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Mark Felix of Second Battalion Royal Newfoundland Regiment to attend European ceremonies

Lt.-Col. Mark Felix, centre, leads the Second Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in parade after taking over as commanding officer at the Gallipoli Armoury in Corner Brook Saturday.
Lt.-Col. Mark Felix, centre, leads the Second Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in parade after taking over as commanding officer at the Gallipoli Armoury in Corner Brook Saturday. - Contributed

Lt.-Col. Mark Felix, commanding officer of the Second Battalion Royal Newfoundland Regiment, will be attending the Sgt. Thomas Ricketts Victoria Cross Commemoration Ceremony in Ledegem, Belgium on Saturday.

In a prepared release he said the invitation came from the Belgian Ambassador to have the regiment participate in ceremonies to mark the 100 anniversary to honor Sgt. Thomas Ricketts, Victoria Cross for his actions during the liberation of Ledegem, Belgium in 1918.

Felix, joined by his Regimental Sergeant Major, Master Warrant Officer Bob Sequin will lead a delegation of 15 persons from the Regimental Band to represent 37 Canadian Brigade Group and 5 Canadian Division at this event.

It was on 14 October 1918 that Ricketts was in action at Ledeghem, east of Ypres, in Belgium. During a morning attack, led on the right by Rickett’s B Company, had outrun its own artillery support and causalities began to mount.

Rickett’s was part of a small detachment that went forward to try and outflank the German gun position. He volunteered to go forward with his section commander, Lance Cpl. Matthew Brazil and under heavy enemy fire, until they were about 275 meters from the German battery.

They then ran out of ammunition and the enemy realizing this began bringing up reinforcements. Volunteering again, Ricketts dashed 90 meters back towards his unit’s lines, picked up some ammunition and returned to his section commander, all under heavy fire. With the additional ammunition, Ricketts and Brazil, the only two unwounded Newfoundlanders remaining in the small group that advanced, forced the Germans back to some nearby farm buildings.

As a result, Rickett’s platoon advanced on the enemy without sustaining any more casualties. In the process, they captured four field guns, four machine guns and eight prisoners, soon afterwards adding a fifth field gun to the total.

For his heroism, Ricketts was awarded the Victoria Cross. King George V pinned the VC on Rickett’s chest and at the age of 17 and a half years he became the youngest soldier in the British Commonwealth to receive this prestigious award.

Felix said he will also be attending the Annual Ceremony at Beaumont Hamel on July 1 in memory of the many young men who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy today.

He said of all the battles the Newfoundland Regiment fought during the First World War, none was as devastating or as defining as the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The Regiment's tragic advance at Beaumont Hamel on the morning of July 1, 1916 became an enduring symbol of its valour and of its terrible wartime sacrifices.

On that day 801 men went over the top and of those 710 became casualties, 272 were killed in action or died of wounds, 438 were wounded and only 68 men were available for roll call the next day..

 “It will be an honour and privilege to walk the grounds and pay respect to the many Royal Newfoundland Regiment soldiers, who could not return home after the war,” Felix said.

He said the Second Battalion Royal Newfoundland Regiment is always recruiting young men and women who learn they are joining one of the oldest regiment’s in Canada with a very proud and prestige military history.

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