HAWKE’S BAY, N.L. / ABBEVILLE, FRANCE – Mark Bromley has made an emotional journey to reach a lost ancestor.
This past March, the 21-year-old Canadian military computer technician, linked generations of his family when he visited the gravesite of his great-great uncle Private Reuben Perry of River of Ponds.
Perry was a casualty of the First World War.
In 1916, at the age of 19, he enlisted in the First Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment to fight with the British army.
The following December, the young private was wounded in battle.
He died of his injuries on December 24, 1917, at the age of 20, in Abbeville, France.
Perry was buried at the Abbeville Communal Cemetery.
For over 100 years, no members of his family have had the opportunity to visit his grave – that is, until now.
Mark seized upon the opportunity after learning he’d be stationed in Latvia with the 2nd Royal Canadian Regiment.
While on his holidays, he decided he would take a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to make the visit.
In March, he flew into Paris and took a train south to Abbeville.
Then there was about a kilometre to walk to the cemetery.
“The feeling was very sombre, but also pride,” Mark told the Northern Pen by email. “It is one thing to be the first one to visit him, but also the first person to visit as a serving member of the family, it was very humbling.”
Mark’s parents – both of whom are from the Northern Peninsula – are in the military as well.
He is related to Perry through his mother Linda’s side of the family. He learned about Perry from her.
“My mother has been telling me about him as long as I can remember,” said Mark. “I have always told her that we will visit his grave one day, eventually.”
A veteran of the military for 24 years, Linda had taken a great interest in Perry. She had spent years and years researching her ancestor and teaching her two children about him.
She has Perry’s medals, his belt and other items of his.
Linda, who is originally from Hawke’s Bay, says it was emotional to see her son at the gravesite.
“When he sent the pictures, I was very emotional,” she told the Northern Pen. “He was the first family member, the first serving Canadian Forces member (to visit Perry’s grave). Just having the opportunity to know that finally (Perry) had family visit his grave was very emotional for me. And (I’m) very proud.”
The pictures show two Newfoundland flags planted alongside Perry’s grave. Mark placed them there.
He said it was, “to show a bit of pride in where we come from and let him know he is definitely not forgotten.”
In Mark's email, he also commended how the people of Abbeville and France had taken care of the Commonwealth graves from the war.
“It is absolutely beautiful there and extremely well-maintained,” he said.
He says the experience is something he’ll never forget:
“It was a very big day for me, after years and years of seeing photos of him, his records, and pictures of the grave site posted online, I finally got to see everything with my own eyes, and it is definitely something that will stick with me for the rest of my life.”