Canadian WW1-WW2 -Battlefield & Family History Travel & Tours

CANADIAN PREMIUM BATTLEFIELD TOURS & JOURNEYS OF REMEMBRANCE - WW1: WW2

 

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1st Newfoundland Regiment : WW1: Beaumont-Hamel: July 1916: Battle of the Somme

The 1st Newfoundland Regiment was ordered into battle at the village of Beaumont-Hamel as part of the start of the the Battle of the Somme on July 1st 1916. On this day the Regiment suffered the worst loss in its history. 

The Regiment started its attack at 9.15 am. By 9.45 am most of the men in the regiment were either dead or wounded. Among the 732 casualties from just over 800 men of the regiment, 255 were dead, 386 were wounded, and 91 were listed as missing. Every officer in the regiment was either wounded or dead. Only 68 men answered the regimental roll call the day after the attack.

The Newfoundland Regiment however was NOT a part of the Canada Division in 1916 (It did not become part of Canada until 1949 after the Second World War) and did not fight under the Canadians, this one battalion of soldiers were from the Dominion of Newfoundland and fought as part of the British forces. 

However, with an intense 7 day artillery bombardment preceding the attack, then the immediate stillness after the artillery bombardment, this then signalled to the Germans that an infantry attack was forthcoming. As the German defenders trenches were well fortified the 7 day bombardment hardly dented the German defences. 

The Newfoundlanders started their attack at Beaumont-Hamel from a position known as St Johns Road, which was actually behind the front line. The reason for this was that the front line was so full of casualties from previous attacks that day that the quick movement of able-bodied men was nearly impossible


Because of this, the Newfoundlanders to attack had to traverse across over 200 metres of open ground  with murderous machine gun fire from all sides just to to reach their start point for the attack, then from here another half a kilometre of further downhill open ground with even more concentrated machine gun fire and artillery. The attack was absolute carnage and utter futility.

The action of the Regiment was summed up by senior army commanders 'as a magnificent display of courage' - nothing was mentioned about the sheer idiocy of charging full tilt into murderous machine gun fire over half a kilometre of killing ground against a well prepared enemy controlling the entire battlefield. No senior officer thought that the loss of so many men in such a small section of the front line was unacceptable and that the tactics used were in fact an execution order. Sadly, this type of fighting against a well prepared and dug in enemy was to prove the norm during this terrible phase of the war, resulting in over 57,000 British and Commonwealth casualties on the July 1 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, and over 650,000 British and Commonwealth casualties for the duration of the battle of the Somme.

At the end of WW1, the Newfoundlanders had received royal recognition when it was allowed to add "Royal" to its name. Today the area where the fighting took place is a stunning totally preserved park which has preserved the trenches and fighting areas surrounded by farmland. The Canadian and Newfoundland flag flies equally outside the entrance, with the centrepiece of the park dominated by a statue of a caribou that looks out over the land where long ago, all these brave men fell in battle. 100 years on nature has  softened the outline of the trenches and the park is honeycombed with shell craters.

The Danger Tree. Today visitors walk by what at first glance appears to be an insignificant part of a dead tree encased in a concrete block next to a pathway. This is however highly significant in the history of the Regiment and the fighting at Beaumont-Hamel. This is a preserved part of an original tree that incredibly survived the intense shelling in the area, and as the Newfoundlanders moved down the slope to the German trenches, the tree afforded the only shelter on the battlefield. It was heavily shelled by the Germans who saw it as gathering point and hence it became known as the as the 'Danger Tree'.

Caribou Statue Newfoundland Park, Beaumont Hamel

Old trench system Newfoundland Park Beaumont-Hamel

Newfoundland Flags, Newfoundland Park, Beaumont-Hamel

Newfoundland Park Beaumont -Hamel

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