Canada Day also marks 100-year anniversary of battle at Beaumont-Hamel

3While the rest of Canada is celebrating July 1 with hot dogs and fire works, Newfoundlanders will be reflecting on the legacy of a defining moment in the First World War.
It’s been 100 years to the day since about 700 Newfoundlanders died or were wounded on the battlefield of Beaumont-Hamel in northern France.
The battle, which kicked off the Battle of the Somme, became a defining moment that touched the lives of every Newfoundlander, says Gerald Peddle, an archdeacon with the Anglican Church and retired brigadier general who has turned the battle of Beaumont-Hamel into somewhat of a passion project.
“Literally, every home and family in Newfoundland was touched by it, one way or another,” he said.
On Friday, Peddle is leading the memorial service at the Canadian War Museum to honour the battle’s anniversary. An ocean away, about 2,500 people — many Newfoundlanders — are gathering at the very sight of the battle.
Bill Hickey, a retired member of the 1st Battalion Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and one of the Canadian delegates sent by Veterans Affairs to commemorate the anniversaries of the Battles of Baumont-Hamel and the Somme in France and Belgium, said it’s something everybody should see at least once in a lifetime.
“It’s difficult to say, what you see here and how you feel and all this. It’s hard to explain, you almost have to be here yourself,” Hickey said.
“When you’re in these places, these cemeteries, these places of honour, you read the name and you go back in time.”
Peddle couldn’t agree more. He remembers stories his grandfather, who was one of the lucky to survive, told of the battle.
Although the First World War touched the lives of every Canadian, it was especially hard on the people of Newfoundland, who were amongst the first to fight oversees, Peddle says. The impact of Beaumont-Hamel is still so keenly felt that the province celebrates Memorial Day on July 1 alongside Canada Day.
But with each generation, Peddle says he’s worried its meaning might fade.
“Up until now it wasn’t a huge thing for me, it wasn’t something interesting at all,” said Rachel Moss, a 13-year-old from St. John’s Nfld.
That all changed when she started doing research on her family history for a school project, and discovered that her great-great-uncle Ethelbert Moss, was a prisoner of war during the First World War who eventually escaped his captors — only to find the war had ended. Moss’s project won her a spot as a Canadian delegate, and she says seeing the sites of the war and the places where her relative and her friends’ relatives are buried has been a powerful history lesson.
“We lost a lot of people over here and it’s really just a special place to come and visit and learn about what they did for us,” she said.
Moss is one of four Newfoundland youth sent as Canadian delegates.
Emily Park, 12, from Pasadena, Nfld. said the most surprising thing has been to stand in the place where history was made.
“You never get to see much stuff about the war in person, so I thought it would be a really neat experience,” Park said.
It was also her first time abroad, which has led to some culinary revelations as well.
“I nearly ate duck today thinking it was chicken — I didn’t, luckily,” she said.

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