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Cambridge teen follows in fallen WW1 vet's footsteps and travels to Vimy Ridge

In his report on the fallen soldier, the Cambridge teen found out he had a lot more in common with the soldier than he had originally thought
Ali Naseer stands in front of the Galt Cenotaph in Queen's Square

When 17-year-old Cambridge student Ali Naseer was selected to participate in the Pilgrimage to Vimy Ridge, he never thought that he would have a close connection to a fallen soldier. 

While choosing a soldier to write a report about, he found one from his side of town and started his research. 

"I found this soldier and he seemed like he was roughly my age when he passed away in combat and he was from my part of town," said Naseer. "One of the craziest things I found out is that before he left for war he lived on the next street over from me." 

Naseer discovered that Richard George Barnes, born on February 13, 1894 lived and grew up in the Galt area on a small street called Ball Avenue. 

Private Richard George Barnes. Canadian Virtual War Memorial

He went to Galt Collegiate Institute and worked a regular desk job before shipping off to Europe to fight for his country. 

"I read that when he was sent to war, he wasn't much older than I am now and it really stuck with me what they must have gone through back then," added Naseer.

Barnes was a private in the 4th Battalion and fought in the Battle of Ypres in Belgium where his regiment had suffered mass casualties from the fighting. 

"The private was killed in Action on May 29, 1915 on his deployment to France. He was only 21 when he died. His friend watched him get shot and had to bury his body in the trenches of war," wrote Naseer in his report on Barnes. 

He details that the friend who witnessed his death and buried him made the trip to his parent's home in Galt and had to inform them he had passed away. 

"Just the act of selflessness from these young men and women is really inspiring," he said. "There is so much going on in the world today that it really makes you realize how much privilege we have living here and away from war." 

Naseer hopes to share his experience with the Vimy Foundation and explain to the younger generation that there is a human cost to war and it shouldn't be romanticized. 

The juxtaposition of their two lives is what drew Naseer to choose Barnes as his subject for the trip. 

"I get to live this comfortable live basically in the same spot that he did, but he had to go and die in a war." 

The Cambridge student was one of 20 youths selected to travel to Europe and learn about the First World War.

While travelling from Belgium to France the students explore historic sites and participate in the annual Vimy Pilgrimage which sees Canadians travel to France to pay their respects at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.

"The experience will provide students with transferable skills and unique perspectives from the past, and will allow them to connect with peers, fellow leaders of tomorrow," the foundation said.

To find out more about the Vimy Foundation, visit the organization's website