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Vimy Ridge Symposium

April 8, 2017 @ 10:00 am - 4:00 pm

| $20

A symposium will be held at the Guelph Civic Museum to commemorate the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Guest speakers: Dr. Mike Bechthold, David Webb, Robin Aggus, Ed Butts, Linda Granfield.

Light refreshments will be served. Lunch is not provided. A break will be taken to allow participants to eat the lunch they brought or to go out for a quick lunch break in the area.

Register in advance online.


10 to 11 AM – Vimy Ridge: The Battle in Myth and Reality

Presented by Dr. Mike Bechthold

Vimy Ridge is the iconic Canadian battle of the First World War. Countless soldiers, politicians, and historians have remarked on the importance of Vimy to Canada. Mike Bechthold will examine the battle and peel back the layers of remembrance to understand Vimy in its own terms and place it in its proper historical context.

Dr. Mike Bechthold is a historian of Canada in the First and Second World Wars. For 22 years Mike worked as the Communications Director of the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies and the Managing Editor of Canadian Military History, an academic quarterly journal. He is the author or editor of eight books including Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment (2007). His most recent book, Flying to Victory: Raymond Collishaw and the Western Desert Campaign 1940-1941, was just published by the University of Oklahoma Press.

11 AM to 12 PM – Saving the Wounded at the Battle of Vimy Ridge

Presented by David Webb

The 9th of April, 1917 was the bloodiest day in Canadian military history, and this aspect of the battle is sometimes forgotten.  All told, nearly 3600 soldiers were killed and over 7000 wounded. Webb will outline the achievements, challenges and limitations of the battlefield medical efforts during the battle, and place these within the broader context of medical care before and after the battle.  Selected rare artifacts from the period will be displayed.

David Webb was born in Toronto and educated in Kingston, Ontario.  He received his B.A. in History from Queen’s University and has worked at historic sites across Ontario, including Fort Henry, Nancy Island, Fort Wellington and Fort Malden.  He joined the Parks Canada Agency in 1981, and served as Chief of Heritage Presentation at Niagara National Historic Sites until 2008.  David worked as a military curator and cultural resource management advisor for Parks Canada until his departure in the fall of 2012.  David continues to be involved in volunteer and consulting projects. David has been a member of a number of Living History groups over the years and has participated in re-enactment events in Canada and the United States commemorating heritage from the 1760’s through to the 1940’s.  He has acted as a historic festival host and planner, historic weapons safety officer, and a film extra and consultant for various theatrical and film productions, including the CBC People’s History, History Television’s Turning Points and the Mirvish Theatre’s production of War Horse.

12 to 1 PM – Break for lunch (lunch not included)

1 to 2 PM – The Pipes of War: Bagpipes in the Great War and at Vimy

Presented by Robin Aggus

Wherever Scottish soldiers have fought, the sound of the highland bagpipe has been heard. Traditionally Scottish highland pipers have appeared at the forefront of the charge, playing a musical instrument. What motivated these men to take such a risk? This talk will cover the evolution of the tradition, the music that was played and the music that was inspired by the events of war. It will focus on several significant pipers as well as those Canadians involved at Vimy Ridge.

Robin Aggus was inspired to take up the bagpipes by the 80’s band “Rare Air” who played a fusion of Scottish, Breton and jazz music before joining the Guelph and Fergus pipe bands. Aggus is passionate about sharing his knowledge of piping and folk dance music and lectures on the rich world of bagpiping for the Fergus Scottish Festival, local historical societies, and museums. He was the first “Musician in Residence” at McDougall Cottage Museum, has taught at Riverside Celtic College, and gives private lessons on bagpipes and whistle. Robin is a board member for the annual Piper’s Gathering in the United States and leads two bands, “Bourrée à Trois”, and the “Caledonia Ceili Band” and is the piper with “Hammer City Samba”. Check out the Poacher pub in Burlington every Sunday evening to hear one of Robins many pub sessions. Aside from piping, Robin spends his time working as a Landscape design/Build contractor from his home in Eden Mills.

2 to 3 PM – Guelph’s Empty Tomb

Presented by Ed Butts

Our word cenotaph comes from Greek. It means “empty tomb.” The talk is about a few of the people whose names are listed on the Guelph Cenotaph under 1914-1918. They were people who did not become famous like John McCrae, but who nonetheless deserve to have their stories known.

Ed Butts was born in Toronto, but grew up in Guelph and has always considered it his hometown. He attended the University of Waterloo, and spent eight years teaching at a school in the Dominican Republic. Ed has written more than twenty books for both adults and juvenile readers. They include Simon Girty: Wilderness Warrior, Wrong Side of the Law, and Behind the Badge: Crime Fighters Through History. Several of his books have been nominated for awards. Ed also wrote the lyrics for educational songs for children. As a freelance writer, Ed has contributed articles to many publications, including the Toronto Star, the Globe & Mail and the Guelph Mercury. He is also a contributor to the Canadian Encyclopedia. Ed is currently working on a book about Guelph during the First World War, expected to be published later this year. He lives in Guelph with his daughter Melanie and grandson Austin.

3 to 4 PM – The Vimy Oaks: A Journey to Peace

Presented by Linda Granfield

Standing amidst the devastation of war, Leslie picked up a handful of acorns and mailed them home, where they were nurtured. This small but amazingly hopeful act continues to be felt just as powerfully today, one hundred years after the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The living legacy of Leslie Miller’s “Vimy Oaks” inspires hope as the world remembers and honours the soldiers who served in the First World War.

Historian Linda Granfield is the award-winning author of over thirty non-fiction titles, many about war and remembrance, for adults and young readers. Linda served on the Task Force for the 100th Anniversary of “In Flanders Fields” and has been a consultant for documentary films, a Great War commentator for the CBC, and a historical advisor for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Her latest book, The Vimy Oaks: A Journey to Peace, commemorates the 100th anniversary of The Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 2017 and celebrates a particular bond forged between Canada and France as a result of one Canadian soldier’s actions.


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April 8, 2017
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Event Category:


Guelph Museums


Guelph Civic Museum
52 Norfolk Street
Guelph, Ontario N1H 4H8 Canada
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