2016 Remembrance Day marks the centennial of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel which is remembered as a "tragic, et defining moment in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador."
During the First World War, Newfoundland (then a colony of then Dominion of the United Kingdom became the 10th province of the Canadian federation on March 31, 1949) sent a regiment to France. It first saw battle during the Somme offensive. On June 24, the Allied powers bombarded the German front lines with artillery. The barrage lasted a week, and was intended to weaken enemy defence in advance of a July 1 ground attack. The battleground was a 34-kilometre ribbon of land near the river Somme.
On June 30, the Newfoundland Regiment departed Louvencourt and marched three hours to its trenches on the battlefield. Its objective was to seize control of the German trenches near the French village of Beaumont-Hamel. The first wave of Allied troops left their trenches at 7:30 and was greeted by a devastating barrage of enemy artillery and machine gun fire. At 08:45 the Newfoundland Regiment was ordered to advance ‘as soon as possible’. At 09:45 its Commanding Officer reported that the attack had failed: “The Germans actually mowed us down like sheep”. The Regiment had been almost wiped out.
When the roll call was taken, only 68 men answered their names – 324 were killed, or missing and presumed dead, and 386 were wounded. Today the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Dwight Ball, will be in Ottawa on Remembrance Day to commemorate the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel and to lay wreaths with other dignitaries at the National War Memorial. He will also attend a viewing of the “Trail of the Caribou,” a documentary on the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel.
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