Almost 100 years after the Battle of Vimy Ridge, teenagers and comrades of the Ponoka Legion still remember those fateful events that showed the strength of the Canadian Corps.
Soldiers carrying the flag of Canada battled German forces April 9 to 12, 1917 and the site has become a key stop on the world renowned Broncs World Tour.
Students at Ponoka Secondary Campus (PSC) came to the Ponoka Legion April 9 to tell the tales of their European trip that researches fallen Ponoka soldiers. Ron Labrie, social studies teacher and spearhead of the tour, said the trip has been a true education for students. “It’s very difficult to explain Vimy from a text book.”
Some of the stories of their trip have already been documented but the stories behind the stories have taken students to some interesting turns. Almost every group that spoke had a tale of reaching a dead end in their research, but they refused to give up.
What happens when close relatives don’t want to speak
Ashton Sandin, Clinton Rodney and Virginia Harvey were a team of three who studied Gilbert Ehrman, a soldier who was killed in Italy in 1944.
Ehrman has a living relative at a care facility in Edmonton, but unfortunately for the students, that brother was unwilling to speak with anyone about Ehrman.
Indeed, even before Sandin could introduce himself over the phone, the brother became angry. The students were disheartened and thought the trail had ended. Harvey made one last attempt after finding a woman with the same name on www.canadaatwar.ca. She emailed the lady and as luck would have it, the lady is Ehrman’s niece.
“We never really expected something to come of it,” said Ashton.
“I never would have expected to get a link off a website,” added Rodney.
Finding leads from the Internet
For Carter Wynnychuk and Jenny Massing, there was little information on their soldier, Carter Wesley Smith, who was killed in action in 1918.
“It was so frustrating because we so badly wanted to find personal information,” said Massing.
When all the other war and history sites led to nothing, she tried www.ancestry.ca and found the name of a gentleman in Louisiana, United States linked to Smith. This man did not have what they wanted, but he knew someone that did. A man named Jim Stafford had documents, photos and stories for both of them on Carter Smith.
“It really became more real for us,” said Wynnychuk.
They have since started a school account on the website.
Labrie said students are approximately 70 to 75 per cent complete with their research of Ponoka’s soldiers.
“It saddens me a little bit, because for me the end is in sight,” he offered.
Legion president Sybil Evans was pleased they were able to hear students’ stories. “I can’t think of a better way to commemorate the deaths and casualties of members of the Canadian Corps during the First World War of Vimy Ridge.”