A young soldier from Little Catalina, still a teenager when he was killed fighting in the First World War, was honoured on Oct. 14 in Belgium — during a ceremony which recognized 100 years since the liberation of Dadizele.
Private Edward James Tippett was one of the men who paid the supreme sacrifice for that community, and those who live there today, a century later, will never forget men like him.
At the solemn ceremony was a family representative — his great grand-niece Linda Pike of Little Catalina, who told The Packet that as much as the people of Dadizele have overwhelming respect for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, she respected them as well.
The first thing she saw at the cemetery was the rows of headstones, along with a large Newfoundland and Labrador flag flying over her great-uncle’s grave. She was the first family member to actually be able to visit the gravesite so many years later after his death in 1918.
“It was a very emotional day for me, that’s for sure,” said Pike.
Stemming back to last December, two men from Dadizele, Belgium began the process which led to the honouring of Pte. Tippett in October.
Dirk Vandenberghe and Jean-Pierre Outtier were looking into the many young soldiers in the New British Cemetery in their community and were shocked with how young the soldiers were who gave their lives in Flanders Fields to liberate their town 100 years ago.
There are 1029 graves in the cemetery, including that of Private Edward James Tippett.
Vandenbegrhe reached out to contact members of the family of a Pte. “Tibbet”, as the name was spelled wrong on the headstone in the cemetery.
Marsha Goodyear, who told The Packet of Pte. Tippett and the ceremony in Belgium, says it was Vandenberghe and Outtier’s mission to get the veteran’s correct family name on the headstone.
After contacting Pike, the correct name was added to the headstone and unveiled at the Oct. 14 ceremony.
“They had it fixed and they were quite proud of that,” said Pike. “Even a hundred years later to see the people who came out this service and see the emotion that was so raw there. It was so real.”
She called the whole ceremony very touching. Pike, along with her husband and daughter, were able to privately lay a wreath at the grave.
“To say that I went to Belgium was a treat in itself, but for the reason I went, was beyond anything I could ever imagine, it was unbelievable.”
She says Vandenberghe and Outtier, and everyone involved, have done an amazing thing with this honour.
In addition to the liberation ceremony held in Belgium, Little Catalina held its own service in October in recognition of Pte. Tippett and all those who lost their lives in combat.
During this wreath laying service, which was attended by many local groups, Pike’s brother laid a wreath on behalf of their family.
Quinn Dalton also laid a wreath at the service with her mother, Jessica Fleming, grandmother, Pauline Stagg, and great-grandmother Gladys Stagg. Quinn is the great-great-great-great-grand niece of Pte. Tippett.
Also, local Girl Guide Olivia Reid was also able to meet Vandenberghe and Outtier during her trip to Europe this past summer on the Trail of the Caribou.
Olivia’s mother wrote the Royal Canadian Legion and they included a stop at the cemetery where Pte. Tippett is buried in Dadizele.
During her trip, there was a presentation to the group which included provincial government representatives.
Fittingly, Pike stays in contact with Vandenberghe and Outtier, as she will never forget her experience in Belgium on Oct. 14.
Pike says she and her husband are seasoned travellers, but nothing compares to this most recent trip.
“I don’t think anything could touch what we just experienced. It was the trip of a lifetime.”
Who was Private Edward James Tippett?
Pte. Tippett was born on Oct. 6, 1899 in Little Catalina. Having grown up and gone to school in the small community, he worked in the lumber woods.
He enlisted for the Great War as part of the 18th draft of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in Grand Falls on Dec. 3, 1917. His military file stated he was 19 years and four months, probably because the minimum age for a recruit was 19.
After his training, he was sent to the Front, with his first action coming on Sept. 29 in Dadizele, Belgium.
He was killed on Oct. 14, only 316 days into service.