Great War myth

The Western Star - - Front Page - BY DIANE CROCKER [email protected]­ern­star.com Twit­ter: WS_DianeCrock­er

Bon­nie White has stud­ied the First World War ex­ten­sively, but yet it still presents to her as an unan­swered ques­tion. The ad­junct pro­fes­sor of his­tor­i­cal stud­ies at Gren­fell Cam­pus, Memo­rial Univer­sity of New­found­land in Cor­ner Brook said it’s a com­pli­cated war.

Bon­nie White has stud­ied the First World War ex­ten­sively, but yet it still presents to her as an unan­swered ques­tion.

The ad­junct pro­fes­sor of his­tor­i­cal stud­ies at Gren­fell Cam­pus, Memo­rial Univer­sity of New­found­land in Cor­ner Brook said it’s a com­pli­cated war.

“It’s not any­thing like the Se­cond World War where we knew who the bad guys were, we knew what the ob­jec­tive was.”

Whether it was Canada or Bri­tain it was a war where one won­dered the mo­tive and the pos­si­ble out­come, she said.

“What does this war mean, I think, is just a ques­tion that we can’t an­swer.”

Still she keeps try­ing and a few years ago she started to in­cor­po­rate New­found­land into her Great War stud­ies.

Last year while at a con­fer­ence in Lon­don she met the or­ga­niz­ers of this year’s “The First World War and the Amer­i­cas: from the Arc­tic Cir­cle to Tierra del Fuego” con­fer­ence.

They were in the early stages of plan­ning and talk­ing about how to in­clude South Amer­ica, the United States and Canada in the con­fer­ence that was be­ing planned as part of The Na­tional Archives in the United King­dom’s First World War Cen­te­nary pro­gram.

There was no men­tion of New­found­land, so White sug­gested it should be in­cluded. The plan was to in­clude it with Canada, but White pointed out New­found­land wasn’t a part of Canada then.

After some thought she was asked if she’d be in­ter­ested in help­ing them plan how to make New­found­land a part of the con­fer­ence and par­tic­i­pate in the event.

While 1916 was big year for New­found­land with the July 1 bat­tle of Beau­mont-Hamel, White said the com­mem­o­ra­tive process didn’t start till 1917.

“That re­ally is the start of New­found­land’s Great War myth,” she said.

On July 1 she pre­sented a talk ti­tled ‘‘Sor­row, Grat­i­tude, and Pride: New­found­land’s Cul­tural Mem­ory of the Great War” at the con­fer­ence at the archives in Kew, Eng­land.

By myth, White doesn’t mean a false­hood or un­truth.

“I mean an en­dur­ing cul­tural mem­ory that is both true and that’s had some parts added.”

She fo­cused on what was the myth and why it was nec­es­sary. Was it just about Beau­mon­tHamel or did the home front en­ter into it?

She said Gal­lipoli and Beau­mont-Hamel helped cre­ate the idea of the fight­ing New­found­lan­ders, and then to that add the women and the com­mu­ni­ties at home.

“The bat­tle­front and home front be­came so con­flated that the fight­ing New­found­lan­ders ap­plied as much to war­front as it did the home front.”

She said no mat­ter if it was a big cen­tre or a small out­port, the sac­ri­fices that women and com­mu­ni­ties at home made were so great that the will to en­dure, the abil­ity to sur­vive and the abil­ity to sup­port the war ef­fort on a such a tiny is­land of 242,000 was as im­por­tant as those con­tri­bu­tions in France or at Gal­lipoli.

White

White

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