This painting is a very personal tribute to the memory of my great great grandfather, Michael P. Lewis, and every Newfoundland Regiment soldier from my community and across Newfoundland who courageously served during WW1 and in particular during the Battle of the Somme (Beaumont-Hamel).
The title of this piece is “St. John’s Road” – 18×24 Acrylic. As you can see, the composition of this piece is symbolic, rather than realistic. Throughout the piece you can see many representational components that would not typically be found in one ‘landscape’. For those who are wondering what you are looking at here is a little info about the composition.
- Why the sign? – St. John’s Road was the name of the support trench where the 1st Newfoundland Regiment emerged from during the attack at Beaumont-Hamel (hence my title). The trench system was so elaborate they were given names and signs were placed. I am sure it was to help soldiers navigate.
- You will note the poppy which is a national symbol of sacrifice and remembrance of those lost to war. It is intertwined by the Forget Me Not flowers. Prior to Confederation, the Forget Me Not flowers were worn by Newfoundlanders as a symbol of respect for the Newfoundland Regiment and in remembrance of the First World War.
- The blue leg wraps –Soldiers wore bandage type wrap to cover the lower part of the leg from the knee to ankle. The first 500 Newfoundland Regiment soldiers went to war with blue leg coverings which were not the standard khaki colour. This resulted in the nickname for the first 500 as the Blue Puttee.
- The caribou – a symbol of the strength and bravery of the Newfoundland soldiers which was the identity the Newfoundland Regiment was formed under. Later a caribou statue was placed in the Newfoundland War Memorial park at Beaumont-Hamel and at other memorials including here in St. John’s. You will notice the hill the caribou is on seems out of place compared to the other side of the trench. In reality it would have been much the same. What you are seeing is at it stands at the Newfoundland Park in current time.
- Each soldier is also representational. The very large soldier, the most prominent represents those who lost their lives. The two on the right represent those who went over the wall into “no man’s land”. The two soldiers on the left represent the comradery and support the Newfoundland soldiers were known for. The solo soldier on the right with the easy going stance and hands in pockets seems quite out of place, but he is representative of the loneliness and desolation they must have felt – practically babies fighting wars away from their families.
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