Bay Roberts shows off its First World War con­nec­tions

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

The Royal Cana­dian Legion in Bay Roberts was a hive of ac­tiv­ity this af­ter­noon (April 22) as res­i­dents from around the Trin­ity-Con­cep­tion- Pla­cen­tia re­gion brought in pieces of his­tory from the First World War.

There were pic­tures, medals, manuscripts and even a full uni­form, which was found in a home pur­chased by Har­bour Grace’s John Ab­bott.

Wait­ing for these prized pieces of New­found­land his­tory was Kerri But­ton, a cu­ra­tor at the Rooms in St. John’s. She and her team met with those who brought in the pieces, doc­u­ment­ing, cat­a­logu­ing the ma­te­ri­als and hear­ing their sto­ries. But, why was this hap­pen­ing? It was a part of the first-ever First World War Road Show and Tell. The show and tell is a trav­el­ling show­case of this prov­ince’s con­nec­tion to the Great War.

“We are here to learn the sto­ries New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans have of the First World War and its im­pact on New­found­land and Labrador,” said But­ton.

David Dawe was one of the res­i­dents who brought in a cou­ple of pieces to be ex­am­ined and cat­a­logued.

A his­tory teacher at Holy Redeemer El­e­men­tary in Spa­niard’s Bay, David had But­ton look at two pic­tures of his grand­fa­ther, Cpl. Frank Gil­bert Dawe.

One was a pic­ture of Frank in his uni­form, while the other was one and the rest of his pla­toon who trained on the famed Lewis Gun. “This is ab­so­lutely great,” said David. Be­ing an his­to­rian, David feels the First World War is a part of this prov­ince’s iden­tity.

“I think this is nec­es­sary,” he said. “The New­found­land ex­pe­ri­ence in the First World War is some­thing … that de­fines New­found­land. It keeps us sep­a­rate from the rest of Canada.

“We were a do­min­ion of our own. We sent our own men over, we weren’t a part of the Cana­dian con­tin­gent … it’s a part of how we are, and a great sense of pride.”

David’s grand­fa­ther spoke freely with his grand­son of his ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing the war. Frank was at one point sta­tioned in Gal­lipoli as a mem­ber of D Com­pany. Later he was moved to the western front and the Bat­tle of the Somme in March of 1916.

Ex­cited to be a part of the “big push,” Frank would be wounded two weeks be­fore the Bat­tle of Beau­mont Hamel.

David’s fam­ily has letters sent home by Frank while re­cov­er­ing at Wandsworth Hospi­tal in Lon­don, Eng­land ex­press­ing his dis­ap­point­ment at be­ing in­jured.

“Lit­tle did he know how lucky he was not to be in the big push,” said David.

A year later, Frank would spend the next 17 months as a pris­oner of war af­ter be­ing cap­tured by en­emy forces at Monchy-le-Preux dur­ing the Bat­tle of Ar­ras.

One thing that al­ways stuck out to Frank long af­ter the war was over was how dirty he was. “He was dirty and lousy for four years.” July 1 will make the 100 year an­niver­sary of the start of the First World War. It is for this rea­son The Rooms is un­der­tak­ing the task of trav­el­ling the prov­ince in search of fam­ily sto­ries.

“Fam­i­lies have the most amaz­ing sto­ries to tell,” said But­ton. “They’ve pre­served the mem­o­ries of loved ones, they’ve kept those mem­o­ries alive and they’re proud of those who served so it’s been an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence so far.”

The com­mu­nity out­reach project is a first step in bring­ing to­gether a new per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tion about the First World War, to open on July 1, 2016, the 100th an­niver­sary of the Bat­tle of Beau­mont Hamel.

But­ton is un­sure of what she will find when the tour continues next month in Grand Bank, but if it is any­thing like Bay Roberts, she is sure to be im­pressed.

“If to­day is any in­di­ca­tion, it’s just go­ing to be amaz­ing,” she said.

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/The Com­pass

Bay Roberts res­i­dent David Dawe is shown here with a pic­ture of his grand­fa­ther, Cpl. Frank Gil­bert Dawe and his Lewis Gun pla­toon from the First World War.

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/The Com­pass

Kayla Burry (front) and Lori Tem­ple were busy scan­ning and cat­a­logu­ing pieces of paper his­tory from the First World War.

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