By Jasmine Franklin
The students and staff of the latest Broncs World Tour, were followed by a documentary team as they visited European gravesites of Canadian soldiers.
Independent filmmaker David Gray from Ontario, was funded by Omni television to create a documentary of the Sikhs who fought for Canada in the First World War. Ponoka Composite High School’s World Tour group was the perfect candidate to help the film crew locate some of those soldiers.
“The students helped (the film crew) to uncover and discover the graves that were being looked up for (the documentary),” said PCHS teacher and organizer Ron Labrie. “The trip was excellent and gives the kids a great educational opportunity.”
Students researched military records and found two Canadian Sikh soldiers L. Singh and G. Singh for the film crew. The students also preformed grave rubbings for those soldiers.
Kyle Mackinaw, 18, had a personal connection with this trip. While visiting the Holten Cemetery he had the opportunity to perform a grave running of his great-uncle William Wheatley.
Colton Rasmussen, 17, who joined the tour for the first time this year, said the experience is something he can’t describe.
“It felt nostalgic to finally see something you’ve only seen in textbooks,” Rasmussen said. “It’s just an amazing experience to see how many people sacrificed for our country.”
The Broncs World Tour program takes 20 students to European countries where they explored memorials and cemeteries as a way for them to actively engage in recognizing and remembering those who fought for Canada. Students spend all year researching soldiers and where they are buried, and come time for the trip they visit select graves and perform grave rubbings.
The fallen soldiers who are honored by the school either came from the Ponoka area or have a burial plot site in the area.
This year the crew visited Amsterdam and Anne Frank’s home, Brussels, Flanders, Vimy Ridge, Paris and the Eiffel Tower, London, Menin Gates, Ypres and Passchendale. Six wreaths from the Ponoka branch of the Royal Canadian Legion were taken on the trip and left at cemeteries and ceremonies.
Callie Henkelman, 17, said one of her favourite parts of the trip was singing the Canadian anthem in front of the Eiffel Tower.
“Trips such as these make the students more in touch with the sacrifice soldiers have made and give them the ability to see sheer numbers and cemeteries of these soldiers,” Labrie said. “We just lost the last World War One soldier not too long ago and you know that marks the end of an era. So we are carrying the flag forward.”
Students researched the following soldiers this year: at Vimy Ridge Memorial; Anthony Barrett, Robert Sharpe, Lawrence Wyatt, William Turner; at Menin Gate, Herbert Shaw, Thomas Phillips, William John Wilson also known as Weston Pinkerton McKenzie. Grave rubbings were performed for Charles Aylwin, Clement Pike and William Wheatley.
Labrie said the documentary titled “Canadian Soldier Sikhs: A Little Story in a Big War,” is scheduled to air on Omni this fall.