The Rooms to present ‘Where Once They Served’ exhibit in April

Southwest Arm First World War project to be displayed at provincial museum


Published on March 18, 2017

The special event for “Where Once They Served” held in SWA Academy on Nov. 10. SWA Historical Society, from left to right: Military researcher Lester Green, secretary Peggy Hogan, website manager Wanda Garrett, president Elaine Spurrell, and vice-president Andrew Peddle.

©TC Media file photo

Since beginning work on a First World War project, Lester Green simply wanted to honour the veterans of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment from his home area of Southwest Arm.

Now, the finished project is about to expand to a provincial scale with a month-long instalment in The Rooms.

When Green found out his exhibit, “Where Once They Served”, would be showcased at The Rooms in St. John’s, he thought it would be one of the many temporary contributions to the provincial museum over the years.

But in fact, he was informed by curator Craig Tucker, the exhibit would be only the second of its kind to occupy the space of the provincial museum overlooking St. John’s harbour.

It’s an honour for me to see these 26 men being recognized Lester Green

“We’re educating people about the common foot soldier,” explained Green in an interview with TC Media. “These were just the common people … These guys weren’t heavily decorated, but they did the job.”

“Where Once They Served” is an exhibit featuring 26 First World War Royal Newfoundland Regiment veterans from the Southwest Arm area.

Green is the driving force and creator of the exhibit, which he curated with the Southwest Arm Historical Society. He originally wrote a column in The Packet newspaper profiling each of the subjects.

With help from designer Robbie Jacobs, Green had the profiles turned into 15 informative banners. The SWA Historical Society hosted an event last November at Southwest Arm Academy with family members, community leaders and even the Lieutenant Governor Frank Fagan in attendance.

Green credits Jacobs as an integral part of the project, donating time and talent to create the banners.

“To me, the professionalism that’s in those banners … makes all the difference.”

He says The Rooms exhibit will be an opportunity for Jacobs to see the results of his work because he hasn’t seen them properly set up before.

And Green is still fielding thanks himself, from the many family members and acquaintances who were able to see their loved ones honoured by Green and the SWA Historical Society.

It provided many with an opportunity to learn about their fathers and grandfathers, says Green, because they often didn’t talk about the experiences in the war.

Beginning Wednesday, April 5, the public will be able to view the SWA exhibit, which will also include a guest book and a “gambling game” artifact.

Green says he’s honoured to have his work recognized by The Rooms, but more importantly, to be able to bring the story of the veterans to the forefront.

“It’s the pinnacle of Newfoundland history,” he said. “It’s an honour for me to see these 26 men being recognized … and to get people aware of them.”

The significance of featuring the exhibit during the month of April is to commemorate the Newfoundland Regiment’s battle at Monchy-le-Preux, which was 100 years ago this April 14.

Green says he knows at least two of the veterans from the Arm who fought and were wounded during the battle — Bernard Shaw and Hubert Green.

He hopes that as more people from around the province see the exhibit, more will be inspired to look into their own local history and produce similar projects.

Upcoming, Green is turning his attention to the Royal Navy Reserve. While he is still working out logistics, he is planning a similar project to remember the 85-plus Southwest Arm area members of the Navy who served during the First World War as well.

Green says he will be working closely with the SWA Historical Society and others in the community to make that project a reality.

 

jonathan.parsons@thepacket.ca

Twitter: @jejparsons