World War I Battle Sites of France, Belgium and Germany

Notes by Ken Beecroft.  Presentation by Jim May.  Wednesday November 21, 2018 – 2:00 p.m.

The Members’ Meeting, held at Glencoe’s Historic Train Station, followed today’s Program presentation, which featured guest speaker, Jim May.  Jim spoke about Jim and Jane’s 2017 autumn trip across northern France, Belgium, Bavaria and Austria, to the battlefields and historic places, significant to Canada from the Great War. Jim pointed out that the itinerary of the tour was geographically based and not chronological to events of the First World War. Overall, the tour commenced in the Belgian city of Bruges, and ended in Salzburg, Austria.

 

The May’s travelled with a guided group of fifteen Canadians, including friend and seasoned traveler Heather Wilkinson. Their trip started in the Picardy and Flanders area of northern France. Jim talked about of summer of 1916, and the Allies “Big Push” Offensive in the Somme Valley.

What was supposed to be a quick victory over the Germans turned into a long costly campaign. The Royal Newfoundlanders especially paid dearly, along with other heavy Commonwealth losses. The tour group visited Hawthorne Ridge Cemetery #2 near Beaumont Hamel. They travelled to Hill 62 in western Belgium, near Ypres. Intense fighting in this area caused significantly heavy Canadian casualties. He talked about the Menin Gate in Ypres, commemorated in 1927, and a place of pilgrimage ever since.

Jim described the official and unofficial type of war monuments in the area. They travelled to Vimy, where he described the terrain and overall history of that April 1917 battle. Jim spoke about the design and construction of the Vimy Monument, and it’s unveiling in 1936 by Edward VIII. Jim’s presentation was accompanied by a slide show of the various sites and monuments.

 

Jim presented a treasured portrait of a family ancestor who died during the war, Pte. Ellwyne Arthur Ballantyne 4th Bn.Ellwyne was killed on the western front in 1917 and was buried at Aix-Noulette Communal Cemetery in France. Jim was particularly pleased to have had the opportunity to visit Ellwyne’s grave at that Cemetery.

Upon conclusion at 3:05 p.m., President Lorne Munro thanked Jim for his presentation and slide show, and presented him with an honourarium.

 

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