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Part of a special feature marking the centenary of the First World War and highlighting Memorial’s status as a living memorial that in freedom of learning their cause and sacrifice might not be forgotten.” This feature supports WW100, Memorial’s Commemoration Program.    

By Nora Daly

A lot has been written about the tragedy that befell Newfoundland on July 1, 1916, that infamous, tragic day when the then-Dominion of Newfoundland faced one if the worst disasters in its long history.

That watershed moment is the basis for an epic film re-creation of the battle at Beaumont-Hamel that transformed Newfoundland for all time.

Documentary screening

As part of Memorial’s WW100 Commemoration Program, the university is proud to present the symposium 1916: Beaumont-Hamel and Beyond. The event will launch with a special presentation of a new full-length documentary, Newfoundland at Armageddon.

For this production, direct descendants of the men who fought in Beaumont-Hamel and the women who served as nurses and ambulance drivers were recruited and trained to re-create the 22-minute battle. The film also focuses on the role that women played in the war effort on the home front.

“It is a story of loss, both loss of life, loss of innocence and finally loss of our nationhood.” –Barbara Doran

A Quebec/Newfoundland and Labrador co-production, the film is directed by Brian McKenna, written by Michael Crummey and produced by Arnie Gelbart, GalaFilm (Montreal) and Barbara Doran, Morag Loves Company (St. John’s). The film is narrated by Alan Doyle. Visit here for more information.

‘A part of who we are’

Newfoundland at Armageddon tells the story of that tragic day on a bright morning, July 1, 1916, when the young men from the Newfoundland Regiment went over the top at Beaumont-Hamel armed only with rifles and bayonets to face a barrage of German machine gun bullets,” said Ms. Doran. “Beaumont-Hamel is very much a part of who we are one hundred years after that day. It is a story of loss, both loss of life, loss of innocence and finally loss of our nationhood.

“It was a difficult film to make, to recreate with the direct descendants a battle that lasted less than half an hour, a battle that changed the course of Newfoundland history forever,” Ms. Doran continued. “Our descendants knew they had ancestors who had fought in the Great War, knew that they had ancestors who volunteered as nurses or ambulance drivers, but it wasn’t until they were living through a dramatic recreation of that tragic event could they feel on a profound level the impact of the loss. And all of us who were part of that experience felt it as well.”

The screening takes place Friday, June 17, from 7-9:30 p.m., in Innovation Hall, Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation, on the St. John’s campus.

Day-long symposium

On Saturday, June 18, the symposium continues with a day-long program offered in partnership with the Royal Newfoundland Regimental Advisory Council and the Newfoundland Historic Society. The day will start with an overview of the major conflicts of 1916 in order to place Beaumont-Hamel in perspective. Participants will then follow the Newfoundland Regiment from Gallipoli to Beaumont-Hamel and will receive a virtual tour of the battlefield.

Later presentations will include new and original research into the role of King George V Seaman’s Institute and the Newfoundland Mi’kmaq in the First World War. The symposium will also explore other major events of the First World War, including the Battles of the Somme, Verdun and Jutland. The symposium is dedicated to the memory of local historian Dr. W. David Parsons.

Everyone welcome

“As a living memorial to the fallen in the First World War, Memorial University has a special responsibility to provide a free and open exchange of ideas regarding that conflict,” said Dr. Luke Ashworth, chair of Memorial’s WW100 Commemoration Program. “On the centenary of Beaumont-Hamel, the WW100 Steering Committee was interested in providing an overview of the conflict, an opportunity to discuss new research and to allow people to virtually visit the site of the battle. We hope everyone who has an interest or connection to Beaumont-Hamel is able to make part or all of the symposium.”

The symposium runs from 9:30 a.m.-3:10 p.m., also at Innovation Hall, Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation, on the St. John’s campus.

Admission is free of charge; however, registration is required by emailing rsvp@mun.ca. Parking is available in areas 1A and 18.

For more information, please visit here.

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