Medals make it home

Steve
Steve Bartlett
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Placentia Legion, town commemorate soldiers

Ninety-five years after he died in battle, Martin Kent’s First World War medals are home.

A memorial parade and ceremony was held in Placentia Sunday to commemorate 33 men from the town who died in the Great War and to repatriate Lance-Cpl. Kent’s service medals.

Ian Walsh, president of the town’s Royal Canadian Legion branch, was on the committee that helped organize Sunday’s events.

He said it was all about recognizing fallen soldiers from the community.

“At the bottom of our correspondence — and it’s been our theme since Day 1 — is, ‘We will remember them.’ I guess that’s more or less what we’re doing. Some of these guys were long forgotten.”

Born in Harbour Grace, Kent grew up in Placentia, where his father served as head constable with Newfoundland Constabulary for a quarter of a century.

The young soldier died in October 1916 during the Battle of Gueudecourt.

His medals — three campaign medals and a Memorial (Silver) Cross, for mothers of men who died — were kept in the personal archives of Jerry O’Grady, Kent’s nephew and a retired chief warrant officer with the Regiment.

When O’Grady passed, the family wanted the medals brought back to Placentia.

Craig Power, O’Grady’s nephew and Kent’s great-nephew, formed a repatriation committee with Walsh and Gary Browne, who has written one book about the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and co-authored another.

See MEMORIAL, page A2

Memorial dedicated to 33 local soldiers … Continued from page A1

They decided to not only repatriate the medals, but to also commemorate the soldiers from the Placentia area who never returned from the First World War.

The town erected a memorial to the 33 of them — including Kent — in 1920.

That monument was a focal point of Sunday’s parade and ceremonies.

Numerous military, paramilitary and community organizations took part. So did a number of dignitaries, including Premier Kathy Dunderdale.

“At the bottom of our correspondence — and it’s been our theme since Day 1 — is, ‘We will remember them.’ I guess that’s more or less what we’re doing. Some of these guys were long forgotten.” Ian Walsh

Browne said there is a tremendous significance in holding such ceremonies.

It’s important, he elaborated, to remember the sacrifices of the soldiers and their loved ones, especially their mothers.

Most were young when they left and none of them returned, he stressed.

“We’re not worth our salt if we don’t remember them, because we can go today and we can vote and we can protest. We can do all of these things, but I think it all goes back to these men, men and women, who fought for us in our services,” Browne said.

He added it has been suggested to him that, with the 100th anniversary of the First World War approaching, Sunday’s ceremony could become a template for communities across the province and country.

sbartlett@thetelegram.com

Twitter: bartlett_steve

Organizations: Royal Canadian Legion

Geographic location: Placentia

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