Making a pledge to remember
Bay Roberts woman reflects on trip to European battlefields
Remembrance Day is the official day honouring the sacrifices of thousands of soldiers since the Great War. I thought I knew what WE REMEMBER means, but it was only when I stood on the battlefields, watched poignant ceremonies, and saw the numerous cemeteries that I truly understood.
In June 2009, I travelled to Europe with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Association, who hosted a Canadians at War tour to commemorate the 65th anniversary of D-Day, 1944. This trip included visiting First World War and Second World War battlefields.
We travelled throughout France and Belgium. Repeatedly, we were told by the locals that “if it had not been for Canadians, the outcome would have been very different.”
The Queen’s Own Rifles conducted a ceremony at each site, and each ceremony would conclude with the reciting of the Act of Remembrance.
The trip, overall, was a very intense, emotional experience. The highlights for me were: Beaumont Hamel, Menin Gate, and Juno Beach.
Beaumont Hamel, France — here, the landscape has been left with the trenches still in place. The bronze caribou overlooks the tranquil spot that was once a place of such enormous tragedy. Young Newfoundlanders, who because they loved peace, left their homeland and did not return. We ran our fingers lovingly along names that we recognized on the monument. There were nine from Bay Roberts, plus a Jerrett relative from Brigus.
Menin Gate, in Ypres — a busy gateway that has names of 55,000 British Commonwealth soldiers recorded on its arches. They died in Belgium and have no known graves. Newfoundland names, including four from Bay Roberts, are listed. Every evening at 8 p.m. all traffic stops and the fire department parades to the Gate and plays the Last Post; the Act of Remembrance is cited and wreaths are placed by people from all over the world.