Hannah Holmes, a Grade 11 student at Chemainus Secondary School (CSS), was recognized by the Royal Canadian Legion (RCL) last week after placing third in the B.C.-Yukon division of the RCL’s national Remembrance Day poster contest.
President Mike Begg and first vice-president Janet Mitchell of the Chemainus Legion delivered a certificate and cheque to Holmes at CSS April 12, in recognition of Holmes’ accomplishment.
Holmes’ prize-winning poster, titled Remember the ultimate sacrifice, resulted from a social studies project assigned by her teacher Janet Ruest last November. Ruest, head of CSS’s social studies department, said the assignment revolved around a theme of remembrance and “the idea of passing remembrance on from generation to generation.”
Holmes “captured that beautifully in her poster,” Ruest added.
Holmes used gouache — a paint similar to watercolours but more opaque — to render her interpretation of remembrance. Her poster features snapshots of the Royal Canadian Navy and Air Force and scenes of remembrance set against a silhouette of soldiers traversing a First World War battlefield at sunset. A hand-painted reproduction of a wartime photo of her great-great-uncle rests below the red banner bearing the poster’s title.
Holmes’ great-great-uncle was imprisoned in Stalag Luft III — a German prisoner-of-war camp where Allied air force personnel were detained during the latter half of the Second World War. Family lore suggests he helped dig one of three tunnels through which 76 prisoners escaped from the camp on the night of March 24, 1944 — the real-life prison break that inspired the movie The Great Escape.
“I’ve met him once,” Holmes said. “I went and visited him in Saskatchewan. From what I’ve heard, he was a digger in one of the three tunnels, but he didn’t actually escape.”
German soldiers recaptured 73 of the 76 men in the days and weeks following the escape, Holmes said, and according to BBC Radio 4, 50 of these men were then “systematically executed on orders from German High Command.”
Holmes’s submission won first place at the branch and zone levels, Mitchell said, before advancing to the B.C./Yukon Command competition, where she placed third. That earned Holmes a certificate and a cheque for $150 from the Chemainus Legion.
The RCL hosts an annual nationwide contest for students from kindergarten through Grade 12, Mitchell said, and participating students submit entries in four categories: essays, poetry, black-and-white posters, and colour posters. The Chemainus Legion received 283 entries from area schools this year, Mitchell added, and distributed $1,985 in prizes in return.
Holmes is one of several students from CSS to have benefitted from the generosity of the Chemainus Legion in recent years.
“In 2000, one of our students won the best essay in the province,” Ruest said. “In 2003, another student won the best essay. In 2005, Jake Shepherd’s poem won first in the province and was second in all of Canada — at the Dominion level — and now Hannah’s up there again. So for a little school, we do pretty well.”
“I wanted to comment on how generous our local Legion is,” Ruest added. “A lot of Legions use [poppy funds] for their own veterans and their own services. Our Legion has felt it’s important to give back to the youth, making that connection of remembrance back-and-forth. And this Legion in particular is very generous with the amount of money that they give at the local level. More so than many other Legion branches. I just want to thank them for thinking that’s important, because the students definitely appreciate [it.]”
How will Holmes spend her winnings?
“Part of it is probably going towards buying brushes,” Holmes said, “And the rest of it will go towards my education.”