Newfoundland At Armageddon

Private John Joseph Rice

A couple of years ago, I came across a Facebook post saying that the only soldier from the surrounding area (Old Perlican, Bay de Verde, Grates Cove and Red Head Cove) who was killed in action at the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel was Pte. John Joseph Rice. I done some research and found out that he is my ancestor. After going through school doing Canadian History, World History and being very interested in it, I was a sea cadet with 295 Baccalieu for 6 years. I was very excited and honoured to know that I had an ancestor that fought in the WW1 and died at Beaumont-Hamel. A while ago, Mary-Lou Riggs (a committee member of our local Community Centre) told me the government along with Honour 100 had funding for us to design a display board with the help of Frank Gogos (a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Advisory Council) to display in our community. I was thrilled to get this news and I started doing my research to find information on Private Rice.

Here is some of the information we found:

John Joseph Rice was born in 1888. He was living on Fleming Street in St. John's with his wife Bridget and child Mary Benedict Rice when he enlisted in January of 1915 at the age of 26. He joined the D Company, number 7 platoon, of the First Newfoundland Regiment. He left Newfoundland two months later.

In August, Pte. Rice left England to begin two weeks of training in Egypt. He took part in the landing at Gallipoli, Turkey and suffered shrapnel wound in his right heel that December. He was discharged from a field hospital in Egypt in February 1916. The Newfoundland Regiment was sent to France in March.

Pte. Rice was among more than 300 Newfoundlanders either killed or presumed dead as a result of the intense battle at Beaumont-Hamel. His body was not recovered.

I put a lot of work into this research and I'm still looking for more information (If anyone has any information to offer on Private Rice, I would like them to come forward). Joanne Hatch also helped me with my research. I told Mary-Lou Riggs that we got to have a memorial service at our local Community Centre to honour Private Rice and the soldiers that fought on July 1st as they paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom we enjoy today. She agreed and I started planning for the service. I invited the cadets of the 295 Baccalieu. And I called the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 23 Carbonear and asked if they could send someone to represent them.

On July 1st 2016, we had the service at our local Community Centre in Red Head Cove. We also unveiled the display which will be proudly displayed on the Baccalieu View Walking Trail in Red Head Cove. The service went really well. It was nice to have everyone come together. After the service was over we had soup and sandwiches which was made by local residents and a cake made and donated by Theresa Kehoe of Red Head Cove. The service was a great success and we want to make it an annual event. I am also hoping to get to Beaumont-Hamel, France, in the next few years to see where Private John Joseph Rice sacrificed so much and to thank him for his service.

Darrell Rice