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Emily Park

Emily Park is a 17-year-old from Pasadena, Newfoundland. In 2016 she was selected as a youth member of the Government of Canada delegation for the commemoration surrounding the 100th anniversaries of the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel. She has always loved learning about Canadian history and this trip gave her a newfound perspective on the experiences of those who served.

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Emily Park

It all started 5 years ago when Rachel was 12 years old. She entered the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Fair with a project entitled: World War I, A Brief Summary. It focused on two harsh realities of the First World War: life in the trenches and life on the home front. This project led her to be a part of the Government of Canada’s delegation to commemorate the 100th anniversaries of the Battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel.

When working on the project, her grandparents told her about a family connection to the First World War. Her eighth cousin, Victoria Cross recipient Thomas Ricketts, served with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment from 1916-1919. At only 17, Ricketts engaged the German lines at Ledegham with a Lewis Gun, even daring to double back 90 metres to replenish his ammunition. This helped his platoon to capture four field guns, four machine-guns and eight prisoners without casualties. This family connection made the project and Park’s time on the delegation all the more impactful.

This knowledge is widely available but people don’t choose to learn it, so seeing they have places to share this information was really amazing.

The delegation included Veterans, youth from Newfoundland and Labrador, representatives of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Royal 22e Régiment, the Department of National Defence and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and parliamentarians. They attended a variety of commemorative ceremonies and activities in both France and Belgium.

Emily Park being interviewed as a member of the Government of Canada delegation in France in 2016

Now, reflecting on her time with the delegation, she sees how lucky she was to have had this opportunity. It solidified her stance on the importance of preserving knowledge. She feels a need to keep history alive. “This knowledge is widely available but people don’t choose to learn it, so seeing they have places to share this information was really amazing.” Since she returned from her trip she has made a point to share what she learnt with as many people as possible.

While the entire experience gave her great memories, the moment that sticks with her to this day was being able to walk in the footsteps of the 800 Newfoundland soldiers that fought at Beaumont-Hamel. “We went from St. John’s trench to the danger tree, we knew about the danger tree and that many didn’t get past that point or even to that point, but we would have thought it was much longer than it actually was.” Walking that distance herself put the immense loss of Newfoundland soldiers at Beaumont-Hamel into perspective for Park, and changed the way she saw the past. “I am very proud to be a Newfoundlander, we are always told we are a hardy and kind bunch, but you see it in action more in times like this.”

Stories are one of the best ways to spread awareness and understanding.
Graves of soldiers from the Royal Newfoundland regiment

Park says it is important to “remember what they gave up for our freedom.” She stresses that they were ordinary people who “didn’t know what they were getting into, they were told you go, you fight a little and you come back for Christmas.” She believes sharing individual’s stories is how we can best commemorate the past. “Stories are one of the best ways to spread awareness and understanding,” she says.

Being part of the Canadian delegation gave Park a better understanding and appreciation for the past. She learnt that in remembering and respecting the past we can create a better future. As we mark the 105th anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel, she is reflecting on the bravery of the soldiers who fought and all of those who were a part of the war effort. “It’s not only the soldiers we need to commemorate, there are many pieces to the puzzle. Commemorate everyone who lent a hand.”

In honour of the 105th anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel, Emily Park is featured as a Face of Freedom. Discover more stories.

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