| images by john ecker, pantheon photography

Posts tagged “French

Vimy Ridge Memorial, France, photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography

VIMY RIDGE MEMORIAL, FRANCE:  April 9, 2012 is the 95th anniversary of the start of the battle of Vimy Ridge.  It was the first time that Canadians would  fight together under Canadian command.  It is, for many, ‘when Canada became a country’.  The Canadians were given an almost impossible task.  French and British attempts to take the ridge had failed.    In the course of the next six days, 3,598 Canadians would die and another 7,000 were injured.  The highest point on the battlefield was Hill 145. That is where Canada’s Vimy Ridge Memorial now stands.  In 1922, the French government gave the Hill and its surrounding to territory to Canada, in appreciation for defeating the Germans in one of the pivotal battles of World War One.  Every Canadian should visit the Memorial at least once in their lives, in tribute to the terrible losses that day and in recognition of a defining moment in Canada’s history.

Photo by John Ecker     |     pantheon photography

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Thiepval British Memorial, Picardie, France

THIEPVAL BRITISH MEMORIAL, THIEPVAL, PICARDIE, FRANCE: Britain’s largest World War I memorial is found in northern France near Thiepval in Picardie.  The structure was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.  Started in 1928, it was completed in four years and inaugurated by the Prince of Wales on July 31st 1932.  The battlefield monument required extensive reinforcement to its foundations due to war-time tunneling.  The memorial is reserved for missing or unidentified soldiers with no known grave.  The Portland Stone piers bear the names of over 72,000 men lost in the Somme battles.  Visitors may wonder why there are gaps in the stone between some names.  This is because the names of soldiers whose graves were subsequently found are removed from the memorial. 

April 17th is an important date in World War I history, so the date of this post is no coincidence.  April 17, 1915 was the date of the British assault on Hill 60 when the Brits blew up several mines under German positions.  It served as a turning point and was the prelude to the Second Battle of Ypres.  This is also the date of the arrival of the 1st Canadian Division in France.  On French soil for just five days, the Canadians were moved to the front lines where they found themselves in the biggest defensive fight to that point by Canadian troops.  April 17, 1917 is also a momentous if not ignominious date for the French.  After France’s disastrous Nivelle Offensive, French infantry started to mutiny in protest of the military leadership and trench conditions.  By the time the mutinies subsided several months later, over 35,000 soldiers were found to be involved with 68 out of 112 French divisions affected. Fewer than 3,000 men were punished.

Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, with a Nikkor AF-S 16-85mm lens at 20mm, f25, 1/400th second, ISO 2000. Photo by John Ecker     |     Pantheon Photography


Canadian Memorial, Vimy, France

CANADIAN MEMORIAL, VIMY, FRANCE:  I’ve visited Canada’s Memorial a few times over the years.  Each time, the skies have been mostly gloomy, adding an even great sense of solemnity.  When the clouds do break, and the sun shines on the bright white stone, the sight’s true beauty emerges.  The memorial overlooks the Douai plain in northern France, about ten kilometers from the town of Arras.

On April 9, 1917 the Canadian Corps was ordered to seize Vimy Ridge. The heavily-fortified seven-kilometre ridge held a commanding view over the Allied lines. Previous French attacks had failed with over 100,000 casualties.

The names of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who were killed in France and whose final resting place was then unknown are carved into the stone. Facing the Douai visitors can see other places where Canadians fought and died. 7,000 plus more are buried in 30 war cemeteries within a 20-kilometre radius of the Memorial.

At the base of the Memorial, these words appear:

To the valour of their
Countrymen in the Great War
And in memory of their sixty
Thousand dead this monument
Is raised by the people of Canada

The Memorial was designed by Canadian architect and sculptor Walter Allward. The foundation of the memorial is a bed of 11,000 tonnes of concrete.  It is reinforced with hundreds of tonnes of steel. The figures were carved on site.  The large cloaked figure on the front (east) side, was carved from a single, 30-tonne block.

Over the decades, the memorial became weather worn and damaged by the elements.  In 2007 a major re-construction and restoration project was completed.  The work was massive.  The main elements of the memorial were pretty much dismantled. The monument was re-pointed; damaged stone was replaced; lighting and draining was improved.

Many people assume that the ‘front’ of the memorial is on the approach from the parking area.  On the contrary the front is actually on the opposite side.  To full appreciate this sculpture, it is necessary to walk to the edge of the lawn in front of the monument, with your back to the Douai plain. 

Nearby the memorial is the Vimy Canadian Cemetery.  Row, upon row of graves– many without names.

Photos by John Ecker     |       Pantheon Photography


Tomb of Clovis I, St. Denis, Paris

TOMB OF CLOVIS I, ST. DENIS, PARIS:  The Abbey of St. Denis is about roughly four miles north of Paris.  St. Denis was the first bishop of Paris and martyred in 270.   In 630 King Dagobert founded an abbey for Benedictine monks and built a large basilica on the site. In 750, Charlemagne began construction of a new church which, according to popular belief, was constructed with the assistance of Jesus Christ.  In person.  Around 1140, Suger, the Abbott of St. Denis, commenced the building of the current structure, one of the earliest Gothic churches.  The remains of virtually all of France’s Kings and Queens now rest here.  Their locations in building are on this Map of St. Denis Tombs.  This photo is of the tomb of Clovis I, (466 – 511) first King of the Franks and a convert to Catholicism.   Also see my photo of the beautiful St. Denis Rose WindowShot handheld with a Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 18-200mm at 55mm, 1/60 sec. f10, 3200 ISO.  Photo by John Ecker    |    pantheon photography


Candles, Note-Dame de Reims, France

CANDLES, NOTRE-DAME DE REIMS, FRANCE:  Most, though not all Roman Catholic churches, have places where visitors can light candles.  It’s believed that the practice began with people lighting candles at the tombs of martyrs in the catacombs.  The candles were lit to show solidarity—a silent vigil— with other Catholics.  They became known as vigil lights.   Lighting a candle is a way to extend prayer.   Candles are also symbolic of Christ—“I am the Light of the World”.  In major Catholic cathedrals, the lighting of candles is very popular with visitors– pilgrims to the church.  These candles were shot in Reims Cathedral.  The solitary red candle serves as a focal point in the photograph.  Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 16-85 mm lens at 16m, 1/10 sec. f.3.6 ISO 800.  Photo by John Ecker   |   Pantheon