War dead honoured at emotional Bowring Park service
Hundreds of people gathered in a St. John's park on Wednesday to observe the unveiling of three plaques honouring Newfoundlanders who died in Europe during the First World War.
The plaques, which were formally dedicated in Bowring Park, are exact replicas of those at the Newfoundland War Memorial in northern France, and mark the deaths of 820 people who died in the war but have no known graves.
"From now onward, people who are descendants of those who are named on these plaques can visit this site, as well as any other person who is interested in the history of our province," Kevin Hutchings, the honourary lieutenant-colonel of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, told a ceremony that drew several hundred people.
"I am delighted that these plaques are exact replicas. No changes whatsoever have been made."
Wednesday marked the 93rd anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont Hamel, which had a devastating impact on the regiment. Of more than 800 members, only 68 were were able to report for duty the next day.
To this day, memorial services marking the battle are held every July 1 in ceremonies across Newfoundland and Labrador.
The plaques name members of the regiment, as well as the merchant marine and the Royal Naval Reserve.
Spectator Pauline Beckett was touched by the ceremony, in which participants laid a long series of wreaths. She said she was reminded of her father, who died a decade ago.
"They had it hard over there," she said. "My father was over in Scotland and he was over in the war, the second one. We don't know but they must've went through a lot."
Participant Shannon Fisher had her own reasons to attend the ceremony. Her 20-year-old son is a reservist with the regiment.
"Our views changed once our son put on the uniform," she said. "It becomes very real to us, that these are actually people who lived and died for us."