'The grand-pere of Vimy'.
The welcome man at Canada's Vimy Ridge National Memorial in France


Georges Devloo

My Mom (now 91) and I met M. Devloo in the summer of 1998 when we made
our second visit to Vimy (the first in 1990... it is a place that
draws you back). We drove there from Paris, before we headed to the
south of France for a week's holidays there because my mother said it
was the one site in France she wanted to revisit before she was too
old to travel overseas again. We were alone at Vimy the morning we
arrived and we soaked in the solitude and majesty and tragedy of that
site... and as we walked around the then crumbling monument (now I
undestand well repaired) we noticed a group of three new individuals

-- a small older man with a tam and two middle aged individuals
approaching the monument, The two middle aged individuals turned out
to be Canadians from Ontario, tracing the husband's grandfather's
route to Vimy (he survived). The sprightly small man with the packed
head full of information was M. Devloo. What he told us in the 90
minutes we spent with him, spellbound as he showed showed us the
majesty and recounted the tragedy of that site! What a lesson in
history that was as Vimy came alive as he reflected the pride of
France in Vimy and the thanks of the French population for the
Canadian sacrifices that made a free France, and a free Europe
possible. I have thought of him dozens of times in the past decade
since I met him -- especially I thought of him when the Vimy
rededication took place in recent years -- and I have often wondered
if he would be there the next time I go back, knowing the likelihood
was remote -- but go back as you are drawn back and compelled to go
back -- to that site that made us a nation, and gave us the sense of
nation, and pride we enjoy today. Gosh how I wished he would still be
there, on my next planned visit commemorating the centenary of the
Royal Newfoundland Regiment's participation (and that of my
grandfather) at another site of significant Newfoundland and Canadian
importance -- Beaumont Hamel and the Battle of the Somme on 1 July
1916. I would not be here either, had my grandfather not been one of
the RNR's survivors of that awful battle.

When I revisit Vimy I will forever remember M. Devloo and his
commitment to Vimy and upholding its memory and enriching it for
Canadians including ourselves fortunate enough to have met and
communed with him there.


Lanny

 

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