Bringing history to life

Terry Roberts
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Retired teacher among those who will be more than a spectator at weekend ceremony

Retired teacher Diana Snow always had a close bond with her grandfather, William Thomas Newell.

But it wasn't until she took possession of his First World War mementoes that she truly understood the man.

"When I found all the things belonging to him from the war, I was just so very proud of him," Snow said.

Diane Snow (above) poses with a portrait of her grandfather William Newell. She has a large collection of her grandfather's effects from the First World War. Below are some of the wartime effects of William Newell owned by Diana Snow, his granddaughter. S

Retired teacher Diana Snow always had a close bond with her grandfather, William Thomas Newell.

But it wasn't until she took possession of his First World War mementoes that she truly understood the man.

"When I found all the things belonging to him from the war, I was just so very proud of him," Snow said.

There are his wartime service medals, regimental hat and badge, letters, photographs, Bible and much more.

Snow plans to pay tribute to her late grandfather on Saturday during a special ceremony at Mile One Stadium.

Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, will present new regimental colours to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during a time-honoured ceremony that begins at 2 p.m.

The event is free of charge, though audience members are encouraged to make a donation to the Military Family Resource Centre.

Those who attend are also being encouraged to bring along family heirlooms and memorabilia from a family member who served in past wars.

It's a gesture of remembrance and respect by the modern-day version of the regiment, which is celebrating its 215th anniversary.

Following the formal ceremony, members of the regiment will interact with those in attendance, and hear the stories of their ancestors.

Snow plans to bring her grandfather's medals and hat.

"Children today take so much for granted," Snow said. "I'm really aware of the fact that in a few years' time, none of the (veterans from past wars) will be left. There's going to be a generation of us who will have to step up and do something about that and make sure that young people realize the freedom they have today they have because other people fought for it."

William Thomas Newell of St. John's was a lance corporal in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, and was one of the famed Blue Puttees. This was the name given to the First 500 who enlisted with the regiment at the outbreak of war in 1914.

According to historian David Parsons, Newell took part in the bloody Gallipoli campaign in Turkey in 1915-16.

Interestingly, he was one of several dozen Newfoundlanders separated from the regiment and attached to a mainly British unit tasked to prevent a force of Arabs from attacking Egypt on its western frontier.

"I don't think the Newfoundlanders were involved in any of the fighting there, but it was a special force," said Parsons.

Newell and the rest of the regiment were shipped back to Europe in March 1916, where it took part in many bloody battles, including Beaumont Hamel on July 1st of that year.

Ironically, one of Newell's letters to his mother was written just after the regiment was presented with its new colours on June 10, 1915 at Stobs Camp in Scotland.

He wrote the following:

"We had our colours presented on June 10 by Governor (Sir William) MacGregor. He spoke in glowing terms of the physique and smartness of the men. And he felt sure we would make a name for ourselves when the time comes.

"We had a general inspection this week and he said he had never seen a better body of men, and there is no doubt about it. I have not seen one regiment since we arrived on this side that could better our boys in any way."

According to historical accounts, some 1,200 members of the regiment were on parade for the ceremony that day.

MacGregor served as governor of Newfoundland from 1904 to 1909.

Newell survived the war, and returned to St. John's in March 1919.

He married Mary Elizabeth Evans and they had five children, three of whom are still living. He worked as a stevedore at the St. John's dockyard, and died in 1975 when he was in his mid-80s.

Snow said her grandfather didn't speak about the war much, and would get emotional when the topic came up.

He was very deeply affected by it," she said. "They went through hell on Earth."

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Military Family Resource Centre, First 500

Geographic location: St. John's, Turkey, Egypt Europe Scotland Newfoundland

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  • Sean
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    My grandfather was also one of the original members of the first 500.He's buried at Belvedaire Cemetary in St.John's.As the Princes Royal will be honoring the RNR on Saturday I will also be honoring all those,Canadian and American service men/women who went before me in WW1,WW2 and gave me,through blood,sweat and tears, the freedoms and opportunities that I enjoy today in a free land!

    Finally, to all of those still serving actively on duty in Afghanistan and other parts of the world,my thoughts and prayers are with you!Kick butt, take names and return safely!God Speed to you all!And Thank You for your sacrifice!

  • Sean
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    My grandfather was also one of the original members of the first 500.He's buried at Belvedaire Cemetary in St.John's.As the Princes Royal will be honoring the RNR on Saturday I will also be honoring all those,Canadian and American service men/women who went before me in WW1,WW2 and gave me,through blood,sweat and tears, the freedoms and opportunities that I enjoy today in a free land!

    Finally, to all of those still serving actively on duty in Afghanistan and other parts of the world,my thoughts and prayers are with you!Kick butt, take names and return safely!God Speed to you all!And Thank You for your sacrifice!