Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont Hamel – Remembered
Today I am thinking of our Newfoundland lads. I did not know that the people I was chatting with, having a joke or two, had lost a whole generation of sons in this war they called WWI. To be talking with the fishermen, their descendants, and hear their pride sliding along with pain so deep t’is not to be spoken of is very moving. A true Newfoundlander never speaks of the ills of life, only the irony of it.
I have taken every course offered by Mun University on Newfoundland heritage, its people and its land. I took so many courses at Toronto University on all the wars back through the Middle Ages on to WWI, WWII, and Korean War, Vietnam War and on and on.
However, my heart thinks about a generation of brothers, sons, men, husbands, fathers, and grandfathers gone from this Island of so few to begin with. When our b’ys went over to war Newfoundland and Labrador was a Dominion of the British Empire. Back then, Newfoundland was just made up of fishing villages, no electricity, no modern conveniences – just a struggle to survive the great Atlantic Ocean…to bring enough fish to the table and to the merchants who forced the fisher’s to buy the goods needed at such inflated prices they were always dead poor in the winter time. So to think that their sons and daughters went off to war, having never seen anything more than their boats and fish is quite profound.
More profound is the bravery spoken about through generations of the famous fearless Newfoundland Regiment, a part of the 29th British Division. Look at the picture below called No Man’s Land – this is No Man’s Land, Beaumont-Hamel just before the Battle of Somme.
July 1st 1916
“On July 1 in broad daylight one hundred thousand men climbed out of their trenches and advanced shoulder to shoulder in line, both behind the other, across the crater-torn waste of No Man’s Land. Weighed down with sixty-six pounds of equipment each, they advanced slowly towards the waiting German guns. The result was slaughter – – the heaviest day’s loss ever suffered by a British army.
Now imagine our Newfoundland b’ys watching this in their river filled trenches, now filled with the wounded and dying. The Newfoundland Regiment was ordered to be the 2nd wave since the 1st wave failed.
“At Beaumont Hamel, the Newfoundland Regiment, part of the 29th British Division was virtually annihilated. In less than half an hour, as they advanced into point-blank fire from German machine guns, the Islanders were cut down. Of the 801 men who went into the battle only 68 unwounded men answered roll call the next day. Afterwards it was said of the Newfoundland effort:
“It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valor, and its assault failed of success because dead men can advance no further.” July 1 in Newfoundland is still a day of commemoration and mourning.” From Remember Canada.
Imagine 733 Newfoundland young b’ys soldiers were gone in only 30 minutes.
Killed in action with the remaining 68 traumatized,
shocked b’ys never to be the same again.
History always repeats itself as she swallows up her dead. Grieving to be sure since these are History’s b’ys all brave, naïve and dead. History will never forget her b’ys nor will we on this day November 11th 2010 for the b’ys of the Newfoundland Regiment.
This video is the most moving and haunting one I have ever come across. As the voice of Anthony Hutchcroft, a Newfoundlander himself, sings the song to “In Flanders Fields” video, we see the ghostly images of dancers choreographed by Anthony’s wife Lee Kwidzinski, who is also the video’s director and choreographer. The dancers are from the Fraser Valley Youth Dance Theatre. Please click on the website below the video to hear and see John McCrae’s poem filled with his words and depth of spirit through this video.
Courtesy of Anthony Hutchcroft – Flandersfieldsmusic.com
Only Made in Newfoundland – Elizabeth J.