Place: Harnessed to the Familiar

The Vimy Memorial, France, 2010.

Best known Great War place-name to Canadians. Vimy – the memorial upon the ridge. Few are familiar with the actual town.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2010).

Known Place and Unknown Place

Place-names, landscapes…markers that we come to identify with as part of our being, as well as places we have learned about, but may never have stood upon their presence to feel our connection.

The personal place memory of Canada’s Great War has passed along to the heavens with the loss of Canada’s last veteran of that conflict. What remains of these places are perhaps only those names we have grown accustomed to having heard repeatedly, Vimy…perhaps Passchendaele, possibly Ypres, possibly the Somme, maybe Armentières (more for the song than the town), maybe Mons.

Passchendaele, 2013

Passchendaele may be better known to Canadians through the Paul Gross film of the same name.
(P. Ferguson image. September 2013)

Yet these are only six markers from that landscape of conflict. Of Canada’s last 100 days of the Great War assuredly many of the names of French and Belgian towns and landscapes have no resonance with Canadians today as a record of that time. As casual onlookers we are harnessed to the familiar, but it takes many parts, the known and the unknown to create a history of place and the Great War.

116th Battalion plaque.

Mons. Just outside of the city at the final position of the 116th Battalion CEF. 11 November 1918.
(P. Ferguson image. September 2006)

Canada’s last 100 Days of the Great War began with the the Battle of Amiens 8 August 1918 and continued through to a landscape, ironically the site of the first shots fired, at Mons 11 November 1918. In between, the troops of the four Canadian Divisions fought through place upon place that, though familiar to them through their remaining days, have largely passed from everyday Canadian memory.

In looking at the first week of the Battle of Amiens, during Canada’s last 100 Days, how many of these places and landscapes are lost to most?

Places and Landscapes: Battle of Amiens – The First Week

8 August 1918
Hangard – Demuin – Beaucourt – Ambercourt – Courcelles – Ignaucourt – Cayeux – Caix – Marcelcave – Wiencourt – l’Equippe – Guillaucourt

[All towns captured]

9 August 1918
Le Quesnel – Folies – Bouchier – Beaufort – Warvillers – Pouvroy – Vrely – Meharicourt – Rosieres – Arvillers

[All towns captured]

10 August 1918
Le Quesoy-en-Santeure – Fouquescourt – Maucourt – Chilly – Hallu

[All towns captured]

11 August 1918
Chilly Salient

12 – 14 August 1918
Trenches cleared between Fouquescourt and Parvillers

15 August 1918
Parvillers – Damery – Bois de Damery

[All captured. Bois in French means wood. A wooded area]


About The Author

pferguson
Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.

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