RAC Ontario South Director, Phil McBride, VA3QR/VA3KPJ, was selected as an operator by the Vimy Commemorative Station Society and is now in Vimy, France, along with his wife, Cassandra McBride, VA3MEW, to operate from the Canadian National Vimy Memorial to mark the 100th anniversary of the taking of Vimy Ridge by the Canadian Armed Forces during World War I. All images are used with his permission. You can find out more about Phil and follow his journey via his blog and Twitter account. For more information on TM100VIMY visit: https://www.rac.ca/tm100vimy-special-event/
April 6, 2017: Last Day at TM100VIMY
Cassandra and I woke up early again this morning to get me to my second (and last) shift for 7:30 am CET (0530z). I was invited as a guest operator and had only ever planned to spend two days operating in between our other stops. More than just a radio-based trip, this is the first vacation that Cassandra and I have taken by ourselves in about three years (my parents are currently looking after our two boys back home). We leave for Paris tomorrow morning, because according to Cassandra, we’re not allowed to visit France without seeing Paris, and since she’s been so cool about me being involved with TM100VIMY (and CY9C, and CFARS, and RAC, and and and), I wasn’t about to disagree.
I was met by Hugh McCully, VE3AYR and Gabor Horvath, VE7JH, who were just starting with the shift as well, and Cassandra headed out, bound for Belgium.
I wish I could show more pictures of the operating site here, but there are strict restrictions on taking and posting any photos which could identify buildings and landmarks (with the obvious exception of the historical monuments and the like). Security around Vimy Ridge is getting really, REALLY tight, and it will be insane on the actual commemorative date (April 9) when all the dignitaries will be here, along with 25000 spectators.
Band conditions were pretty much terrible today, but we managed to make some QSOs. I spent my time split between phone and RTTY on 40m, 20m and 17m. I’ve spoken to a lot of UK, French, German and Russian stations, with a few Japanese, and a ZL1 on the long path. However, against the odds, I managed to make contact with two VO1 stations on 17m phone this afternoon. I was wondering if I’d be able to contact a Canadian station – my shifts were 7:30 am to 3:30 pm CET (0530z – 1330z), or 1:30 am to 9:30 am EDT, so the operators at the other end would have to be real night owls, so I was happy to hear voices from the Rock. When operating phone, I’ve received many thanks for the station, and for what it represents.
I touched on this yesterday, but Cass and I had an encounter yesterday that reinforces just how much Canada is appreciated, almost revered here. We went to a restaurant called Au Bureau Liévin. It’s a local restaurant made to look and feel like a British pub. On a sign to the left of the doorway was written “Vive le Canada.” When we walked into the restaurant, the host greeted us (in French, obviously) and Cassandra tried to keep up with him, but she must’ve gotten that glass-eyed look on her face that says “You’re talking too fast!” and he stopped, looked at the poppies on our respective jackets and almost shouted “You’re Canadians! We love Canadians!” and proceeded to tell us how his father took him to Vimy Ridge and explained how important our contribution to the war was.
It is impossible to avoid feeling a little swell of pride with the number of flags flying, and the number of people visiting our memorials (not just Vimy – there are dozens of war cemeteries and monuments scattered about the landscape), especially once they realized what our contributions to the war meant.
It was an amazing experience and I am grateful to the Vimy Commemorative Station Society for the opportunity to be involved in their operation, and that it gave me a reason to come and see such an important part of Canada’s history and heritage.
Phil McBride, VA3QR/VA3KPJ
April 5, 2017: Getting Started at TM100VIMY
My wife and I have been travelling for a few days now. Before arriving in France, we spent a few days with old friends in Banbury, UK, and took the opportunity to take the train into London for a couple of days and play tourist. We got to our B&B – Les Cèdres Bleu – in Lièvin, France last night around 8 pm CET (0600z), and were quite happy to have such a beautiful place to stay in the area.
When we left the B&B in the morning to head to Vimy Ridge, our route took us through the residential area of Lièvin. Along the road, taped to nearly every home and building was a Canadian flag. Anyone who’s taken Canadian History in high school has been told of the Canadian contributions to both world wars, but it is another experience entirely to see the people of a town liberated by the Canadian Forces fly our colours as a sign of lasting gratitude. Even more sobering was realizing just how close we were to Vimy Ridge itself – the journey from our B&B to the memorial site was only 5.6 kilometres.
I got to the TM100VIMY operating site at 7:30 am CET (0530z) and was met by Keith Whitney, VE7KW, Chris Allingham, VE3FU, and Frank Davis, VO1HP. Keith showed me around the antennas and the two stations they had set up – Elecraft K3's, KPA500’s, KAT500’s and laptops running N1MM+ for logging. For antennas, there were a couple of Spiderbeams, and some wires – dipoles and verticals. Chris and Frank were operating CW, and there were a few thousand contacts in the log. Frank took a break to let me in, and I ran on 40m for 1.5 hours to get broken in. I’ve never operated outside of IARU Region 2, so this was definitely a new experience. One of the funny side-effects is that, since TM100VIMY is a French call sign, French stations calling me seemed to assume that I could speak the language (and my wife will very clearly tell you that my French is awful), so it was a bit of a challenge to muddle through the call signs.
It’s a very busy place outside the operating building – crews are getting the grounds ready for the as many as 25,000 visitors for the April 9 event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the taking of Vimy Ridge by the Canadian Forces. Access to the memorial site is being closed to the public starting tomorrow to give the workers a chance to complete all the necessary preparations. My operating shift ends at 3:30 pm CET (1330z), at which time Cassandra is going to pick me up and we’re going to walk the Vimy Memorial while it’s still open. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to see this place while I’m here – it’s too important to our history.
I hope to hear you down the log while I’m here. 73 for now!
Phil McBride, VA3QR/VA3KPJ
VE100VIMY – I’m Going to Vimy Ridge
I have been selected as an operator by the Vimy Commemorative Station Society and will be travelling to Vimy, France, along with my wife, Cassandra McBride, VA3MEW, to operate from the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in April of 2017, to mark the 100th anniversary of the taking of Vimy Ridge by the Canadian Armed Forces during World War I.
Quoted from the Society’s website: “In April of 1917, four Canadian Divisions, fighting as a unified force, using new tactics derived from the recent Battle of the Somme, captured the main part of the Ridge on the first day of combat and completely occupied the entire ground in four days. Vimy Ridge remained in Allied hands for the rest of the war and served as the base for the wireless operations of the Canadian Corps of Signals. The Vimy success was welcome news to war-weary Canada and it stirred a new sense of nationhood that some historians describe as the ‘moment when Canada leapt in spirit from colony to nation'”
The Society will be operating two stations 24 hours a day between April 1 and 9, 2017 using the call sign VE100VIMY. Modes will include SSB, CW and RTTY, and all bands between 160m and 10m will be attempted. Efforts will be made to ensure the maximum number of contacts with Canadian Amateur Radio stations are made. This will be the first time since the end of World War I that shortwave/HF signals will be heard from Vimy Ridge. As a Canadian, I am honoured and thrilled to be a part of this historic event.
Phil McBride, VA3QR/VA3KPJ