A map of a transatlantic marvel and the centenary of Beaumont-hamel
Honouring a lost generation years after they fought and died at Beaumont-hamel
For most Canadians, July 1 is a day to celebrate the birth of their country. For the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, however, it marks a sobering day in the province’s history — one that continues to be remembered a century later. On July 1, 1916, nearly the entire Newfoundland Regiment was wiped out at Beaumont-hamel during the first day of the Battle of the Somme in northern France. Of the 801 soldiers from the regiment who fought that day, only 68 were able to answer roll call after the battle. It was a devastating blow, as Gerald Nicholson notes in The Fighting Newfoundlander: A History of the Royal
Newfoundland Regiment: “The casualty lists from that battle reached into every community of the island Colony. From the city of St. John’s down to the smallest, most remote outport, there was scarcely a family that did not have the loss of some loved one to mourn.” A memorial in France ( above) commemorates the soldiers, but in Newfoundland and Labrador, they’re remembered on July 1, or Memorial Day. The centenary year of the battle is being marked in the province in a number of ways, including by the opening on July 1 of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Gallery at The Rooms, the provincial museum, art gallery and archives. Among the items in the new permanent exhibition will be something that represents Newfoundlanders who died at BeaumontHamel finally coming home to rest — soil patriated from the battlefield itself.