In his engrossing talks, General Rick Hillier draws from more than 30 years of experience with the Canadian Forces, including the three he served as Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff. General Hillier takes audiences through the principles of leadership that he learned on the battlefield, and how they can be applied to civilian life. Recently, General Hillier made headlines for his involvement in helping to spearhead the The Royal Newfoundland Regiment Gallery — the largest First World War exhibit in Canada. This permanent gallery dedicated to remembering the tragedy of Beaumont Hamel comes with a hefty price tag, but an even greater amount of pride:
Retired general, Rick Hillier is co-chair of fundraising and one of the main players in the commemoration campaign.
He believes that this significant milestone in Newfoundland and Labrador history touches a chord with all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Every single family from that relatively small population at the time had somebody engaged, somebody involved, was affected directly themselves,” said Hillier.
“Those soldiers in the pictures with their hats on, carrying their weapons and tired and dirty in places like Suvla and Gallipoli … They’re not robots, they’re our sons.”
Hillier added: “They’re all Newfoundlanders from every family in the province … I think that’s why it has such an impact here we’re all involved.”
The Royal Newfoundland Regiment Gallery will open 100 years after Beaumont Hamel. More than 700 young Newfoundland men were injured or killed on July 1, 1916.
The gallery will feature a series of stunning exhibits with a vast collection of artifacts and stories from the First World War. It will also take a closer look at the effect Beaumont Hamel had on Newfoundland and Labrador prior to confederation.
While Hillier said they’ve raised over $10 million of the $15-million goal, he’s hopeful through people’s generosity they can achieve what they set out to do.
“Newfoundlanders have always been generous, they have a history of … looking after the things they consider important,” said Hillier.
“The sacrifice of Newfoundland and Labrador sons for us to give us this great province that we have now … Newfoundlanders will continue to give to make sure we don’t forget … and we educate generations that come after us to what they did.”
This anniversary falls every year on Canada Day. While the country celebrates, this holiday is bittersweet for most in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Hillier said he has always made it a point to share the profound story of Beaumont-Hamel with as many people he can.
“If you’re a Newfoundlander you talk about Newfoundland,” said Hillier. “I told everybody that was within reach from the Governor General and Prime Minister.”
“The defining moment in our history and the incredible Newfoundlanders that went over the hill at Beaumont Hamel and the price they paid and the fact that we’re never going to forget them and we’re going to remember their sacrifice for us and what an incredible life we have as a result of that.”