Newfoundland At Armageddon

The Yetman brothers

It's the story of three brothers. One who died in a fight and never saw Europe, one who survives the massacre of Beaumont Hamel, and one who is still buried in the muck in Langmarche.

Andrew Yetman was a Blue Puttee and enlisted in 1914 and left as a part of the First 500 on the Florizel, landing in Gallipoli on September 12, 1915. He was evacuated for an undefined illness and then joined the battle in France on June 9, 1916. He went over the top on July 1st at Beaumont Hamel and survived. However, he suffered severe shell shock and was taken back to England on July 5, 1916.  Andrew was one of three brothers to enlist from the Yetman side of my family. His brother Michael fought in the battle of Langmarche and was killed in action on August 16, 1917. The last brother, James, enlisted but was mortally wounded in a street fight in St. John's before disembarking for Europe.

I've been to Beaumont Hamel. Actually, I made it there for July 1st, back in 2007. To my surprise, the Holy Heart of Mary Alumni choir were performing. On learning I was from "town", some of the women grabbed me by the elbow and guided me onto the site in a very maternal fashion. I felt connected.

The overwhelming experience of walking the same soil bloodied by all those unfortunate, but brave young men, deepened the awe I have always felt by the sacrifice they made during that battle.

Newfoundland was a country torn between identities at the time but WW1 really helped galvanize our sense of self and test the mettle of the "fighting Newfoundlander". To be honest, around July 1st and November 11th, I'm usually the one recounting a war story or fact to friends and family. I get overwhelmed thinking about the conditions they fought under, and the valour they demonstrated amidst all that madness and guts.

Brian Manning