I’ve always wanted to visit the Newfoundland Memorial in Beaumont-Hamel, France, the place where so many members of the Newfoundland Regiment were killed or wounded on July 1, 1916, in the ill-fated Battle of the Somme. After the research and writing I did on That Forgetful Shore, part of which takes place during the war years, I felt even more drawn to see this spot.
On August 10 I finally had the chance to go there. It was sobering, just as I’d expected. I have so many strong feelings attached to what happened there that my children were amused by my inability to read any of the informational plaques out loud without starting to cry.
On the monument that shows the names of every member of the Newfoundland Regiment, Naval Reserves and Merchant Marine killed in the first world war, I had to stop myself from looking for names of my characters. I did look for the name of one young man from either Bay Roberts or Coley’s Point whose name kept cropping up in my research – he was killed on July 1, and I’ve seen his gravestone, the note of his death in the local paper, and the telegram informing his family of his death – but his name is not on the memorial plaque. Very strange, and the research part of my brain wants to figure out why – but most of me was just overwhelmed by all the names that were there, all those lives lost in the war that did not end all wars, after all.