Stanford Li, Grade 11 student, winner of the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize was one of 16 students from Canada, the United Kingdom and France — selected from hundreds of applicants ranging in age from 15 to 17 — to head to Europe over the summer for a two-week all-expenses-paid trip that took them to First and Second World War sites and memorials in England, Belgium and France as well as to lectures at Oxford University. Applicants for the prize had to demonstrate strong researching skills, submit an analysis of a war painting and write an essay.
Stanford won for his essay about the experience of Chinese labourers during the First World War. “I found a painting of a Chinese labourer,” Li said. “I didn’t expect to see a painting like that in the (war archives).” The discovery inspired him to find out more. During the First World War, the British government recruited 140,000 Chinese labourers to lend support on the front lines. They were called the Chinese Labour Corps. “They took a boat from China to Vancouver, then a train from Vancouver to Halifax and another boat to Europe,” Li said. “Then they were sent to the front line to dig trenches — without weapons. They would come under fire as they worked. I am sure many returned with terrible memories.” The discovery inspired him to find out more. Post traumatic stress disorder was the overarching theme of this year’s competition, which is administered by the Vimy Foundation. The trip included a visit to the Vimy Memorial. The Battle of Vimy Ridge began April 9, 1917, and raged for four days, with 3,598 Canadian soldiers killed and 7,004 wounded. The battle is considered to be a defining moment in Canadian history. To find out more, here is an article published recently in the Montreal Gazette: Research on Chinese wartime labour draws accolades for Beaconsfield student
For details about all the winners, search Beaverbrook Vimy Prize 2018 on YouTube.