Elgin Park Secondary Grade 12 student Daniel Schindel said it was an emotional experience retracing the footsteps of his late grandfather through the trenches at Vimy Ridge.
“You couldn’t help but visualize. Standing there on the beaches, standing there on Vimy Ridge with all the trenches laid out. The land is all still the same. You can still see the massive craters where the mines went off, you can still see the dugout trenches. The whole landscape is still there,” Schindel told Peace Arch News.
Schindel was one of 16 students from Canada to receive the Vimy Foundation’s national award, the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize. To celebrate the 150 anniversary of confederation and recognize 100 years since the Battle of Vimy Ridge, students aged 15-17 participated in a tour of Vimy Ridge, Beaumont Hamel, Passchendaele, Dieppe and Juno Beach last month.
During the trip, Schindel asked organizers if they could make a special trip to the grave marker of John (Jack) Gooby of Windsor, Ont.
Schindel’s grandfather, the late William Kludash, survived the war, but fought beside Gooby, who died in battle.
Several years ago, Gooby’s family sent a letter to Kludash requesting information on the fallen soldier.
“They wanted to gain more information on how their grandfather was in the war. (Gooby) and my grandfather were evacuated at the same time from where they were fighting.”
During the trip, Schindel fufilled his wish of paying respect to his grandfather’s comrade.
“It was pretty emotional going to the places where he had fought.”
Schindel’s grandfather always wanted to go revisit Vimy Ridge, but never made the trip. Schindel was the first member of his family to visit.
A self-described history buff, Schindel said it was important that he honour those who gave their lives.
“History has a huge part in my life… I’m standing in my room right now and as I look around there are pictures after pictures of propaganda posters and that sort of thing. I’ve always loved history, (it’s my) favourite topic in school. I thought it would be a great opportunity to visit these places that I’ve been studying my entire life and gain a closer insight on what I’ve really been learning in school.”
Asked to describe what the experience meant to him, Schindel was lost for words.
“It’s hard to wrap it up in a couple of words… Just unbelievable, eye opening, humbling. It really puts everything in perspective for you. It’s not something I can explain… it was such an amazing experience. It changed my view and also grown my knowledge on the world wars. It was so humbling… unreal.”
Semiahmoo Secondary student and Beaverbrook Vimy Prize recipient Cecilia Kim, 15, also participated in the trip.