Maintaining France’s First World War commemorative sites


French Canadian Guy Turpin is responsible for maintaining the Canadian commemorative sites of the First World War in France. We find out about his life in France and how he is looking forward to marking the centenary this year

This year sees the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, while June marks 70 years since the D-Day landings of the Second World War. The events of the past may be long gone but they are not forgotten in France, where areas of the country are home not only to sites of remembrance that continue to resonate in the present, but also to those who have chosen the area for their new life across the Channel. Five of them share their experiences and connections with us, and explain why they chose to start a new chapter in France.

Guy Turpin is senior manager of commemorative sites, Canadian National Vimy Memorial – Vimy (Pas-de-Calais; Nord-Pas-de-Calais), who moved to France with his family in the summer of 2012 from Ottowa in Canada.
“Well it’s true that the language wasn’t a barrier!” says Guy. “The biggest challenge for us was adjusting to the rhythm of life here, which is very different to North America: business hours take some getting used to, and the school days are longer for the children.”

Guy’s role sees him responsible for seven First World War Canadian commemorative sites, of which Vimy Ridge is the largest. “We had 700,000 visitors last year,” says Guy, “and so making sure their experience is a memorable one is of the utmost importance”.

The family lives near Arras, which is a 15-minute drive from Vimy Ridge. The town offers many services for young families, and as Guy explains: “We live in a small village, which is great for the kids. All being well, we should be here until 2017, when we commemorate the Battle of Vimy Ridge centenary… that will really be something.”

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