A Brazil at armaggedon
Spaniard’s Bay resident relives working on Newfoundland at Armageddon project
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.”
Spaniard’s Bay’s Stewart Brazil (left) is shown here with other actors during the filming of Newfoundland at Armageddon.