A somber re­flec­tion

Large crowds remember on 100th an­niver­sary of Beau­mont-Hamel bat­tle

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER AND AN­DREW ROBIN­SON TC ME­DIA JUS­TICE

Ex­actly 100 years ear­lier and off across a vast ocean in France, hun­dreds of young men from this prov­ince joined Al­lied Forces in a First World War at­tack that proved to be dev­as­tat­ing.

On July 1, 1916, the first day of the Bat­tle of the Somme, mem­bers of the New­found­land Reg­i­ment were in trenches near the vil­lage of Beau­mont Hamel, with the task at hand be­ing to seize con­trol of Ger­man trenches.

The loss in gen­eral that the (Royal New­found­land) Reg­i­ment suf­fered makes to­day im­por­tant. Robin Mor­gan

The ad­vance that morn­ing was fu­tile. Most of the sol­diers who left their trenches were killed or wounded by Ger­man cross-fire be­fore they could reach the area be­tween the two sides known as No Man’s Land.

Those who did man­age to reach Ger­man trenches dis­cov­ered the week-long ar­tillery bar­rage failed to cut Ger­man barbed wire. They ma­jor­ity of those sol­diers were killed.

The ca­su­al­ties that morn­ing were im­mense. A mere 69 sol­diers an­swered roll call fol­low- ing the at­tack. A stag­ger­ing 324 were killed or miss­ing and pre­sumed dead (over two-dozen hailed from the Trin­ity-Con­cep­tion-Pla­cen­tia area). A fur­ther 386 were wounded. Al­most 20,000 Bri­tish troops died that same morn­ing.

The re­al­i­ties of war were on the minds of many who at­tended Memo­rial Day cer­e­monies in New­found­land and Labrador, in­clud­ing hun­dreds who showed up in Bay Roberts, Car­bon­ear and Har­bour Grace.

Fam­ily mem­bers of vet­er­ans left wreaths to hon­our their loved ones. One of those peo­ple was Robin Mor­gan from Con­cep­tion Bay South. Hold­ing a picture of a young man in uni­form, he was there to pay trib­ute to his great-great un­cle Wil­liam Mor­gan of Port de Grave.

Wil­liam was 16 when he lost his life in the open­ing mo­ments of the Bat­tle of the Somme at Beau­mont Hamel. He was the first 16-year-old to be killed in the bat­tle.

“The loss in gen­eral that the (Royal New­found­land) Reg­i­ment suf­fered makes to­day im­por­tant,” said Robin. “Not only the Reg­i­ment, but the peo­ple back home and what they had to bear.”

Jesse Chislette of Cavendish was one of the lucky ones. He made it out of the war alive. The pri­vate was wounded dur­ing a later mis­sion in the Bat­tle of the Somme and sent to a sana­to­rium in Eng­land.

His grand­son Roy and great-great grand­son Kyle Hamil­ton of Car­bon­ear were both present for Fri­day’s cer­e­mony in Car­bon­ear. Hamil­ton wore a replica of a New­found­land Reg­i­ment uni­form and stood next to the ceno­taph as wreaths were laid. He was also wear­ing Jesse’s medals from the war (his uni­form did not come home with him).

Roy re­calls his grand­fa­ther say­ing very lit­tle about the war ex­pe­ri­ence, other than men­tion­ing there were times when Chislette sur­vived on rats. Roy has held on to those medals over the years.

In Bay Roberts, Mayor Philip Wood ad­dressed the in­cred­i­ble im­pact the events at Beau­mont Hamel had on peo­ple back home.

“While the rest of Canada celebrates Canada Day, New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans have al­ways taken the chance to remember the losses and sac­ri­fices felt by vir­tu­ally ev­ery house­hold in the prov­ince at that time,” said Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood.

“Even though it is 100 years later, the pain and the sting is still very fresh in our minds to­day.”

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/TC ME­DIA

Kyle Hamil­ton, left, and his grand­fa­ther Roy. Kyle’s replica of a New­found­land Reg­i­ment uni­form from the First World War in­cludes ac­tual medals earned by his great-great grand­fa­ther, Jesse Chislette. Chistlette, who was from Cavendish, served with the reg­i­ment dur­ing the war.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/TC ME­DIA

Bu­gler Brett Pil­grim per­forms “The Last Post” be­side the ceno­taph in Car­bon­ear.

NI­CHOLAS MERCER/TC ME­DIA

Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood de­liv­ers a speech dur­ing the cer­e­mony in Bay Roberts. Wood is also a mem­ber of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 32.

NI­CHOLAS MERCER/TC ME­DIA

Avalon MP Ken McDon­ald is joined by RCMP of­fi­cer Shel­don Dyke in lay­ing a wreath to hon­our the fallen at the ceno­taph in Bay Roberts.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/TC ME­DIA

The 32 Beothic Royal Canadian Sea Cadets band plays some tunes as they march along Har­vey Street in Har­bour Grace.

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