Wind, rain and remembrance

Terry Roberts
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Royal Visit

Pinching their hoods together tightly at the neck and teetering slightly in the wind, the five determined women stood without complaint for more than an hour Saturday morning in order to witness a special remembrance ceremony and stand in the presence of royalty.

They were among the few private citizens who attended Anzac Day ceremonies at the Camp Pleasantville Memorial, and the sparse public turnout may have been because of the weather. The temperature was around freezing, there was light wind and snow and the winds coming in over the White Hills continually buffetted the soldiers of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and special guests in the ceremony.

From left, Jessie Young, Joan Tripp, Gertrude Andrews, Augusta Ford and Joan Basic walk across the field at Camp Pleasantville Saturday morning following Anzac Day ceremonies. They were among the few private citizens who attended the event. - Photo by Ter

Pinching their hoods together tightly at the neck and teetering slightly in the wind, the five determined women stood without complaint for more than an hour Saturday morning in order to witness a special remembrance ceremony and stand in the presence of royalty.

They were among the few private citizens who attended Anzac Day ceremonies at the Camp Pleasantville Memorial, and the sparse public turnout may have been because of the weather. The temperature was around freezing, there was light wind and snow and the winds coming in over the White Hills continually buffetted the soldiers of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and special guests in the ceremony.

But these ladies stood their ground, proud to be witnessing such a solemn event, and delighted to be within 30 feet of Princess Anne, the Princess Royal.

"I'm proud to be standing here and watching her and the whole ceremony and all that it means to Newfoundlanders that she was here," said Gertrude Andrews of St. John's. Standing with Andrews was her sister, Joan Basic, who was visiting from British Columbia, sisters Augusta Ford and Joan Tripp, and Jessie Young.

After the ceremony, they explained why they chose to endure such inclement weather in order to attend the event.

"A ceremony like this brings it all into focus what these men and women have been doing, and all the Canadian Forces these days," Joan Basic said.

Added Jessie Young: "I'm a follower of the Royal Family and I'm very honoured to be here."

Anzac Day commemorates the First World War Battle at Gallipoli, on Turkey's Dardanelle Peninsula. Anzac is an acronym for the Australian New Zealand Army Corps, but soldiers from Britain and France also took part in the costly battle, which ended in stalemate.

The Royal Newfoundland Regiment was the only North American unit to take part in the battle, with more than 1,000 soldiers from the unit seeing action in late 1915.

Saturday's ceremony was held on the same field where members of the regiment camped and trained prior to leaving for Europe nearly a century ago. Augusta Ford's uncle, Ben Stead, was among the young soldiers who honed their war-fighting skills at Camp Pleasantville. Stead survived the war.

"I often came here with my late mother, and she told me stories about my uncle's days in the war and how he had trained," Tripp said.

Young's father, Arthur Heale, also trained at the camp. Heale was one of fewer than 70 soldiers from the regiment who answered the roll call on July 2, 1916, the day after the regiment was decimated at Beaumont Hamel. Her uncle, Robert Heale, died in the battle.

"I'm very strongly attached to the First World War and the regiment," said Young.

Following the ceremony, Princess Anne spent more than an hour meeting one-on-one with modern day members of the regiment at Branch 56 of the Royal Canadian Legion. She is the regiment's colonel-in-chief, and her visit coincides with the regiment's 215th anniversary. She also presented new colours to the regiment during a ceremony at Mile One Stadium on Saturday.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Canadian Forces, Australian New Zealand Army Corps, North American Royal Canadian Legion

Geographic location: White Hills, St. John's, British Columbia Dardanelle Britain France Europe

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