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Wilfrid Laurier University Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
October 23, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

WWI battlefield
WWI battlefield

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Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing

Cleghorn Battlefield Study Fellowships available

Jan 12/05

Laurier students who are interested in exploring Canadian battlefields in France are invited to apply by February 28 to the 2005 Cleghorn Battlefield Study Fellowships.

The fellowships, sponsored by former Laurier chancellor John Cleghorn and his family, cover all travel-related expenses to and within France and all accommodation costs for six students. Participants in the eight-day tour are responsible only for their transportation to and from Pearson International Airport, meals and incidental expenses.

The tour, which runs from Aug. 30 to Sept. 8, will be led by Laurier history PhD student Andrew Iarocci, who was also chief guide on last year’s tour and has made half a dozen visits to Canadian battlefield sites in Europe.

This year’s study tour will take in the First World War battle sites of Ypres and Vimy Ridge, all the Normandy invasion beaches (Canadian, British and American), the airborne bridgeheads, Dieppe, and the sites of major Canadian inland engagements up to August 1944.

While no academic credit is awarded for the tour, it’s not a vacation: students who participate are expected to do some preparatory reading, participate in problem-solving tactical exercises at battlefield sites, prepare and present a short biography on a single Canadian soldier who died at one of the battlefields covered by the tour, and prepare a 10-minute historical presentation focusing on an aspect of the battle experience for a particular battle site.

Seeing how operational decisions are made under fire is “a great exercise in leadership,” says Michelle Fowler, a history master’s student who took part in the 2004 tour because she wanted a “boots on the ground” sense of the war to complement the courses she had taken.

Among the things that participants found most moving were the memorials they examined.

 “The British Commonwealth cemeteries were well looked after and subtle,” says Fowler. “The American cemetery felt much more triumphant,” although that sense is tempered by the vast numbers of young men buried there. The German cemetery is marked by black crosses, she says, and “I felt a different kind of emotion there than I found at the others.”

Teresa Iacobelli, a history master’s student who has subsequently graduated and is working for a company in Ottawa called Public History, says the cemeteries stand out for her. The Canadian and British markers often contained personal notes, such as Biblical quotations or words such as “I miss you” or references to a son or father. The American cemetery at Omaha Beach is “expansive, but not personal.” The German cemetery is dramatic and dark, with many trees casting shade over the black stone monuments.

For her profile of a veteran, Iacobelli used a Canadian First World War soldier who was shot for desertion/cowardice – one of 23 Canadians executed. Another 222 were sentenced to death but had their sentences commuted, says Iacobelli, who studied First World War courts martial for her cognate.

First-year business student Drew Franklin, who says he has been interested in Canadian Second World War history “since I was 10 or 12 or so” and belonged to a history club at his Hamilton high school, said he was “a little intimidated” about making the trip with more senior students so he did a lot of reading over the summer.

Of particular interest to him were the Dieppe Raid of August 1942, in which the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry played a prominent role, and The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, another Hamilton-based outfit, which took part in many engagements in the First and Second world wars.

I would recommend the trip to anyone who likes history,” says Franklin.

The deadline for applications for the 2005 Cleghorn Battlefield Study Fellowships is February 28. Participants must be full-time Laurier students. They can come from any field of study and any level, from first-year to graduate. Instructions on how to apply can be found at http://www.canadianmilitaryhistory.com/

Barry Ries
Public Affairs


 

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