Nfld. & Labrador

Beaumont-Hamel soil to be patriated during 100th anniversary ceremonies

The Rooms CEO Dean Brinton and retired general Rick Hillier announced Wednesday that French soil will be patriated as part of the 100th anniversary of Beaumont-Hamel.

'It does send a cold shiver down my back,' says retired general Rick Hillier

Retired general Rick Hillier says the patriation has a special significance for him, and for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. (CBC)

The Rooms CEO Dean Brinton and former chief of defence staff and retired general General Rick Hillier announced on Wednesday that some French soil will be patriated as part of the 100th anniversary of Beaumont-Hamel.

The decision to bring French soil back to Newfoundland and Labrador came from a suggestion made by Hillier after hearing the Ennis Sisters' song I Will Sing You Home at a ceremony at The Rooms.

"We were listening to that song and [retired] general Hillier leaned over to me and said, 'Why don't we go and bring them home?''' Brinton told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

Almost every family in Newfoundland fought there and so many, so many died there.- Retired general Rick Hillier

"I'll never forget the moment, because I knew immediately what he was suggesting."

Brinton said the soil will be part of the ceremony planned for July 1 at The Rooms in St. John's.

"We have a delegation of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that are going to Beaumont-Hamel the end of May. We're going to remove soil from the battlefield at Beaumont-Hamel, representing our fallen ancestors," he said.

The Rooms CEO Dean Brinton will be part of the delegation going to Beaumont-Hamel in May. (CBC)

"We're going to fill an urn, we're going to bring it back to Newfoundland, and on the 100th anniversary during the ceremony at The Rooms, during the remembrance ceremony, we're going to patriate that soil back to Newfoundland." 

Donors, dignitaries and the commanding officers of the two battalions of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment will be among those going to Beaumont-Hamel to gather the soil.

The soil will then be placed in an arc in the contemplative area of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Gallery at The Rooms, which will be opened following the July 1 ceremony.

Sacred ground

Retired general Hillier said the patriation has a special significance for him, and for all people in the province.

"Our sons and our forefathers and great-grandfathers, and people from every community, and almost every family in Newfoundland fought there and so many, so many died there," said Hillier.

"This is our sacred ground, and to patriate that to Newfoundland and do it in time for the 100th anniversary here, it does send a cold shiver down my back."

The patriation ceremony will be broadcast nationally on CBC as part of the 100th anniversary coverage July 1.

With files from the St. John's Morning Show

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