A Brazil at ar­magge­don

Spa­niard’s Bay res­i­dent re­lives work­ing on New­found­land at Ar­maged­don project

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

It was in a fox­hole dug at the fir­ing range in Makin­sons that Ste­wart Brazil felt the clos­est to his great grand­fa­ther Cpl. Matthew Brazil.

Clad in the familiar uni­form of the Royal New­found­land Reg­i­ment, the Spa­niard’s Bay res­i­dent was tak­ing part in the New­found­land at Ar­maged­don project. A film aimed at the story of the Reg­i­ment on July 1, 1916, which is an in­fa­mous day in the his­tory of this prov­ince.

Ste­wart was se­lected be­cause of his con­nec­tion to the Battle of the Somme and the Reg­i­ment in gen­eral. Just as Cpl. Brazil ex­pe­ri­enced, so did Ste­wart.

With mud and grime on his face, Ste­wart pushed him­self over the top of the trenches, ri­fle in hand, and plunged head­long into battle head­ing to­wards the Dan­ger Tree.

Ex­plo­sions were go­ing off and blank ammunition was fired, but still, Ste­wart and his great grand­fa­ther learned the same thing.

“I feel like I can connect with him a bit more,” he said. “It was emo­tional.”

Brazil never met his great grand­fa­ther. He had only heard sto­ries told by his fa­ther Damien and seen pic­tures.

Sto­ries of Cpl. Brazil be­ing shot four times, experiencing frost­bite at The Front, be­ing gassed and scalded at var­i­ous bat­tles as a mem­ber of the New­found­land Reg­i­ment dur­ing the First World War.

Be­ing in­volved with the project didn’t sub­ject him to those ex­act ex­pe­ri­ences, but Ste­wart can look at the pic­ture of Cpl. Brazil and know he has an un­der­stand­ing of what life was like on the front­lines.

“They nailed you with the specifics,” he said. “I had a good un­der­stand­ing of it, but I know so much more now.”

Cpl. Brazil en­listed when he was 21. A miner who worked on Bell Is­land, he fought in Gal­lipoli, Egypt, the afore­men­tioned Beau­mont Hamel and Gueude­court.

“It was in Gal­lipoli when he got frost­bite and he was shot in the wrist, I be­lieve,” said Ste­wart. “At Beau­mont Hamel, he was shot in the shoul­der and spent an en­tire day in a shell hole where he hauled his first cousin off No Man’s Land.”

A new ex­pe­ri­ence

The whole or­deal was a new ex­pe­ri­ence for Ste­wart. Prior to this he had no form of in­volve­ment with act­ing or mil­i­tary prac­tice.

He learned it all on the fly when he got fit­ted for his uni­form two weeks ago. Then he was thrust into a world with con­stant cam­eras and a tight sched­ule.

“There were cam­eras there the whole time,” said Ste­wart. “Ev­ery­thing was a new ex­pe­ri­ence for me. It was awe­some.

“It was as real as you could get.”

Per­haps the most cher­ished mem­ory from the ex­pe­ri­ence came with a night shoot set two days be­fore Beau­mont Hamel.

“It was so re­al­is­tic,” said Ste­wart.

There were also bar scenes at the nearby Sil­ver­wood Ho­tel at the Birch Hills that stand out to him.

“It rep­re­sented the fi­nal night be­fore the Reg­i­ment shipped out,” said Ste­wart.

Brazil was joined by Bay Roberts’ David Atkin­son on the project.

Keep­ing the cos­tume

Each per­son in­volved in the project was garbed in au­then­tic uni­forms of the times. Ste­wart re­ceived his Reg­i­ment uni­form on the first day of reg­is­tra­tion.

“It took 40 min­utes to get on the first time,” said Brazil.

Then he spent the en­tire shoot in it. The con­nec­tion he felt with his great grand­fa­ther and the uni­form it­self pushed him to pur­chase the uni­form.

Rest­ing in a front room of his fam­i­lies’ Spa­niard’s Bay home, Ste­wart has the hel­met, ranks and gear to con­tinue to act out reen­act­ments if called upon.

He also plans on wear­ing it dur­ing July 1 cel­e­bra­tions.

“It was emo­tional,” said Ste­wart. “There were times I was just stuck in the mo­ment.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Spa­niard’s Bay’s Ste­wart Brazil (left) is shown here with other ac­tors dur­ing the film­ing of New­found­land at Ar­maged­don.

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