At home with a war hero’s son

Mike Brazil speaks about his fa­ther’s legacy; shares mem­o­ries

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY BUR­TON K. JANES

It’s 1960 and Mike Brazil of Spa­niard’s Bay is teach­ing school at Cor­ner Brook. A man by the name of Ber­tram But­ler seeks him out and, even be­fore they ex­change in­tro­duc­tions, he ex­claims, “Matt Brazil’s son. Sir, your fa­ther was the bravest sol­dier in my reg­i­ment. He should have won the Vic­to­ria Cross.”

But­ler was Matthew Brazil’s mil­i­tary cap­tain in the Royal New­found­fland Reg­i­ment in the First World War.

At that mo­ment, young Brazil re­al­izes the quiet de­bate about whether his late fa­ther should have been awarded the high­est mil­i­tary dec­o­ra­tion for val­our avail­able in the Bri­tish Com­mon­wealth is over, at least as far as he’s con­cerned.

Fast for­ward to 1983: the French con­sul gen­eral vis­its Spa­niard’s Bay to present Matthew Brazil’s widow, Agnes, with the Croix de Guerre, be­stow­ing that coun­try’s high­est award for brav­ery on a sol­dier who dis­tin­guished him­self in battle dur­ing the First World War.

“ Jus­tice was done,” says Mike Brazil.

A boy’s hero

Matthew Brazil was al­ready a hero in his son’s eyes, “awe­some” and “ won­der- ful” be­ing the words Mike uses to de­scribe him.

“ There was no fear among us when my fa­ther was in our midst,” he ad­mits.

Matthew was also easy go­ing, ev­i­denced by his love of “ jan­ny­ing,” the prac­tice of vis­it­ing houses dis­guised as mum­mers at Christ­mas.

“He would pull tricks on my mother and other peo­ple around his age in a lot of places,” Mike re­calls.

The se­nior man was also ath­let­i­cally and recre­ation­ally minded, play­ing soc­cer, swim­ming and skat­ing with his chil­dren.

At Beau­mont Hamel, he was wounded in his left leg and face. A bomb at­tack left him with a scalded right hand and a bul­let wound to his right wrist. At Boulogne, he was gassed sev­eral times.

Still, he re­mained in ac­tion un­til the war ended.

Af­ter the war, Brazil lived on the edge of Brazil’s Pond, a favourite swim­ming hole in the fam­ily’s gar­den at Spa­niard’s Bay.

“I can re­mem­ber Mr. Brazil com­ing out and watch­ing us swim­ming in the sum­mer and play­ing hockey in the win­ter,” Tit­ford says. “He ap­peared very friendly.”

Brazil’s son, Michael, was in­stru­men­tal in hav­ing the Croix de Guerre awarded to his late fa­ther by the French gov­ern­ment.

There’s long been a quiet de­bate in many cir­cles about whether Brazil should also have been awarded the Vic­to­ria Cross, which is the high­est mil­i­tary dec­o­ra­tion avail­able in the Bri­tish Com­mon­wealth.

Chip­man is of the opin­ion the Croix de Guerre “doesn’t match the Vic­to­ria Cross, but it sort of com­pen-

sates for it.”

Never joined the Le­gion

One won­ders how Brazil him­self would have re­acted to the hon­our.

“I think he would have been — not re­luc­tant al­to­gether — but rather sheep­ish about it,” Chip­man sug­gests. “He just did what he had to do for his coun­try.”

In­deed, Brazil was never a Le­gion mem­ber, but that’s hardly rea­son enough to over­look the ac­com­plish­ments of ar­guably the most dis­tin­guished vet­eran from this re­gion.

“ The fact that we call this the Matthew Brazil branch dis­tin­guishes us from many other branches,” Chip­man says.

Brazil’s medals, in­clud­ing the Croix de Guerre, along with his ri­fle, are on dis­play in the lounge of Branch No. 9.

Tit­ford feels a keen sense of pride in “en­sur­ing that … the peo­ple of Spa­niard’s Bay and the Le­gion mem­bers rec­og­nize the war ef­forts of one of our own.”

It’s a way of “see­ing that the youth of our day are given the op­por­tu­nity to learn some of (our) past his­tory, the sac­ri­fices and heroic things done by our own sons.”

He re­calls to mind the “many sto­ries of these gentle­men who, at a very ten­der age, went over­seas as boys, but re­turned as men.”

Those were the ones, Tit­ford adds, who “sac­ri­ficed their youth for our lives to­day.”

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