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North Van man visits France to trace impact of war on Canadians

Ed Jackson made a short film about the sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers during the First World War after visiting Vimy Ridge in France.   - Submitted
Ed Jackson made a short film about the sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers during the First World War after visiting Vimy Ridge in France.
— image credit: Submitted

Rows of gravestones dotted the neatly kept military cemetery.

Ed Jackson was immediately struck by the ages engraved on the white stone markers.

“Eighteen, twenty-two — all very young,” he recalls.

Others belonged to unknown soldiers.

“It’s quite overwhelming. It moves me to tears to think about it now.”

Two years ago, at age 70, Jackson, along with his wife Anne, made a pilgrimage to France to trace the history of Canada’s involvement in the First and Second World wars.

That brought them to a cemetery near Vimy Ridge, the site of a bloody battle in April 1917 that saw Canadian troops wrest away an important strategic position from the Germans.

Nearly 3,600 Canadian soldiers were killed during the pivotal three-day battle.

Prior to the trip, Jackson, a retired teacher who taught math and science, admits he knew very little about Canada’s involvement in the two world wars.

As he explains, during the Second World War, his father worked as a shipbuilder at North Vancouver’s Burrard Drydocks but he was unable to serve his country because his job was considered integral to the war effort; ditto for Anne’s father, whose company produced food for the troops. Anne’s grandfather had fought in the First World War, but “he never talked about it — ever.”

“Tears came to his eyes and the subject changed,” she says.

Since setting foot on the battlefields and visiting information kiosks and war museums in France, the couple has a much deeper understanding about the profound impact of the Great War.

“What it meant to Canada and our young people — tremendous loss,” says Ed, who laments the fact that when he was in school the curriculum didn’t include much about Canada’s overseas war efforts.

After their month-long trip to France, the Jacksons enrolled in the digital storytelling program at the Silver Harbour Seniors Centre and Ed decided to make a short film about their journey of discovery. He dubbed it The Awakening.

Mixing archival footage with his shots taken during the trip, the seven-minute film delivers a poignant message about the valiant sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers during the First World War.

“I just think our young people can’t forget what our forefathers have done to make this a free land for them,” says Ed, who had a specific audience in mind when making the short.

“My audience was definitely my grandkids and young people in general.”

One day, he’d like to see his short film shown in schools.

—The Awakening and other videos created by the Silver Harbour Digital Storytellers group are currently being screened before movie features at the Kay Meek Centre.

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