Stories of Remembrance: Mary Walsh
In 2005, to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War, Canadian celebrities spoke about the meaning of remembrance as part of the Stories of Remembrance Campaign, a project of CanWest News Service (now Postmedia News), the Dominion Institute (now Historica Canada) and Veterans Affairs Canada. This article is reprinted from that campaign.
In Mary Walsh's corner of the country, November 11 plays only a supporting role in the annual ritual of wartime remembrance. The real commemorations — the genuine acts of tribute and sadness — take place in
"July 1 is a very strange holiday for us," says Walsh, the
July 1, 1916, was the opening day of the
They were met by a hailstorm of bullets from an enemy unscathed by previous artillery barrages. Witnesses said they could see the Newfoundlanders struggling through the bullets with their chins tucked into their chests, as if braving the force of a
In the space of a morning the Regiment was wiped out. Of the 780 men who took part in the assault, 684 became casualties.
"It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour," wrote a British commander of the
Although Walsh's father served in the British Merchant Marine in both the First and Second World Wars, she had an uncle who was wounded at Beaumont-Hamel.
"I guess everyone had someone they knew who fought or died there," she says. "The story of Beaumont-Hamel is to
Family Shrines, Fading Memories
So visceral was the effect on
"I remember travelling around Newfoundland with a theatre company in the 1970s," she says, "and there were places on the Northern Peninsula, where families still kept their grandfather's uniform and medals and puttees, the whole bit, displayed on a kind of altar in their homes. It was a kind of art piece really."
Today, however, as wartime memories fade, Walsh says July 1 is gradually becoming co-opted by Canada Day festivities - a transformation she has mixed feelings about.
"Perhaps the celebration of
"On the other hand, we have to remember what we did. We will always have war I guess. And we hope that by telling the stories of past wars, past bloodshed and past horror, that we could maybe learn to avoid it."
"Maybe because people know that history, those stories, we've managed to avoid all kinds of terrible things, because we know what the end result will be."