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The Road To Vimy 100: How One Soldier Changed My Life

1917 21st Battalion April 9 Canadian Infantry EF Educational Tours November 11th Remembrance Day The Battle of Vimy Ridge The Great War Thélus Military Cemetery Treaty of Versailles Vimy Memorial Vimy Ridge WWI

Story shared from EF Educational Tours

David is a Social Studies teacher from Summerside, PEI.  “I have been teaching at my school since 1995, but I didn’t catch the travel bug until about 10 years later.  I have always had a deep appreciation and respect for our veterans every November 11th. On a typical Remembrance Day, I would be sure to attend a ceremony at a local cenotaph and pay my respects in that fashion. My love affair with historical travel began almost in accident in 2006, when I participated in a summer institute and study program where I travelled to the battlefields and commemorative sites of WWI and WWI in northern France and Belgium. The rest, as they say, is history…” Learn more about how a chance encounter with a fallen soldier changed his life, and the lives of his students from that moment on.

Ten years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the countryside of northern France and Belgium. Now and then, we would periodically stop and visit quiet and serene areas that weren’t always so – they would have been fierce fighting grounds for soldiers during wartime.

We spent most of our days with our instructors and mentors, listening to stories from various war diaries, and physically exploring and talking about history while onsite – exactly how history should be taught. Our days usually finished with a visit to a large cemetery like Tyne Cot or Cemetery #2 at Vimy, where our colleagues would recount stories of a particular veteran that they were assigned to research.  One of the last visits we made was to Thélus Military Cemetery, a small cemetery about 1 kilometre from Vimy Ridge. Little was I to know that this visit changed my life and the lives of my students from that moment forward. It was in that cemetery that I was able to encounter the memory of someone who I now consider a long lost friend, Private Charles John Clue of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

My first encounter with Private C.J. Clue

As we walked through Thélus, a place that I truly consider to be one of the most peaceful and beautiful places in the world, one of my mentors took me aside and told me about what took place on the morning of April 9, 1917, as it related to Private Clue and his battalion’s assault on Vimy Ridge.  I learned that Private Clue’s battalion took on enemy fire and that he had almost certainly died within feet of where we were now standing. My mentor then told me that it was now my responsibility to me to tell this man’s story to the rest of my colleagues, a job that I was not sure that I was prepared for at the time.

Ten years later, with the help of EF, I have been back to visit “C.J.” a total of 5 times and have introduced him to over 300 students and thousands more through a  blog that I write after I return from each trip to Thélus. Our school has unofficially adopted Thélus Military Cemetery and have made it our goal to recognize each and every soldier who is interred in that beautiful little patch of grass just off the highway and below Vimy Ridge.  This tradition has been key in our returning to the area, as each of our tours are centered around Thélus and the Vimy Memorial and has led to lifelong memories and lessons that will accompany each of my students throughout the rest of their lives.

This summer provided me with a new adventure as I had the opportunity to partner with EF as an experienced Group Leader, to lend support to new Group Leaders who will soon be traveling to Europe for the first time and to introduce them to my friend C.J.  My hope is that upon their return to the area with their own students from across Canada in tow, my fellow educators will also have the opportunity to get to know the brave souls those that gave their lives in the battle for Vimy in 1917. We thank them for their ultimate sacrifice.

Charles John Clue was born at Shepherd’s Bush, England, on September 12, 1885, the second of six children of Henry and Emma Jane Clue. He was educated in a school in Hammersmith, England and emigrated to Canada in early 1910 where he found employment as a butcher. Enlisting in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force at Saskatoon in March 1916, he arrived in France as a newly promoted Acting Corporal in January 1917 and was posted to the 21st Battalion, Canadian Infantry. On April 9, 1917, Charles John Clue went missing in action and was later reported killed in action on the first day of the battle of Vimy Ridge. It was noted in the research that Clue had earned $33.10 in April 1917 and on April 30, 1917 his total earnings of $98.89 was paid to his mother, then of Shepherds Bush Road, London, England. Later on, his mother was also presented with the British War and Victory Medals and related Memorial Plaque and Canadian Memorial Cross, G.V.R. Clue was interred in a communal grave in Thélus Military Cemetery, which stands on Vimy Ridge.

 



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