our list, as well as Brussels. Having been to Ypres once before, I was thrilled to see the arches of the gateway.

By the end of our journey through Belgium and France I was sad to say goodbye, but ready to come home and share the experience I had in Europe. As I set foot on Canadian soil I felt very grateful for the opportunity we experienced and I asked myself, “When is my next adventure?”

Nick Wall is a Chief Warrant Officer with the 1725 Royal Canadian Army Cadet in Chilliwack.

Fifteen members of the cadet group traveled to Vimy to take in the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge.