Alumi Spotlight: Frank Gogos
Frank Gogos (BA’94) has followed the path of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. His new book is a guide for everyone to take that journey.
When not writing, his many hats include consultant, photographer and tour guide, all of which connect, in one way or another, to his passion for the stories of the Regiment. In addition, his work with the Newfoundland Bronze Foundry and sculptor Morgan MacDonald has seen his direct involvement in many of N.L.’s largest war memorials. He spoke with contributor David Penney.
DP: Why the Royal Newfoundland Regiment? Why now?
FG: It wasn’t really a conscious decision of topic or timing for me to be honest. It was really a matter of the stars lining up and the work for this finally coming together. It’s been years in the making. And I’ve always been connected to the Regiment. My work life aside, I’m also a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Advisory Council, and the legion. But on a very personal level, I go back to the picture of my greatgrandfather in his uniform, hung in the front room of my grandmother’s house. My grandmother was an incredibly strong woman and I never witnessed her being emotional or upset until I asked her about the picture and what happened during the war. It was the first time I ever saw her cry. That was a defining moment for me. I visited Beaumont Hamel for the first time about 10 years ago and I’ve been on the path of the Regiment — more or less full-time — ever since.
DP: Tell me about your new book.
FG: The title is A Guide to the Battlefields and Memorials of France, Belgium, and Gallipoli: The Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War. My intention was really to create a roadmap of sorts with this book and it’s a true visual guidebook with more than 450 photographs and maps. When you visit a site like Beaumont Hamel, along with many of the other battlefields and memorials, you really have no idea what you’re in for. It’s just incredibly moving and powerful. I wish every person from this province could experience that, but I know it’s not possible. So if this book can help place you there, or give some appreciation of the weight of that experience, I’ve achieved what I set out to do.
DP: What story about the Royal Newfoundland Regiment do most people not know — but should?
FG: Without a doubt, the Battle of Cambrai. If you think about how we recognize what the Canadians did at Vimy Ridge, we should honour the Regiment’s accomplishments at Cambrai in the same way. The contribution that the Regiment made in taking back the town of Masnières in Northern France and then defending the position is the reason why King George V honoured them with the prefix “Royal.” The fact that no other British regiment was recognized this way during the First World War is very significant. The Regiment is remembered for their sacrifice and the devastating losses at Beaumont Hamel, and of course it should be. But I think we can do a better job of also recognizing the Regiment as an elite fighting force that had a major impact.
DP: Memorial has established the WW100 program to mark the centenary of the First World War. Why are commemorations like these important?
FG: I think these types of initiatives are extremely important, but a strong focus needs to be on young people. They have to be included and prioritized in this type of programming. If the younger generations lose sight of what happened, the human cost and what it all means, then the memories will fade away. We could be doing so much more in our schools in this province — especially learning opportunities about the Regiment. I’ve witnessed our young people and students visiting the memorials and battlefields of Europe many times. It’s profound.