French tunnel etchings a haunting reminder of Canada’s war veterans
Imagine being crammed into an underground cavern, while hearing the bombs explode all around you. As a way to pass the time until it was their turn to try to take Vimy Ridge, World War I soldiers waited in subterranean tunnels, known as souterraines, where they would carve their names, their loved ones names and pictures into the soft chalk walls. For some of these soldiers, this could have been the last form of communication they ever left. A British organization, The Durand Group has been investigating these soutterraines and found a large cavern with many carvings by Canadian soldiers. Richard Foot for the Vancouver Sun reports on the Durand Group’s findings and it’s importance to Canadian history.
Pte. Alfred McMillan died in August 1917, several months after the battle of Vimy Ridge. His remains were never found, so his name is now inscribed in the marble walls of the soaring Vimy memorial, along with 11,000 other Canadian soldiers of the First World War with no known grave.
Five months before he was killed, however, McMillan, an infantryman from Collingwood, Ont., carved his own name into another wall aE" an underground cavern in northern France, where he and hundreds of troops took shelter from mud and rain and shellfire in the winter before the famous Vimy offensive.
aEoePte. A. McMillan. 15th Canadian Battalion . . . 12.3.17,aEŁ says the inscription that even includes McMillanaEÖs service number: aEoe27931.aEŁ
The carving is one of dozens left behind by Canadian troops in the dark cavern aE" or souterraine, as the French call it aE" a former underground barracks once bustling with soldiers, now lined with their words and chisellings, a rich repository of wartime memory that remains hidden, unheralded and largely unprotected by any official authority.
Read the rest of the article at French tunnel etchings a haunting reminder of Canada’s war veterans.
Photo by Hemmer