Three NL Cadets embark on a historic trip just in time to commemorate Memorial Day
Three students from Frank Roberts Junior High School in Conception Bay South are among 19 youth from across the province who have been awarded a trip to Beaumont-Hamel for the annual July 1st ceremony. All three students from Frank Roberts (Wyatt Pereira, Eric Browne and Christopher Bradbury) are also members of 2562 Royal Canadian Army Cadets.
The students are recipients of the Historic Sites Association of NL Ambassador Award Program.
According to the Historic Sites Association’s website, to be considered for the Ambassador Award Program, students must complete their school’s heritage fair project on Newfoundland and Labrador’s role in the First World War.
In addition to visiting Beaumont-Hamel the award winners will also visit other European battlegrounds where the Royal Newfoundland Regiment fought.
They will also spend time in communities that are home to the bronze caribou monuments, the official memorial to the Regiment.
Christopher based his project on well known soldier Sgt. Tommy Ricketts. Ricketts was the youngest soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross – the highest award for bravery among troops in the British Empire. Christopher said he chose to write about Ricketts because his parents (Jennifer and Rick Gushue) are members of the Kiwanis Club of Kelligrews. The club, in partnership with numerous groups, opened the Tommy Ricketts Memorial Peace Park in Kelligrews on Oct. 14, 2018 – the 100th Anniversary of Ricketts earning the Victoria Cross.
“Tommy Ricketts was only 15 when he went off to war. I learned about who he really was and what he did when he came home,” the 13-year-old said.
Christopher said he is looking forward to his trip to Beaumont-Hamel. “They called Eric’s name and then they called Wyatt’s name. I didn’t think they would send three people from the same school. But then they called my name. I was just so excited,” he said.
Christopher said it’s important to remember all those who fought for our freedom. “If they didn’t go over there our life, as we live it today, could be a lot different,” he said.
Frank Roberts Junior High School social studies department head Jerry Stringer said the Ambassador Award Program is a fantastic program.
“It is awesome to see these students being recognized for their outstanding achievements,” he said.
Eric dedicated his project to his great-great-uncle William Whittle. The young private contracted a disease and died in hospital while fighting in the war, the 14-year-old said. Eric also gathered a lot of information from the Rooms website.
“I saw his registration form and every other document that had his name on it, the casualty list, everything,” he said.
Eric said the project gave him an opportunity to learn about his family’s connection to the war and to share that information with other members of his family.
“I’m proud that I got to teach my relatives a lot about their own heritage,” he said.
Eric admits the research was daunting and there were times when he thought about putting the project off until next year. He’s happy he didn’t do that.
“I gave it my all and stuck with it. And I’m so glad I did,” he said.
Wyatt agrees with Eric that one of the biggest lessons he’s learned from working on his project is to continue with your research even when things get tough. His reward for doing so is accomplishing his dream of touring the battle sites in Europe.
“I never could have accomplished any of this if I had just called it quits… and I sincerely hope that none of my fellow competitors who lost this year give up either,” he said.
Wyatt said he and the other two award winners from his school put dozens of hours into their projects. It’s not the first time he’s competed in the Ambassador Award Program. His entry last year didn’t make the final cut.
“After taking a couple of days to accept my loss I told myself that I was going to try again next year… By the time March 2019 rolled around (when students start working on their projects) I was already pumped up and ready to go start my new project,” the 14-year-old said.
Rather than focus on the five major battles that Newfoundland participated in (his approach for 2018), Wyatt presented the stories of two soldiers: Stanley Stewart Pinsent and Fred Abbott and the particular battles they fought in.
Both soldiers were from Musgrave Harbour where Wyatt’s grandmother was born and his mother was raised. Both soldiers died during the war.
Wyatt gathered much of his information from the Rooms website (www.therooms.ca) and was also in contact with a member of Pinsent’s family who sent him some of the soldier’s personal letters and told him interesting stories about the young man.
“As a thank-you to them I will be taking and sending them a picture of Stanley’s grave in Knightsbridge cemetery near Beaumont-Hamel,” Wyatt said.
For more information on the Ambassador Award Program visit historicsites.ca.