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Thunder Bay students to visit Vimy Ridge to mark 100th anniversary

Students will mark the battle's 100th anniversary and visit military graveyards and other important sites from Canada's military history.

Teens will also visit military graveyards, important sites from Canada's military history

Haileigh Riddell said she's excited to take part in a student trip to Vimy Ridge because her grandfather served in the military during the Second World War, and his stories ignited her interest in history. (Heather Kitching/CBC)

Nearly 100 students and teachers from three Thunder Bay, Ont., high schools are off to Europe this week to commemorate the Battle of Vimy Ridge on its 100th anniversary.

The students, from St. Patrick, St. Ignatius and Hammarskjold High Schools, are also scheduled to pay visits to other significant sites in Canada's military history, such as Juno Beach and Ypres.

Haileigh Riddell, one of the students taking part in the trip, told CBC she was interested in it because her grandfather was in the military during the Second World War.

"He used to tell me stories about all these different places that he'd gone to and he'd seen and all the things he's done," she said. "So, as I grew up, I found a love for history," she said.

Each student on the trip has been assigned to visit the grave of a different soldier during their excursions to military cemeteries, including Tyne Cot in Belgium, St. Patrick history teacher Dave Battistel told the audience at the send-off on Friday.
The Tyne Cot cemetery in Belgium is the largest burial place for Commonwealth forces in the world. (2137 Calgary Highlanders Cadets / Facebook)

Many soldiers have Thunder Bay connections.

Students will plant small Thunder Bay flags and flags bearing the emblem of the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment at the gave sites, Battistel said. 

Riddell will commemorate a member of the 13th Battalion of the Quebec Regiment who died during the Battle of Passchendaele, she said.

"He was shot in the arm but continued to pursue with his troops because he was the leader, and he eventually was shot in the neck but continued for a solid 30 minutes after," she said. 

"[He] still continued to fight and then eventually, unfortunately, passed away," explained Riddell, who plans to study history at university. 

'A real learning experience'

The commanding officer of the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment attended Friday's send-off.

David Ratz, who also teaches military history at Lakehead University, said he's happy to see so many teens taking an interest in their history.
David Ratz is the commanding officer of the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment. He's happy to see so many students taking an interest in Canada's military history, he said. (Heather Kitching/CBC)

"These students are going to get a real learning experience when they go and experience the monument at Vimy first hand," he said.

"The part of Vimy Ridge where the trenches are preserved is the part of the trenches that the soldiers from Thunder Bay with the 52nd Battalion served in, which is part of our regiment," he said.  "So there's an added touch.  When you're there, you know it's actually people from Thunder Bay stood there at some point."

"It's very moving," Ratz said.  "Every Canadian should visit Vimy Ridge."

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