N.L. youth visit Beaumont Hamel

Steve
Steve Bartlett
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Kyle Hiscock of Deer Lake was a student speaker during a ceremony at Beaumont Hamel Sunday. Also pictured are St. Bon's principal Brian Hughes and Melissa Hunt of Eric G. Lambert school in Churchill Falls.

Beaumont Hamel, France - The last time so many young people from Newfoundland and Labrador walked over this ground, the majority were killed or wounded.

On Sunday, more than 400 of the province's youth participated in a ceremony at the Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, site of the July 1, 1916, battle that decimated the First Newfoundland Regiment.

Kyle Hiscock's great-grandfather was one of the roughly 800 soldiers who fought. So was his great-grandfather's brother. Both survived.

"I honestly can't imagine what they went through and what they must have saw. It shows true bravery," said the Grade 9 student at Xavier in Deer Lake.

The battle left more than 300 Newfoundland soldiers dead or missing, and 386 injured. Roughly 110 survived unscathed, with just 68 answering roll call the next morning.

Sunday's ceremony was organized by EF educational tours and attended by more than 500 students from across Canada.

A number of them, including Hiscock, spoke as did a number of VIPs, including Gov. Gen David Johnston and Veteran Affairs Minister Steven Blaney.

The men who fought here 95 years ago were honoured for their sacrifice, bravery and contributions.

Besides the speeches, there was a wreath-laying, a performance of "The Last Post," and an unreleased song by Hey Rosetta!

The event ended with "The Ode to Newfoundland."

Blaney told the students the caribou statue in front of them is a reminder of the price many proud sons of Newfoundland and Labrador paid.

He said the youth were embracing the challenge of remembering and carrying on the soldiers' courage.

"You make me proud to be Canadian by your presence here today, by your commitment through this journey of remembrance," Blaney said.

"Use your Blackberry, use your Twitter, use your Facebook to tell the story of those Newfoundlanders who sacrificed their life, and by your presence here today, you make them alive today and tomorrow."

By all accounts, the students were honoured to be in a place so significant in Newfoundland and Labrador's history.

Terri Furlong, a Level 2 student at Holy Heart, expected walking in the trenches and on the same ground as the Regiment would better her understanding of what they experienced.

Her classmate Daniel Escott seemed humbled by the sight of the Caribou Memorial.

"The level honour and respect you feel and pride as a Newfoundlander is unbelievable," he said.

Going to Beaumont Hamel was poignant for Thomas Fagan, a student at Frank Roberts Junior High in Conception Bay South. Three of his great-uncles are buried there. While on the site he was reminded it was where they took their last steps.

"It was pretty touching," he said.

The visit was to Beaumont Hamel was also meaningful to the teachers and parents in attendance.

Michael Gruchy teaches at Lakecrest in St. John's. He is a former Regiment reservist and his great-grandfather fought at Beaumont Hamel that day.

He said he hoped being at the site helped students make their own connections with the Regiment and what it endured.

"They just hear these stories in history class and they take notes on it. They regurgitate what they've learned and I think this, for me, was kind of an attempt them to it personally and to show this is where these men walked."

Steve Bartlett was in Beaumont Hamel as a guest of EF educational tours.

 

 

Organizations: Xavier

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, France, Conception Bay South St. John's

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  • Justin Young
    April 09, 2012 - 16:47

    I've made the trip to Beaumont Hamel twice so far and plan on going back again in the future. I have visited Vimy Ridge, Normandy and Dieppe, but nothing had as big an impact as when I stood before the caribou at Beaumont Hamel and felt the pride of the sacrifice that my fellow Newfoundlanders made. Lest we forget.

  • Harold
    April 09, 2012 - 14:03

    something like this should be made available to every Newfoundlander who wishes to make the journey. young and old alike, together, teaching each other as they both learn and help each other.