Local Peninsula cadets from 220 RCSCC Admiral Budge and 676 Kittyhawk will be joining thousands of Canadians, including current serving members and retired members of the military, in France for the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge.
The cadets will leave April 5 and will return back to Victoria April 15. The Vimy Ridge celebration takes place April. 9.
“It’s going to be a very busy trip,” said Rochelle Anderson, group leader and safety chair for the Saanich Peninsula Branch of Navy League and Sea Cadets.“They’ll be spending two days in France, three days in the Normandy region and two days in Belgium.”
Anderson is also the Vancouver Island Cadet liaison between the cadet community for the Island and EF Tours.
“I’m the group leader and so I liaison between the tour company and the cadet world as they call it,” said Anderson.
As part of their busy itinerary, the group will be going on a tour called Remembering Victory at Vimy, which is put on by EF Educational Tours.
And this isn’t the first time cadets from the Peninsula are going on a trip like this. In 2012, some cadets attended the 95th anniversary of Vimy and in 2014 some attended the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
This year over 20 cadets will be attending from across the Island.
“It’s a huge deal, they had to go through big security to be allowed to attend this,” said Anderson.
Emma Van Wyk, squadron deputy commander with the air cadets said she’s looking forward to sightseeing and the commemoration. With the history of Vimy Ridge being quite extensive for Canada’s autonomy, she said it’s good for Canadians, especially for the youth to see what happened 100 years ago.
“I think the history of the 100 year memorial for Vimy Ridge is really a benefit for cadets to see where our former ancestors and former military fighters fought,” she said.
For Nathan Spencer, a Grade 10 student at Stelly’s Secondary School and a sergeant with the air cadets, this will be his first trip abroad.
“The most I’ve done with the cadets is gone to Edmonton,” he said. “Going there will be really good because first of all we’re Canadian … we were the ones that took Vimy Ridge. That’s pretty cool.”
Kai Scott, petty officer first class for the sea cadets, travelled to France for the anniversary of D-Day and the 95th anniversary of Vimy Ridge. He’s also been once with his family.
Although he won’t be attending this year, he said it was an eye-opening experience. He said when he travelled with his family, he didn’t get to see the stuff that he saw when he went with the cadets, which he said changed his whole view on what happened during the war.
“When I was at the ceremony for Vimy Ridge it was rainy, it was cold, but it was probably the same conditions that the soldiers were in 100 years ago. It really changed my view on what being a cadet was like and why I chose to do it,” he said.
Another component of the trip is a research project.
“Each cadet is responsible for researching a family, and if possible getting in touch with their family members that are still alive in Canada or abroad,” said Ellen DeLong, commanding officer of the sea cadet core.
Each cadet has been assigned a fallen Canadian soldier, which Anderson said can give the family member(s) an opportunity to send a token for the kids to deliver.
From there, Anderson said, they can then come back to their core to present their experience and what they learned about the fallen soldier.
Besides Vimy Ridge, the cadets will also be touring The Latin Quarter, Place de la Concorde, the Passchendaele Canadian Memorial and more.
With the trip being over $3,000, the cadets have worked hard to fundraise through bottle drives and dances.
“It’s not a trip that’s given to them, they had to earn it,” said Anderson.