Parsons at Piper’s Memorial, Longueval, France.
This memorial was unveiled July 20, 2002, and dedicated
to all pipers who fell during the First World War. Longueval
was the scene of very heavy fighting by the 9th (Scottish)
Division during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.
By Dr. Ean Parsons
There are many memorials to those who served and died for
their country while in the military. The most significant
one in Newfoundland is Memorial University of Newfoundland
itself, established after World War One to commemorate the
sacrifice that was the horror of the Great War.
There are memorials to the fallen in many Newfoundland communities,
but the best known are the Caribou Memorials developed through
the efforts of the Newfoundland Regiment’s padre Father
Thomas Nangle. These memorials – four in France, one
in Belgium and the final one in Bowring Park – are a
testament to Newfoundlanders whose final resting place was
the battlefields of France. The Caribous were designed by
a British sculpture, Basil Gotto and the grounds around the
Memorials were developed by Rudolph Cochius, a Dutchman who
helped developed Bowring Park.
The City of St. John’s Pipe Band, now in its 31st year,
made a pilgrimage in May to visit and play at the five memorials
in Europe as well as at Vimy Ridge, the Menin Gate, a British
memorial and a special memorial to Great War Pipers, whose
casualty rate was very high as they led the charge over the
top of the trenches.
The band at present consists of 19 members: 10 pipers, five
side drummers, three tenor drummers and a bass drummer. I
am the Pipe Major and an associate professor of Family Medicine;
Dr. Dennis Hanlon is the Drum Sergeant and an assistant professor
in the Faculty of Business. Thirteen of the band members either
teach at MUN, are alumni, or are students at the university.
|The band marched
down the cobblestone streets of this rebuilt medieval
community, under the arch of the memorial and following
the playing of the last post by the Ieper Firemen, the
Lament was played as well as Amazing Grace, while wreaths
were laid. A huge crowd watched in silence.
With a great deal of planning, connections were
made with the help of my father, Dr. David Parsons, a local
Great War historian, with the communities where the Caribous
are located: Monchy-le-Preux, Gueudecourt, Masnieres, Beaumont
Hamel and Kortrijk. These communities, all part of the Western
Front, follow the progress of the Newfoundland Regiment from
July 1, 1916 onward. A local French Pipe Band, the Somme Battlefield
Band, a group that wears the uniforms of the Scottish Regiments
that were on the Western Front, and the Red Rose of Lochbuie
Pipe Band from the Netherlands, whose members wear the same
tartan kilt – Maclean of Lochbuie – as the City
of St. John’s Pipe Band, both played concerts with the
Newfoundland Band. Through Arlene King, Veterans Affairs Canada’s
representative in Beaumont Hamel, the band had a tremendous
welcome, playing a concert, touring the site and meeting many
of the guides who are students from across Canada. The communities
also warmly received the group, meeting civic officials in
Masnieres and Kortrijk.
Because of historic connections with the Newfoundland Highlanders,
(a paramilitary group in St. John’s before the First
World War, who had a pipe band and from whose ranks over 100
members joined the Newfoundland Regiment), the names of Highlanders
killed in the battles commemorated by that site were read
out at a moving ceremony at each Caribou location. A collection
of tunes from the Great War, the Flowers of the Forest Lament,
the Battle of the Somme, The Unknown Soldier and the 51st
Division at Beaumont Hamel (the Scottish Division that eventually
captured the area in November 1916) were played and wreaths
laid at Beaumont Hamel and Kortrijk. A special Drummers Fanfare
was also performed during the concerts.
The City of St. John’s Pipe Band performed on the steps,
under the massive white columns of the Canadian Vimy Memorial,
as well as playing a lament at the Pipers Memorial in Longeval.
We were also invited to participate in a moving remembrance
ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ieper, Belgium, which commemorates
over 50,000 soldiers of the British Army (including my great
uncle) who were killed in the battles of the Ypres Salient
and have no known grave. The band marched down the cobblestone
streets of this rebuilt medieval community, under the arch
of the memorial and following the playing of the last post
by the Ieper Firemen, the Lament was played as well as Amazing
Grace, while wreaths were laid. A huge crowd watched in silence.
It was a very moving experience. The fireman have played their
bugles for this ceremony daily since 1928, except during the
Second World War and it has become a focus of remembrance
for First World War history.
With a desire to mark the Pipe Band’s 30-year history,
an opportunity to make connections in France with the 400th
anniversary of French involvement in Newfoundland, and the
90th anniversary of the start of the Great War, the Caribou
Memorial Tour was a perfect choice and a great success. July
1, Remembrance Day, will now have greater significance for
all members of the Pipe Band.
Dr. Ean Parsons is an associate professor of Family Medicine
at Memorial University of Newfoundland.