N.B. students travel to Normandy to visit Canadian war graves
Students from eight northern New Brunswick high schools left for France on Thursday to take part in memorial services honouring the 75th anniversary of D-Day when the Allies invaded Normandy.
The students from Bonar Law Memorial High School have been waiting almost two years for this opportunity.
Eleven students from the Rexton, N.B., high school were busy finishing last-minute work before they leave for a once in a lifetime adventure.
“I'm really excited,” said student Galy Simon, “It's going to mean a lot to me.”
About 150 students and staff from the Anglophone North School District will leave for Amsterdam, the first stop on their journey as they visit many of the places the North Shore Regiment soldiers fought – and where many lost their lives -- in the Second World War.
“They're really excited to go and witness it first hand,” said Bonar Law teacher Rob Woodburn. “I know there's going to be stories to be told for many years when they come back.”
Thirty-five North Shore Regiment soldiers were killed on D-Day. As a tribute, each of the 35 schools in the North District has researched one of the fallen New Brunswickers.
“Each student does have one of their own little projects that they've worked on to do over there, whether it's a soldier's bio, maybe a presentation, a song, or a poem that they'd like to recite,” said Woodburn.
Bonar Law has been researching Pte. Randolph Pitre, who was born in the Elsipogtog First Nation.
Through research for the trip, Simon discovered she's a distant relative of Pitre, who died on June 6, 1944 and is buried in the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery in France. He was just five days shy of his 22nd birthday.
“I'm already feeling pretty proud,” Simon said. “I'm pretty happy with the idea that I get to do that and I get to bring something back for my family that's still here.”
Once they arrive in France, the students will take part in a number of different ceremonies honouring the war dead.
“We've decided to do a traditional ceremony with the guidance from elders and we've dried some local blueberries and cranberries to bring over at the grave,” said teacher Halsa Moulton. “The kids have made tobacco ties to do an offering and one of our students is going to sing the honour song.”
Woodburn says the opportunity of a trip like this may never occur again.
“We're losing our veterans, we're losing those people who were there first hand, and gaining that first-hand experience -- it's invaluable.”
It promises to be an invaluable trip back in time that these students won't soon forget.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Eilish Bonang.