Off to France.
Teacher Nicole White briefs Arnprior District High School students on their education trip to France.
A group of Arnprior District High School students will experience history first-hand in an educational trip to France over the March Break.
And that history lesson will have direct links to Arnprior.
The group of 42 Grade 11 and 12 students led by French teacher Nicole White will be visiting the Canadian War Cemetery at Benny Sur Mer. Among the many graves are at least three that will have special significance for the students.
They will visit the grave of Lance Corporal William Poho and sprinkle on it dried flowers from Arnprior. The flowers were given to the students by his niece, Shirley Emma Leclair of Arnprior.
They will also stop by the grave of Lieutenant David Kilborn Hazzard and take its photograph for his nephew, Stephen Ogletree.
As well, one of the ADHS teachers going on the trip, Karen Dodds, will visit her grandfather’s grave site.
“It’s all very special,” said White, noting the experience will help drive home an important part of Canada’s history to the students.
The nine-day trip runs from March 7 to 15 and begins in Paris. Students will take a walking trip and guided tour of the city, including a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral. They will also tour the palace at Versailles.
After a bus trip to the wine country of the Loire Valley, the students will head to St. Malo, Caen and Normandy to visit the Benny Sur Mer cemetery, the Canadian Military Museum and D-Day beaches. After a stop at Rouen and its famous cathedral, the students will head back to Paris for a tour of the Louvre, before flying home.
The students have been able to look up online the names of soldiers buried at Benny Sur Mer to see if any have local connections. Many will lay a penny on a grave as a sign of respect for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
One of those is Corporal Poho. Leclair has provided students with photographs and details of the young Canadian, the son of Finnish emigrants, who died at the age of 23 during the Normandy campaign.
Leclair remembers the family going to the train station in Sudbury in 1943 to see Poho off after he enlisted in the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. “He boarded the train, then came back to the group to hug everyone,” she wrote.
“I was a child of five, and oh how I remember the sadness. It appeared as though each person that was present said their last goodbyes to William.”
Poho was killed on or about June 8, 1944 with many other brave soldiers, Leclair notes.
She shared with students letters received confirming his death and the burial report.
In conclusion, she said she was enclosing dried flowers from her Tierney Street garden. “If you would be so kind to scatter the flowers over my Uncle William’s grave,” she wrote. “Thank you, in gratitude from Williams’s family.”
Ogletree asked for the photograph of his uncle’s grave for a memorial scrapbook he is compiling. He noted that a photograph of the headstone had appeared last year in Maclean’s Magazine and the Globe and Mail had run a series of articles based on letters Lieutenant Hazzard had written home to his wife, Audrey.
“Your work in encouraging the students to remember and honour our war dead is appreciated,” he wrote in his letter to White and the students.