Monday, November 11, 2013

We carry the spirit of the fighting Newfoundlander in all of us

This Nazi flag was captured by the late Gordon W. Chafe of Petty Harbour at the last battle of the 59th (Newfoundland) Heavy Regiment Royal Artillery near Hamburg, Germany in May 1945. When captured, the flag was full of bullet holes and blood, which Gordon’s wife, Helen, either washed out or cut away. Daughter Linda Chafe says people were at first offended by the sight of the Nazi flag put on display during Nov. 11th ceremonies (the paper on the box is Newfoundland tartan), but she explained that her father and men like him risked their lives to take the flag, so it would never fly again. Gordon Chafe's story, medals, picture, and the Nazi flag were on display (along with the stories of other local veterans) at the Petty Harbour/Maddox Cove Community Centre following Remembrance Day ceremonies this morning, Nov. 11th. 

Lest we forget.

I gave the following speech this morning during Remembrance Day Services in Petty Harbour/Maddox Cove. 

It's great to see this place blocked to the rafters.

Father Jeff (Kononel) says it's like Christmas in terms of the crowd. 

It's great to see so many young people here, too. 

Because it's important to remember.

I want to read you the words on a picture board in Bowring Park.

The picture board is part of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment memorial — next to the statue of the Caribou.

The headline on the picture board reads: Into No Man Land.

"The first 500 who signed up for the Newfoundland Regiment at the outbreak of World War 1 expected a quick trip home.

Most would never return.

The men’s first battle at Gallipoli in turkey late in 1915 was a trial by fire.

The next battle on the Somme in northern France marked the Regiment and nation of Newfoundland forever.

When the battle of the Somme began on July 1, 1916 at 7:30 a.m., the Newfoundlanders were the only unit from outside the British Isles.

They crouched in their trenches near the little town of Beaumont Hamel — awaiting their orders.

The call came at 9:15 a.m. and 801 young Newfoundlanders headed into enemy machine gun fire.

It was over in 30 minutes.

68 men answered the roll call the next morning. 

Newfoundland’s Prime Minister was told that the assault only failed because “dead men can advance no further.”

Dead men can advance no further.

I see that as the greatest compliment to any solder — only death could stop their charge. 

I repeat the quote at every memorial service for fighting Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. 

I see the spirit of the fighting Newfoundlander in all our soldiers in all our other conflicts — from the Second World War to Korea to Afghanistan.

In the air, land, and on the sea. 

The late Winston Churchill, the great English Prime Minister, once said that Newfoundlanders were the "best small boat men in the world."

I see the spirit of the fighting Newfoundlander in the people of Petty Harbour, and Goulds, and Mount Pearl, and St. John’s, and Newfoundland and Labrador, and Fort Mac, and even Ottawa.

I see it in the boats and in the wharf, in the airports and in the offices. 

We carry the spirit of the fighting Newfoundlander in all of us, and we must never forget where we came from. 

The sacrifices of our forefathers have been huge. 

We must never forget.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WELL SAID Ryan the youth need to remember and respect the sacrafice.