A somber reflection
Large crowds remember on 100th anniversary of Beaumont-Hamel battle
Exactly 100 years earlier and off across a vast ocean in France, hundreds of young men from this province joined Allied Forces in a First World War attack that proved to be devastating.
On July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, members of the Newfoundland Regiment were in trenches near the village of Beaumont Hamel, with the task at hand being to seize control of German trenches.
The loss in general that the (Royal Newfoundland) Regiment suffered makes today important. Robin Morgan
The advance that morning was futile. Most of the soldiers who left their trenches were killed or wounded by German cross-fire before they could reach the area between the two sides known as No Man’s Land.
Those who did manage to reach German trenches discovered the week-long artillery barrage failed to cut German barbed wire. They majority of those soldiers were killed.
The casualties that morning were immense. A mere 69 soldiers answered roll call follow- ing the attack. A staggering 324 were killed or missing and presumed dead (over two-dozen hailed from the Trinity-Conception-Placentia area). A further 386 were wounded. Almost 20,000 British troops died that same morning.
The realities of war were on the minds of many who attended Memorial Day ceremonies in Newfoundland and Labrador, including hundreds who showed up in Bay Roberts, Carbonear and Harbour Grace.
Family members of veterans left wreaths to honour their loved ones. One of those people was Robin Morgan from Conception Bay South. Holding a picture of a young man in uniform, he was there to pay tribute to his great-great uncle William Morgan of Port de Grave.
William was 16 when he lost his life in the opening moments of the Battle of the Somme at Beaumont Hamel. He was the first 16-year-old to be killed in the battle.
“The loss in general that the (Royal Newfoundland) Regiment suffered makes today important,” said Robin. “Not only the Regiment, but the people back home and what they had to bear.”
Jesse Chislette of Cavendish was one of the lucky ones. He made it out of the war alive. The private was wounded during a later mission in the Battle of the Somme and sent to a sanatorium in England.
His grandson Roy and great-great grandson Kyle Hamilton of Carbonear were both present for Friday’s ceremony in Carbonear. Hamilton wore a replica of a Newfoundland Regiment uniform and stood next to the cenotaph as wreaths were laid. He was also wearing Jesse’s medals from the war (his uniform did not come home with him).
Roy recalls his grandfather saying very little about the war experience, other than mentioning there were times when Chislette survived on rats. Roy has held on to those medals over the years.
In Bay Roberts, Mayor Philip Wood addressed the incredible impact the events at Beaumont Hamel had on people back home.
“While the rest of Canada celebrates Canada Day, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have always taken the chance to remember the losses and sacrifices felt by virtually every household in the province at that time,” said Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood.
“Even though it is 100 years later, the pain and the sting is still very fresh in our minds today.”
Kyle Hamilton, left, and his grandfather Roy. Kyle’s replica of a Newfoundland Regiment uniform from the First World War includes actual medals earned by his great-great grandfather, Jesse Chislette. Chistlette, who was from Cavendish, served with the regiment during the war.
Bugler Brett Pilgrim performs “The Last Post” beside the cenotaph in Carbonear.
Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood delivers a speech during the ceremony in Bay Roberts. Wood is also a member of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 32.
Avalon MP Ken McDonald is joined by RCMP officer Sheldon Dyke in laying a wreath to honour the fallen at the cenotaph in Bay Roberts.
The 32 Beothic Royal Canadian Sea Cadets band plays some tunes as they march along Harvey Street in Harbour Grace.