Unveiling of First World War memorial plaques draws crowd

Everton McLean
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Three plaques set in stone in Bowring Park now serve as a lasting memorial to the fallen Newfoundland soldiers and sailors who were killed in the First World War and have no known grave.

The plaques were unveiled in front of a crowd of at least 300 people Wednesday, the 93rd anniversary of the devastation of the Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont Hamel.

From left, Tourism, Culture and Recreation Minister Clyde Jackman, regimental Honorary Lt.-Col. Kevin Hutchings, Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie and St. Johns Mayor Dennis OKeefe unveil the Beaumont Hamel Memorial Plaque in Bowring Park Wednesday. Photo by Joe Gi

Three plaques set in stone in Bowring Park now serve as a lasting memorial to the fallen Newfoundland soldiers and sailors who were killed in the First World War and have no known grave.

The plaques were unveiled in front of a crowd of at least 300 people Wednesday, the 93rd anniversary of the devastation of the Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont Hamel.

The plaques, exact replicas from the Newfoundland Memorial in Beaumont Hamel, France, list the names of 591 soldiers from the regiment, 114 sailors from the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve and 115 from the Merchant Marine.

Standing in a semicircle around the monument, just below the park's caribou memorial, people listened closely as St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe spoke about the lost soldiers.

"This is absolutely amazing and it's a testament to who we are as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," he said.

"I've often described July 1 as being a bittersweet day," he said.

But O'Keefe said he no longer thinks of the day as a day of mourning, but a day to celebrate the lives and efforts of those who were lost.

"Celebrate is the word, really. On July 1, we are celebrating Canada's birthday, but we're also celebrating the lives of the young men and women who fought and died in World War I."

Kevin Hutchings, the regiment's honorary lieutenant-colonel, noted that the site in Bowring Park gives people in this province who never had the opportunity to reflect on the memorial in France a place to pay tribute.

"Many times through the years, on one of our many visits to France, relations of those who passed have asked me to take pictures of a grave site, or for those with no known graves, a picture of his name on the Beaumount-Hamel memorial," Hutchings said.

Tourism, Culture and Recreation Minister Clyde Jackman said he was pleased to see so many people gathered at the memorial.

"There was hardly a family left unaffected by this tragic war," said Jackman. "By placing the names of these young men on the tablets here in Newfoundland and Labrador, we are, in a symbolic way, finally bringing these soldiers, sailors and other servicemen back home."

The provincial government footed most of the bill for the monument, about $330,000, while the City of St. John's oversaw the project and paid some of the bill.

The idea for the monument came when then lieutenant-governor Ed Roberts wrote to Premier Danny Williams following a trek to France in the summer of 2006 for the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, recommending the tribute.

The monument is something the province has needed for a long time, said Calvin Tucker of St. John's.

"It's long overdue," he said.

Debbie Pike, who plans to go to the Beaumont Hamel memorial in France soon, called the Bowring Park monument "beautiful."

Still, she said, she feels the desire to see the place where so many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians lost their lives.

"It's time. I have go," she said. "It's part of our history, I guess. If anyone goes to France, they have to see Beaumont Hamel."

Meanwhile, Government Services Minister Kevin O'Brien is in France and Belgium this week to commemorate the sacrifices made by Newfoundland and Labrador soldiers during the First World War.

This year, the Department of Municipal Affairs also provided $55,000 to the Royal Canadian Legion to help subsidize the cost of sending veterans, a representative from the Royal Canadian Legion and students to the ceremonies.

emclean@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Canadian Legion, Government Services Department of Municipal Affairs

Geographic location: Bowring Park, Newfoundland and Labrador, France St. John's Canada Belgium

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Recent comments

  • Willie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Some would say it's been almost 100 years let's move on. Nobody attends the ceremonies anymore like they used to. I haven't been to one in years. Changing the date isn't such a bad idea.

    Willie Hunt
    Pouch Cove NL

  • Don
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    Thank you to those who made this happen .Terrific idea.I was there yesterday and thought memorial was fitting tribute to those brave young men.Had a lump in my throat when unveiled.

  • Richard
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    I'd spent many years as a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment parading on July 1 in honour of those who fell at Beaumont Hamel. That it was also Canada Day was never really an issue. If you stop to think about it, the two events go together. To the lads in First Battalion, I'll be home for a visit in the fall.

    Better Than The Best

  • Patrick
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    How about we just not celebrate canada day? The country regularly gives us the shaft anyway. It makes much more sense to remember those who were lost who belonged to the Dominion of Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • Andrew
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    So Donny, do you propose that Canada celebrate Canada day in October to celebrate July 1st, 1867, the day Canada officially became a country? Or will we re write history and have the battle of Beaumont Hamel occur on a fall day in France? Get real, it is an unfortunate coincidence that both events occurred on the same day but it is not too hard to recognize the sacrifice our forefathers made and to recognize our great country all on the same day.

  • Telling it like it is
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    Quoting Donny Dooley,

    Not sure we should be celebrating these two events on the same day. It kind of ruins the celebration when you have to attend a memorial service. How about we move the service to October or cut it our all together?

    Are you the love child between Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter???

    You must be to make such a moronic suggestion.

    You know why this memorial happens on July 1st? Because the events of that day HAPPENED ON JULY 1ST.

    Since you're suggesting to change important dates in history, I will follow your brilliant lead and suggest the following:

    Christmas Day will now be June 18th
    New Years Day will be August 17th
    Thanksgiving will be February 6th
    Remembrance Day will be July 19th
    Easter will be September 23rd
    Regetta Day will December 16th

    Come back here when you have something intelligent to say.

  • Shannon
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    And Halloween will be on June 4th.

  • liz
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    In Nfld. Memorial Day should be honoured not celebrated we lost too many good men/boys to celebrate. Years ago when our old soldiers were still alive, Memorial Day would and should take precedence over Canada day. I was proud to see many flags at half mast yesterday, as it should be in this province.

  • Dave
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    To Donny: Give me a break troll or not show a little respect. Some things such as this are really important not to be mocked. Go troll on another issue, let others show appreciation of a noble gesture.

  • Donny
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Not sure we should be celebrating these two events on the same day. It kind of ruins the celebration when you have to attend a memorial service. How about we move the service to October or cut it our all together?

  • Patricia
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    Contrary to Mr. Dooley's post, I think the juxtposition of Canada Day and Memorial Day makes sense. If it were not for those who fought and died, we would not have a country and the freedoms we enjoy as a society today. I for one am looking forward to my next visit home which will definitely include a trip to the Memorial. One of the names on those plaques is that of my cousin, Pte. Francis Joseph (Chick) Galgay, one of the many soldiers in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment who lost his life that day. All honour to him, and to those who died with him. All honour to those men who gave their lives for our freedom.

  • Willie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Some would say it's been almost 100 years let's move on. Nobody attends the ceremonies anymore like they used to. I haven't been to one in years. Changing the date isn't such a bad idea.

    Willie Hunt
    Pouch Cove NL

  • Don
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    Thank you to those who made this happen .Terrific idea.I was there yesterday and thought memorial was fitting tribute to those brave young men.Had a lump in my throat when unveiled.

  • Richard
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    I'd spent many years as a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment parading on July 1 in honour of those who fell at Beaumont Hamel. That it was also Canada Day was never really an issue. If you stop to think about it, the two events go together. To the lads in First Battalion, I'll be home for a visit in the fall.

    Better Than The Best

  • Patrick
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    How about we just not celebrate canada day? The country regularly gives us the shaft anyway. It makes much more sense to remember those who were lost who belonged to the Dominion of Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • Andrew
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    So Donny, do you propose that Canada celebrate Canada day in October to celebrate July 1st, 1867, the day Canada officially became a country? Or will we re write history and have the battle of Beaumont Hamel occur on a fall day in France? Get real, it is an unfortunate coincidence that both events occurred on the same day but it is not too hard to recognize the sacrifice our forefathers made and to recognize our great country all on the same day.

  • Telling it like it is
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    Quoting Donny Dooley,

    Not sure we should be celebrating these two events on the same day. It kind of ruins the celebration when you have to attend a memorial service. How about we move the service to October or cut it our all together?

    Are you the love child between Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter???

    You must be to make such a moronic suggestion.

    You know why this memorial happens on July 1st? Because the events of that day HAPPENED ON JULY 1ST.

    Since you're suggesting to change important dates in history, I will follow your brilliant lead and suggest the following:

    Christmas Day will now be June 18th
    New Years Day will be August 17th
    Thanksgiving will be February 6th
    Remembrance Day will be July 19th
    Easter will be September 23rd
    Regetta Day will December 16th

    Come back here when you have something intelligent to say.

  • Shannon
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    And Halloween will be on June 4th.

  • liz
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    In Nfld. Memorial Day should be honoured not celebrated we lost too many good men/boys to celebrate. Years ago when our old soldiers were still alive, Memorial Day would and should take precedence over Canada day. I was proud to see many flags at half mast yesterday, as it should be in this province.

  • Dave
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    To Donny: Give me a break troll or not show a little respect. Some things such as this are really important not to be mocked. Go troll on another issue, let others show appreciation of a noble gesture.

  • Donny
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    Not sure we should be celebrating these two events on the same day. It kind of ruins the celebration when you have to attend a memorial service. How about we move the service to October or cut it our all together?

  • Patricia
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    Contrary to Mr. Dooley's post, I think the juxtposition of Canada Day and Memorial Day makes sense. If it were not for those who fought and died, we would not have a country and the freedoms we enjoy as a society today. I for one am looking forward to my next visit home which will definitely include a trip to the Memorial. One of the names on those plaques is that of my cousin, Pte. Francis Joseph (Chick) Galgay, one of the many soldiers in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment who lost his life that day. All honour to him, and to those who died with him. All honour to those men who gave their lives for our freedom.