Princess pays tribute to regiment

Terry Roberts
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Stirring ceremony reinforces strong bond between famed military unit and province

In a moving ceremony sprinkled with pageantry, precision, symbolism and tradition, the 1st Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment took possession of new regimental colours Saturday.

It was an event usually experienced about once every generation by a military unit, and observers say the regiment executed the ritual with a level of professionalism and honour that was befitting of those who have worn the celebrated caribou badge through the years.

Above, Princess Anne, colonel-in-chief of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment presents new colours to the regiment in a ceremony Saturday. Below, heavy drizzle and a biting wind didn't slow down Princess Anne Saturday as she planted a tree on the grounds of G

In a moving ceremony sprinkled with pageantry, precision, symbolism and tradition, the 1st Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment took possession of new regimental colours Saturday.

It was an event usually experienced about once every generation by a military unit, and observers say the regiment executed the ritual with a level of professionalism and honour that was befitting of those who have worn the celebrated caribou badge through the years.

Organizers estimate between 800 and 1,000 people took part in the ceremony, which was held at Mile One Stadium in St. John's.

The regiment's colonel-in-chief, Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, presented the newly-consecrated flags, which included the Queen's colour and the regimental colour.

Afterwards, she heaped praise on the modern-day members of the regiment, calling them "worthy heirs to all who served before them."

She was joined by a long list of dignitaries, including Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie, Premier Danny Williams, St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe and many other political and military leaders.

Among those in attendance were dozens of descendants of men who served with the regiment during the First World War, during which the unit suffered terrible losses and earned the accolade "Better than the Best."

It was also the only regiment during the war to be awarded the prefix "Royal" by King George V for its valour in battle.

In a gesture of respect and remembrance, many in the audience brought family heirlooms and artifacts as a living tribute to their loved ones.

Viola Tibbs was one of them. Her father, William Tibbs, was severely wounded during fighting in Gallipoli in 1915, but survived the war.

She carried a black and white photo featuring her father, in full uniform, at Government House in St. John's following his return in 1916. Sitting on either side of him are two young girls. Viola said they were the daughters of Sir Walter Davidson, the province's then-governor.

She also wore three of her father's military service medals.

"I feel fantastic," she said following the service. "I'm as happy as can be."

The regiment's participation at Gallipoli was emphasized strongly during the weekend of events, which also marked the 215th anniversary of the regiment.

The Gallipoli campaign and other battles are often overshadowed by events at Beaumont Hamel, where the unit was nearly annihilated on July 1, 1916.

"It's really nice to hear it mentioned," said Ann Symonds, Viola Tibbs' niece.

The presentation of new colours is an important milestone for a military unit. They are considered the unit's most important possession, and at one point in history were paraded into battle.

Saturday's ceremony repeated traditions and rituals that were carried out in June 1915, when the regiment received new colours at its training camp in Scotland. Similar ceremonies were also held in 1953 and 1983.

The regimental colour is emblazoned with most of the regiment's First World War battle honours, including two that are unique.

British units that fought at the Battle of the Somme received the honour "Albert." But the battle honour awarded to the Newfoundland Regiment reads: "Albert (Beaumont Hamel)."

Princess Anne offered these words when explaining the variance: "That distinction honours the regiment's attack on July 1, 1916, when they gave the British Army and the world an example of courage and devotion to duty that may have been equalled, but has never been surpassed."

The Gallipoli honour is also unique in that the regiment was the only North American unit to participate.

Princess Anne said it was a privilege to present the new colours, and saluted those who serve under them.

"I know the men and women of today's regiment will honour the courage, sacrifice and devotion to Canada symbolized by these colours. I salute them and I wish them God's speed and a safe passage, wherever their service for their country and their regiment may take them," she said.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Queen's, Government House, British Army North American

Geographic location: St. John's, Scotland, Canada

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Rich
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    Good on ya lads. Would have loved to have been there. Lookin' good Mike. I'll see whoever makes it to Aldershot this summer. Better than the best.

  • Rich
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    Good on ya lads. Would have loved to have been there. Lookin' good Mike. I'll see whoever makes it to Aldershot this summer. Better than the best.