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Gambo youth honoured to be a part of Battle of Passchendaele 100th anniversary

GAMBO, NL – Following in the footsteps of her great-great-grandfather, Madison Barrow returned home with memories that will last a lifetime. 

From Nov. 8-12, the Gambo youth was part of a Canadian delegation to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele and the contributions of Canadians in the First World War. 

The delegation included veterans, youth, and representatives of regimental and Indigenous organizations. Madison was one of five youth from across the country to be a part of the commemoration, and one of two people selected to attend from Newfoundland and Labrador, along with Corporal (retired) Eric Hjalmarson from Stephenville, who served in Bosnia and Afghanistan. 
The 15-year-old Smallwood Academy student was selected to take part in the commemoration after producing an essay about Eleazar Saunders – her great-great-grandfather – who fought and was injured during the battle, and would later suffer from shellshock. 

The journey made for a humbling yet rewarding experience. 

Prior to going oversea, Madison read the commitment to remember at the Candlelight Vigil at the National War Museum in Ottawa. 

In Europe, she visited numerous cemeteries and monuments dedicated to the battle, which brought about a stronger understanding of where and what her great-great-grandfather was fighting for. 

“They showed us the front line, and based on the timeline, it was pointed out where he would have fought,” she said. 

Madison got to read “In Flanders Field” where Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae penned the famous poem, and read an essay about her great-great-grandfather at Hill 62 (Sanctuary Wood) Memorial. The memorial stands in tribute to the sacrifices and achievements of Canadian soldiers over a period of five months to keep the enemy from gaining possession of the last few square kilometres of Belgian territory still in Allied hands. 

Upon visiting battle sites, Madison visited a trench flooded from the battle, which was pumped out and a time capsule placed inside. Madison included a picture of herself and her great-great-grandfather. 

There was also a Poppies Run, in memory of Alex Decoteau, who represented Canada at the Olympic games in the 5,000-metre race in 1912. He died in an attack on the heights around the ruined village of Passchendaele in 1917. 

It was also an opportunity to bond with Canada’s veterans. 

“We would sit on the bus and they would tell us stories about war and serving in the forces,” she said. “Some of it I can’t even talk about, because I’d probably start crying, but some other stories were actually really funny. 

“I felt very honoured to be a part of it all.” 

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