Newfoundlanders appreciated for wartime role
Legion members, politicians, school children, and then members of the public can lay a wreath. A class of children from England placed one while we were in attendance. I was honoured and touched to see our Legion members Ross Petten, the brothers Philip and Fred Wood, and accompanied by Eric Jerrett, CM. place a wreath during that very special service. It was an unforgettable moment.
Juno Beach, France — a section of the beach, Bernières-sur-Mer, is where Canadians liberated the first house in Normandy. The Queen’s Own Rifles unit is credited with the success of the liberation. Overall, on June 6, 359 Canadians died, 1,074 were wounded and 47 taken prisoner. It was here in front of the house at Bernières-sur-Mer that tribute was paid to the Queen’s Own Rifles, and also to those lost at sea.
The tribute consisted of a very touching evening ceremony called “Passing the Torch.” Led by town officials with participation from the school’s youth, the event stirred the hearts of hundreds of visitors. Even though we stood in pouring rain, we were oblivious to the dampness, and the showers did not affect the enthusiasm of the students. They recited from poems they had composed, read passages from the essays they had written, and sang songs that paid homage to the fallen and gave thanks to their country’s liberators.
Following the formal part of the ceremony, the school children carrying lanterns formed a procession that led down to the seaside. At water’s edge they placed in the sand small white crosses that they had made themselves. Intently, they were accepting the torch of faith from the long-gone fallen soldiers.
Next it was our turn to take part in the ceremony. Each person was given a single flower to cast into the ocean. I, coincidentally, was given a carnation with three stems. The lady passing it to me said, “Oh, that’s OK, you are special.” As I headed down to the water, tears filled my eyes for I knew why I had been given the three-stemmed carnation.
All during the ceremony I had been thinking about the members of the navy and marines from Bay Roberts who, during the war, had been lost at sea. As I stood by the seaside, the three names I had been remembering that evening flashed before me. I separated the stem into its three parts, then threw each part into the water citing the names: Sud, Don and Bill. Sutherland Snow, Donald Snow, and William Baggs had been childhood friends and neighbours and then had been united again in death during the Second World War in an ocean far from home.
In reflection, as I gazed over the vast expanse of sea in the pouring rain, I became more aware of the dangers that all these patriotic men from other lands faced in the name of freedom. As I was leaving that very solemn spot, I knew that I would never be the same. I cherish and value this gift of life and this wonderful place. I made a pledge that I will “REMEMBER the sacrifices made by men and women in a faraway land, sacrifices made in the cause of peace.”
Let us not forget. Betty Jerrett writes from