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On the firing line – Dalmeny High School students depict Canadian peacekeepers in Bosnia

The deepest wounds aren’t always the most visible.

Dalmeny High School students perform a scene depicting Canadian peacekeepers caught in the crossfire during the civil war in Bosnia in the early 1990s

Grade 11 students at Dalmeny High School (DHS) staged a powerful one-act performance on Wednesday, November 8 showing the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on Canadian peacekeepers who served in Bosnia in the early 1990s.
Each year, students at the school write and perform a short play depicting historical events as a Remembrance Day tribute.
This year, the focus was on a little-known chapter in Canadian history.
“We started out do something on World War II,” said Sandra Schatz, a teacher at DHS and a coordinator of the project.
“We’ve done several pieces related to the 100th anniversary of World War I over the past few years, so we decided to do something different.
“But as we went along, we changed the focus. We have such a large population of female students who love to act, so we thought we would shift to something more contemporary, where women actually served as combat soldiers and peacekeepers.
“We wanted it to be realistic and contemporary and to educate people at the same time.” Continue reading “On the firing line – Dalmeny High School students depict Canadian peacekeepers in Bosnia”

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Dalmeny students mark centennial of Vimy Ridge

A scene from “Vimy 2017” depicts Canadian soldiers storming the German trenches (left to right) Griffin Johnson, Cameron Robinson, Jay Vellacott and Ty Pauls

One hundred years ago, Canadian soldiers overcame unbelievable odds to win a decisive battle at Vimy Ridge.
The four days of intense fighting, which began on Easter Monday, April 9, and ended on April 12, 1917, helped turn the tide of the First World War; and was a major turning point in Canada’s history.
It was the first time that all four divisions of Canadian soldiers; about 35,000 young men; came together as a unified fighting force.
From that day on, Canada was no longer seen as a mere colony of Britain. It was recognized as an independent nation in its own right.
But that honour came at a terrible cost. A total of 10,600 Canadian soldiers were killed or wounded during the four-day battle. Over the course of the entire war, which lasted from 1914 to 1918, roughly 60,000 Canadians paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Several generations later, the lessons of the Great War, have not been forgotten. On Thursday, April 6, students at Dalmeny High School (DHS) brought that important piece of history to life through a combination of writings, drama, art, and video exhibits.
“Vimy 2017” featured several performances throughout the day in the school’s theatre. Audiences experienced first-hand the sensations of the battlefield as soon as they entered, feeling their way through a specially-designed dark “tunnel” to the front lines. Once inside, displays by students focused on different aspects of the war in general and the Battle of Vimy Ridge in particular. An original drama, written, directed and acted by students, capped the performance.

Dalmeny High School student Eryn McDonald painted the image of “Mother Canada”, the focal point of the Vimy Memorial in France, as a backdrop for a scene in “Vimy 2017” to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War battle

A portion of the awe-inspiring Vimy Memorial sculpture in France was recreated in a large three-panel painting by Grade 12 student Eryn McDonald. Her rendition of “Mother Canada”; a woman gazing mournfully over the vast plain where so many young Canadians laid down their lives; is stunning in its detail. It provides a backdrop to a pivotal and moving scene in the play where George Budd, as King Edward VIII, dedicates the Vimy Memorial at its unveiling in 1936.
McDonald spent about 18 hours on the painting itself, and said she feels such a strong connection to the Vimy Memorial that her goal is to travel to France to see it for herself. She should have that opportunity next year after she graduates, because she’s been accepted into an art school in Germany to pursue her studies.
“The Mother Canada figure is the focal point of the entire monument,” said McDonald. “She is a symbol of all mothers who lost sons at Vimy Ridge. I see a lot of strength in her; she is a strong mother who was brave enough to raise these sons to go off and fight for their country.”
She said the Canadian sculptor who was commissioned to do the memorial, Walter Seymour Allward, originally wanted to use granite, but realized that type of stone would not weather well. He eventually chose to use limestone from Croatia.
“It was the right texture and colour,” said McDonald. “He started the project in 1925 and it was finally completed in 1936.”
Cameron Robinson, one of the students who acted in, co-wrote and directed the play, said the goal was to show the “humanity and sacrifice” of the soldiers who ended up on the front lines.
“We thought, ‘if we were soldiers, what would we want people to remember?’ from this war,” said Robinson. “I don’t think they saw themselves as heroes, even if other people did. I think they did what they had to do in the circumstances, and it really took a terrible toll on them in so many ways.”

Canadian Vimy Ridge veteran Jay Vellacott is welcomed home by Marin Houke in a scene from “Vimy 2017”

DHS teachers Sandra Schatz and Dawn Irwin-Burant pulled together the dozen or so students for the project and got them started, but it was the students who did the work.
“I knew a couple of years ago that this was the group of kids that would be involved,” said Schatz. “They didn’t know it until a few months ago, but we had singled them out because of their special talents.”
Maria Inkster, who did a series of drawings on the battle, said the Canadian troops used “innovative” methods to overcome the almost impregnable German defenses. In addition to weeks of intense training and preparation, the Canadians were told they had to press onward at all costs.
“Their method was to attack in waves,” said Inkster. “They were told: ‘if your lieutenant falls, you keep going; if your corporal falls, you keep going, regardless’.”
Jay Vellacott, one of the actors in the play, put together a video documentary on the battle, using historical footage and narrating it himself from a script he wrote after researching the event.
“I wanted to do something that showed the bravery and sacrifice of these young Canadians,” said Vellacott. “In the process, I gained an understanding of how this event changed everyone’s perception of our country.”

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