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Harbour Grace teen’s enduring remembrance

Staff Sgt. David Mercer, left, and Lead Sgt. David Lee of Harbour Grace lay a wreath on behalf of the Church Lads’ Brigade at the 2018 Memorial Day ceremony in Beaumont-Hamel, France.
Staff Sgt. David Mercer, left, and Lead Sgt. David Lee of Harbour Grace lay a wreath on behalf of the Church Lads’ Brigade at the 2018 Memorial Day ceremony in Beaumont-Hamel, France. - Frank Gogo

David Lee represents Church Lads' Brigade at Beaumont-Hamel

HARBOUR GRACE, N.L.

This past summer, as part of the Royal Canadian Legion’s ‘Enduring Remembrance’ pilgrimage to France and Belgium, the Church Lads’ Brigade was represented by Lance Sgt. David Lee of Harbour Grace Company.

David was one of about 30 youth who were accompanied by Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote, Premier Dwight Ball, veterans, teachers, serving members of the Canadian Forces and representatives of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Advisory Council — about 100 people in all. Also attending as part of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Advisory Council was Staff Sgt. David Mercer of the Regimental Band.

The full group that travelled from Newfoundland and Labrador for the Memorial Day ceremony in Beaumont-Hamel, France, which included Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote and Premier Dwight Ball.
The full group that travelled from Newfoundland and Labrador for the Memorial Day ceremony in Beaumont-Hamel, France, which included Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote and Premier Dwight Ball.

Ceremonies were held at a number of memorials and sites that commemorate the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the service of Newfoundlanders in France and Belgium. Among the highlights of the pilgrimage were visits to Newfoundland Memorial Park at Beaumont Hamel, Gueudecourt, Monchy-le-Preux, Masnieres, Cortrai. Also, there were visits to the Menin Gate; Langemark German Cemetery; Wellington Quarry (a network of tunnels under the city of Arras used to accommodate soldiers during the First World War); the Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge; and Amiens Cathedral (the largest in France).

In addition, there were visits to cemeteries where Newfoundland soldiers are buried. Among these was a visit to Dadizele New British Cemetery and the gravesite of Capt. Herbert Rendell, a former member of the CLB in Newfoundland. Lee had learned about Capt. Rendell before the pilgrimage and was able to pay tribute to him there.

At the Canadian Monument at Vimy, Lee was called upon by Royal Canadian Legion Provincial Command president Berkley Lawrence, himself a former member of St. Michael’s Company, to represent the group and thank Premier Ball for his support of the many young people taking part in the pilgrimage. In true CLB fashion, David stepped up and did an admirable job representing the youth of the group; he was a tremendous spokesperson and represented his group very well.

This year also marks the 100th Anniversary of Pte. Thomas Ricketts being awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry. It was near Ledeghem in Belgium on Oct. 14, 1918 when Ricketts actions led to his award of the Victoria Cross making him the youngest Army recipient of the Victoria Cross during the First World War — he was just 17.

At D’hondt Farm, very near the site of that action and the location of a monument to Ricketts, a special commemorative ceremony was held. This ceremony was attended by a large group of dignitaries, special guests, and many local people from the region.

The Caribou Monument at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial.
The Caribou Monument at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial.

Among the special guests were members of Ricketts’ family, including a grandson, George Ricketts and his wife Rhonda, and two great-grandsons, Mackenzie and Alexander. During this ceremony, there were performances by local singers and actors, addresses by the dignitaries, and wreaths were laid by Foote, Ball and officials from the Government of Belgium. A wreath was laid on behalf of the CLB by Mercer, with Lee acting as wreath-bearer. This was indeed a very special occasion and an honour for the CLB to be represented in such a high-profile event. The Brigade were asked to participate in this ceremony because Thomas Ricketts was a valued and respected member of the CLB.

There were many highlights of the pilgrimage for Lee and he was shocked to learn how the people in the communities he visited knew so much about Newfoundland, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the CLB and Tommy Ricketts. He coincidentally met and shook hands with a gentleman whose relative had been saved by a CLB member in the First World War. He also attended a ceremony in the cathedral at Amiens where an early 20th century Newfoundland flag was presented to replace one that had been lost. The recipients receiving the flag were so grateful that they accepted it with tears of appreciation. The flag now hangs in the cathedral with memorial tablets and flags of the other the imperial dominions: South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

“I’d like to thank everyone who played a part in making this experience absolutely amazing,” Lee said. “I met so many friends and saw so many incredible places. It was an experience I will never forget. I was honored to be part of the tour.”

Lance Sgt. Lee was an outstanding ambassador on behalf of the CLB. We should be very proud of him.

Contributed by 2nd-Lt. Holly Lockyer and Staff Sgt. David Mercer

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