On this day, April 9th, 1917 the Canadian Corps captured Vimy Ridge and changed how war was fought in WWI. Their story is not only important in purely historic terms (this was Canada's Waterloo - Gettysburg - Gallipoli) but how they did this has lessons for all today who wish to make their organization more like a network and less like a machine.
How do organizations make sense of the new networked world? The same problems faced generals in WWI. How were they to make sense of industrial warfare? The Canadian Corps solved this problem in 1917 at Vimy. The lessons learned of how they did this apply today. Here we discover the essence of what they did and how to apply this to our own time.
In honour of the men of 1917 and to help us understand how to create the culture to create a truly human organization, I have written a very short book that offers you a step by step acccount of how this was done back then. The times are different but the problem of how to get away from Command and Control remains. The lessons from Vimy are here to be learned all over gain.
On the Sunday before the 9th, we went to Ypres now called Ieper. On the way we had lunch at the Hooge Crater Cafe which is opposite the Hooge Cemetary. Great link for Hooge here.
We then went onto Tyne Cot. Tyne Cot is the largest British cemetery in the world. Most of the dead here came from the Battle of Passchendaele. There are nearly 1,000 Canadians buried here - The CEF was the unit that finally took the town at a cost of 17,000 casualties.
Here is James. The scale of the place is overwhelming.
On this wall the names of the missing - Robin and I lost it when we found a wreath just behind the screen. It had been placed recently and said "To my dear brave grandfather whom I never knew".
We had dinner in Ieper and then went to the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate. This takes place at 8pm every night no matter what. The gate was filled with Canadians that night.
The Menin Gate is one of two memorials for those that have no grave. The salutation for them is very moving and gracious.
Nearly home - We arrived in Toronto last night. There were a couple of navigation humour losses as we attempted to find the right ramp for the Periphrique but we arrived at CDG in good time. And good time is what you need there. The airport was built for another time and can hardly cope with high traffic and big planes. There was one scanner for the flight and it took over and hour to get to the gate.
BUT once at the gate a big surprise. We had all been upgraded to First. So to the Air Canada good fairies who do this - Thank you very much. It has been worth the delays earlier in the year.
A long and comfy trip to Toronto. It is early in the morning now - Robin and I were asleep by 7.30 last night but have been up and or dozing since 2am. (8 hour time difference) We set off soon for the airport and the last flight to PEI and home and the dogs (and cat).
So 6 of us have spent a wonderful week together. Apart from my navigation bumps, we have all been very nice and loving to each other as well. Not many families can pull that off and I feel great. Brought together by a member of the family and the larger family of our country, we feel deeply grateful to belong to both. It has been truly the trip of a lifetime that we can all draw on as the years roll by.
I hope that our children's children will do the same.
Thank you too dear readers for coming along with me. I will post some pictures when I get home and then it is back to work.
The song goes - I love Paris in the spring time -Well it's true. Paris must be the most beautiful city in the world and this week it is at its peak. The leaves are on the tree and you cam walk around with as few clothes on as possible. It was about 17 - 19c today.
I had a lovely day with my son James - we went to Les Invalides and went through the Musee D'Armee. But really we just hung out. We lunched at the brasserie at the Lutece Hotel that was the SS headquarters in the war but has a great seafood bar. I had the Assiette des Fruits de Mers and James had a half chicken baked in mashed potatoes with cream, cheese and garlic. We have solved most of the problems of the world and some real ones of our own -such as how does a creative person hold onto power when contracting with corporate buyers.
After a delightful 2 hour nap and another walk - it was time for dinner. We went down the road to the best Indian restaurant that I have been to. After a light but delicious meal, we are ready for an early start tomorrow. We fly at 11.40 back to a cold and overcast Toronto and then on Friday back to our dogs and snow!
In my next life, I hope to be a wealthy Frenchman - with a huge and healthy liver!
We arrived in Paris last night. I remain impressed by French Roads and cars. It was auto route all the way until the last 10 minutes when we swung into Paris along the North Bank of the Seine and then crossed over to the South Bank and our bijou Hotel, the Regent, on Rue Dauphine in St. Germaine. It is like a picture postcard here - cafe's every 30 metres and little shops. Our Renault Espace has used less than a tank of diesel the whole trip.
The big conflict that I face is the struggle between my eyes and my mouth and the rest of my body. Each night I tell myself that i will hold back. Butt then when faced with dinner, I cannot resist. Last night I had oysters, steak tartare (raw) and creme brule plus two bottles of very nice wine between 3 of us. I paid all night and once again vow to hold back. We will see.
We have spent the last 4 days as a group and we have all split up today. I am off to the the War Museum - surprise - on my own later today.
We are all still struck by our experience at Vimy and I will have to let some more time go by to be able to write a more reflective piece.
All the best to all of those who have been here as well
All of us who were there understand what an epic of organization this day represents. Not just the day. There has been one guiding force for all of this for the last 5 years. When I say all of this - I mean the restoration itself, the idea of this day, the organization of this day, the idea of having the children - all of this was originated and lead by one person.
Robert Mercer is the ideal of the true Public Servant. A most humble and reserved man with a will of steel and the most gracious manner. Bob has been the unseen person behind all of this.
I am sure that I can speak for millions of Canadians, thank you Bob and may you and Susan enjoy your upcoming retirement.