Newfoundland Bleeds: July 1, 1916
Royal Newfoundland Memorial
In 1916 Newfoundland was still a British colony. Their 1st Battalion, attached to the 29th Division of the British Army, attacked with the second wave on the the First Day of the Somme on July 1, 1916. By the time of their assault near the village of Beaumont Hamel things were already amiss. Word had filtered back that few from the first wave had crossed to the enemy line. When the order to move up arrived, there was no time to scramble through the relatively safe communication trenches to get to their jump-off point. The trenches had become congested with the wounded of the first wave who were crawling back from No-Mans-Land. The men of Newfoundland would, instead, have to go up top, over open ground. Thus, they would need to advance 300 yards over churned-up, unprotected ground, just to get to their own (British) front line. Then they'd need to survive another 300 yards to the German front line. Those few who made it through their own barbed wire gaps staggered on. Only a few ever reached the German line to hurl a grenade into the enemy trenches. Most were cut down.
Newfoundland at the Somme
In 30 minutes it was all over. Of the 790 Newfoundlanders who went into battle, only 68 were able to answer the roll call the next day. The regiment was virtually annihilated. The Newfoundland Regiment was bestowed with the prefix "Royal," in 1918, by King George V in recognition of its valor at the Somme and its "magnificent bravery and resolute determination" at Ypres and Cambrai. The small loyal colony had suffered more losses proportionally than any other part of the Empire, including Britain. Today, a visit to Beaumont Hamel with its magnificent Caribou monument, trenches, shell holes and three cemeteries is a "Must See" stop for all pilgrims to the Western Front.
Learn more about the sacrifices of the Newfoundland regiment at these web sites:
The Battle of the Somme
Canadian Virtual War Memorial (Newfoundland)