Nfld. & Labrador

'I expect to shed a few tears, for sure': Students ready for Beaumont-Hamel pilgrimage

About three dozen students are leaving St. John's for trip to Beaumont Hamel to commemorate 100th anniversary.

Beaumont Hamel trip

6 years ago
Duration 0:40
Delegates and students are heading to France to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Beaumont Hamel.

Dozens of students are travelling to France for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme at Newfoundland Memorial Park at Beaumont-Hamel

Thirty-five youth have started an eight-day journey to all the sites where the Royal Newfoundland Regiment fought in France and Belgium, leading up to the commemoration ceremony on July 1.

"I expect to shed a few tears, for sure," said 17-year old Nicholas Ellis. "From what they've been saying and from what I've heard, it's very emotional."

Ellis won the opportunity to join the pilgrimage through an essay he wrote for the Heritage Fair competition.

Students pose for a picture for a send-off ceremony at St. John's International Airport before leaving for France. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Student Kaitlin Beattie, who has never travelled outside of Canada before, also entered the Remembrance Day competition. She said her project about the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, past and present, gave her mixed emotions.

"You're full of pride because of how the Newfoundlanders reacted during that time, but at the same time you feel sorrow for all the families and how they felt."

Four years in the planning

The group includes 19 students who submitted Heritage Fair projects, and 16 youth chosen to be part of an annual pilgrimage lead by the Royal Canadian Legion.

Kaitlin Beattie expects the journey to Beaumont-Hamel will be emotional. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

The organization Honour 100 has spent the past four years planning commemoration events involving the 100th anniversary. Project lead Melanie Martin said the students are on a special journey. 

"This is a time that is sacred to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," said Martin at the send-off ceremony at St. John's International Airport. 

"This is an opportunity that won't come again in our lifetime."

She believes the experience will leave a lasting impression on the students. 

"This is not a textbook, this is not something you are hearing or seeing in a classroom." said Martin. "This is standing on the field where your forefathers fought and died."

Students will follow the "Trail of the Caribou" and visit the bronze monuments in Gueudecourt, Masnières, Monchy-le-Preux, Courtrai, and Beaumont-Hamel. 

With files from Mark Quinn