CORNER BROOK — Warren Lushman finds it hard to put into words the feeling he had standing in the trenches at Beaumont-Hamel.
“To know that Newfoundlanders stood there before you, it’s really powerful and really kind of emotional,” said the 17-year-old Corner Brook teen.
Lushman and his family — parents Trudy and Gary and siblings Timothy, 11, and Diana, 9 — attended the July 1 ceremony at the Newfoundland memorial to soldiers who fought in the First World War. The trip was made possible by the Children’s Wish Foundation.
A history buff, Lushman’s wish was to see the place where more than 700 Newfoundlanders lost their lives during the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916.
“France overall was kind of overwhelming,” said Lushman, who added that during his first few days in Paris he estimates the family saw less than a quarter of the city.
On June 30 they travelled to Albert, which is just nine kilometres from Beaumont-Hamel. Here he felt a little more at home, describing the town as being about the size of Corner Brook. Lushman said while Albert did not seem totally consumed by the Battle of the Somme, it was evident that it had a lot to do with the town’s history.
On July 1, still groggy from jet lag, the family moved on to Beaumont-Hamel.
“When we got there it was amazing to actually see the people just getting ready for the ceremony,” he said.
And the best part was there was someone waiting at the entrance to take Lushman and his family around.
“I was a VIP guest for the ceremony,” he said with excitement. “For one, (it) made me feel kind of good and special and the second thing was I had a VIP tour around the whole facility. And I learned things that I didn’t know before.”
In taking the family around the memorial site the tour guide stopped at different areas showing them the trenches, including the St. John’s Road support trench, the frontlines where the barbed wire would be and the danger tree, a trunk skelton marking the spot where causalities were highest. They were also shown the graveyards for the Newfoundland, British and Scottish soldiers.
Lushman said the most powerful thing the guide told them about was the caribous. A bronze caribou at the memorial faces towards the battlefield, others placed around the world all point in the direction of the one at Beaumont-Hamel.
“So Beaumont is really the centre of Newfoundland military history,” he said. “And that caribou at Beaumont points towards where their goal was to get to.”
Following the visit to Beaumont-Hamel the family travelled to Arras and Vimy Ridge. There Lushman was treated to another VIP tour and got to walk in the concrete trenches and underground tunnels.
“It was good to go through the trenches. It felt good to know where the Canadians were and how far they were away from the German lines.”
Lushman said the tunnel marked the spot where the Canadians stood before they were told to go over the top.
The last few days of the trip was spent in Paris where the family got to see the Eiffel Tower.
“But it didn’t really amount to Monday and Tuesday when I was at Beaumont,” he said.
Lushman said the trip was a great experience for the whole family. He said everyone learned something and he’s especially pleased to now hear his dad talk about the trip and what he saw.
“I feel pretty good that I brought him there to know about Newfoundland history and what happened.”
Lushman wants to study history in university and is already planning on making many study trips. Next up he’d like to go to Italy, and he’s especially grateful to the Children’s Wish Foundation for making his first history-themed trip possible.
“My wish wouldn’t have came true if it were not for the Wish Foundation.”
The Western Star/TC Media