|Rowing Club Wreath at the Vimy Ridge Monument|
The Great War, at least the physical part of it, was brutally simple. “Rolling Barrage” is an elegant way of saying “They blew everything up, sent men in to carve up anyone left over with bayonets, then set up and did it again. Do it right, and do it enough, and you’ve gained a square of bombed-out mud covered in bodies of people who, until recently, worked at jobs and wrote letters home and played rugby.
|Restored Trenches at Vimy Ridge|
So the Rowers went to Vimy Ridge to learn about it. We saw underground tunnels where thousands of Canadian kids gathered in silence for 36 hours before being sent in across a smoking mud patch to be used as human weapons. We saw where messengers got thin sleep between high-speed trips back and forth from the front – white armbands keeping them from being shot as defectors as they ran back. The tour guide said a messenger’s average life span was five days.
|Military Cemetery in France|
The military cemeteries of Northern France and Belgium are neatly maintained. They dot the countryside among farms and very old brick buildings. White headstones of soldiers are marked: name, rank, crest of country, year born, year buried. Sometimes there’s an inscription. Sometimes there is no name or year of birth. The inscription on those ones read, “Known unto God.”
|Steve Somers lays a poppy|
We laid the Ypres wreath at the war memorial as part of the nightly last post ceremony. Rowing Club players read the simple bios of players who didn’t get to come back, and didn’t get to be veterans, and didn’t get to be alumni. I took pencil rubbings of their names from the monument wall and went out to enjoy Ypres with my friends.