Photographer aims to capture Newfoundland's war history
Mathieu Drouet is visiting Newfoundland from Monchy-le-Preux in France
A French photographer, born near the site of an important First World War battlefield, is hoping to frame Newfoundland's connection to the site's military history.
Mathieu Drouet, born in Monchy-le-Preux, is visiting Newfoundland to work on photos for a book documenting the connection between the province and his hometown.
In 1917, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment fought in a battle just east of the town, suffering heavy losses. By the battle's end, 166 were killed, 140 were injured and 150 were taken as prisoners of war.
Following the battle, nine men from the Regiment were revered for carrying on under the leadership of Lt.-Col. James Forbes-Robertson.
The ten men held down a hedge on the edge of the battlefield for 11 hours, holding off enemy soldiers that far outnumbered them – according to Veteran's Affairs Canada some 200 to 300 Germans were advancing.
The battle was detailed in The Greatest Gallantry, a book by Anthony McAllister.
"They at once opened a series of bursts of rapid fire on the enemy, who believing themselves to be opposed by a powerful force, quickly went to ground," McAllister wrote.
"Thanks to the heroic efforts of Forbes-Robertson and his men, Monchy had indeed been saved."
Drouet said growing up in Monchy-le-Preux, he could find evidence of the war everywhere — including the caribou monument in the town that he could see just outside his home.
"In my village, it's always present, after 100 years," he told CBC Radio's On The Go Thursday.
He said he and his brothers could easily find artifacts from the war, like shrapnel.
But he said not everyone his age knew about Newfoundland's history in Monchy-le-Preux.
"My generation in France has no opinions about the war. They know nothing about the war. And people in Newfoundland are more... connected with their own story," he said.
Now, Drouet has a photographic project to show French citizens the soldiers who fought on their soil, and where they came from.
He said he's using some "old techniques" — film photography and interviews — to produce a book, and hopefully an exhibition.
"I would like to, with my photo, to show the pride of Newfoundlanders about the war," Drouet said.
The photographer is in Newfoundland this week, and said he is looking to speak with people between the ages of 16 and 46 with relatives who fought in France.
You can contact him through his webpage.
With files from On The Go