Heroes honoured

Colin MacLean
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96th anniversary of Beaumont-Hamel remembered

Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie lays a wreath during Sunday's Memorial Day ceremony at the National War Memorial in St. John's.

It was a hot and muggy day Sunday to be standing on the steps of the National War Memorial in St. John's.

But for those in attendance, it was a small price to pay to show their respect for the men who died at Beaumont-Hamel and the battle of the Somme.

Sunday marked the 96th anniversary of the disastrous assault on Beaumont-Hamel by the Royal Newfoundland Regiment infantry unit.

Of the 780 men who walked onto the field that day, only 68 were available for roll call the next.

The day unfolded with solemn pomp, pageantry, laying of wreaths and moments of silence.

Everyone came for their own reasons -some because it's just what they've always done July 1.

Others were there for a purpose.

Norman and Ajzel Jones laid a wreath for their service club, The Independent Order of Oddfellows and Rebekahs.

The organization has been represented at the ceremony for more than 30 years.

Sunday was a great day to continue that tradition, said Norman.

"It's a beautiful thing. I love coming here and watching the people that come and represent the different organizations. The fact that it's in remembrance of all those who paid the sacrifice over the years," he said.

But the warm summer conditions Sunday led to some drawbacks - especially for the dozens of uniformed service personnel who had to stand at attention off and on for two hours.

At several points during the ceremony people in uniform had to be escorted to shade to recover for a few minutes. Volunteers walked around handing out bottles of water, but it was apparently not enough.

One man was carried away in a stretcher by paramedics, though he was smiling and joking with his comrades as he was wheeled out of the ceremony.

Thankfully for everybody, the heat was interspersed by a gentle breeze.

Vicki Luscombe managed to find a seat that was not oppressively hot.

She's been coming to Memorial Day ceremonies every year since she was a little girl.

The military seems to run in Luscombe's family.

Her dad was in the navy during the First World War.

When the Second World War broke out, she joined the army; her brother was already in the navy. She met her husband when they both ended up on the same boat coming back from the war.

She had planned on skipping Sunday's memorial, but her 92-year-old brother, Tom Goodyear, convinced her otherwise.

At first he said he wasn't going, but changed his tune as she was walking out his door Saturday evening, she said.

"I got up this morning to make dinner and he phoned. He said, 'When are you coming for me, I've been up and dressed since 3 a.m.,' she laughed. "I couldn't say no."

It was a great day, she added, worth skipping dinner.

"I think it was lovely. I'm so delighted that so many people showed up. And the weather co-operated. I'm some glad I didn't cook my dinner," she said.

cmaclean@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelegramMacLean

Organizations: Rebekahs.The organization

Geographic location: Beaumont-Hamel, St. John's, Luscombe

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  • David Moore
    July 03, 2012 - 11:02

    It was a privelage and a great honour to be the Parade Commander for Sunday's parade. I have a deep respect and love for the R NFLD R and as the son of a vetern of two wars, I feel it is incumbent on me to participate in Memorial Day and Rembrance Day in any way possible, including as a spectator. As Newfoundlanders, we are among the proudest of our Veterans which makes me so proud to have been born in this beautiful place. David A. Moore, CD.

  • Peggy
    July 03, 2012 - 07:24

    It is wonderful that NL are continuing to honour our soldiers of Beaumont-Hamel; it brings tears to my eyes, and great respect, pride, and gratitude.. On another note, though, how I wish something could be done to keep the War Memorial just that....a place of respect and honour. But some of our younger generation has seen fit to take it over as a skateboard area and hang-out. Can you just imagine what's going through the minds of our senior veterans, present military, and even citizens and tourists when they see such activities? This is disgraceful.