DELT captures anniversary of Somme battles
By Kristine Hamlyn
Joe Earles, a videographer with DELT, films the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in France.
On July 1, 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, the Newfoundland Regiment fought its first
engagement in France. On July 1, 2006, soldiers from the same regiment returned to the battlefields to mark the 90th anniversary of the battles of the Somme and Beaumont Hamel. Two members of Memorial University’s Distance Education and Learning Technologies (DELT) travelled with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, and managed to capture not only history but the intense emotion surrounding each of the ceremonies.
Kevin O’Leary, director/producer, and Joe Earles, videographer, accompanied the regiment to each of the five
memorials established in France and Belgium in memory of the battles fought by the first Battalion of the Newfoundland Regiment.
The sites are marked by the emblem of the regiment, a great bronze caribou, like the one found in Bowring Park
in St. John’s. Each of the caribou stands facing the battlegrounds across which the Newfoundland Regiment advanced. Sites of the ceremonies included Gueudecourt, Masnieres, Kortrijk, Menin Gate Monchy-le-Preux and the largest site at Beaumont Hamel.
Memorial’s president and vice-chancellor, Dr. Axel Meisen, together with Chancellor John Crosbie, laid wreaths at the Beaumont Hamel ceremony, a fitting tribute from the university named in honour of those who fought and died in the First World War. In addition to those ceremonies, the DELT team also accompanied the regiment to ceremonies in some of the smaller grave sites scattered across the French countryside.
“The regiment placed small Newfoundland beach rocks on top of each headstone of fallen members of the Newfoundland Regiment,” recalled Mr. O’Leary. “It was moving to see the effort they made to travel to as many of these sites as they could and we were fortunate to be able to capture it. We’re richer for having gone with them. These were stories we didn’t know and having that history caught on tape certainly adds to the meaning of it.”
More than 24,000 Canadians and 700 Newfoundlanders were killed, wounded or went missing in the Somme region in 1916.