Return to Beaumont Hamel – 90th Anniversary Ceremonies
Intro to section on the 90th anniversary trip
July 1, 2006 marked the
90th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme at
Beaumont Hamel, France. The Royal Newfoundland Regiment organized a
pilgrimage back to France between June 26 and July 2 to commemorate the
event that took place there 90 years ago. The trip took them to each of
the five battlefield parks where they participated in a ceremony at each
of them with a final culmination of activities on July 1st at
Beaumont Hamel where the Colonel in Chief of the Regiment, Her Royal
Highness The Princess Royal Anne attended along with other dignitaries.
At 9:15am the Newfoundland Regiment commenced their attack on their own. They went over the top from St. John’s Road towards the support trench and on to their front line trench, crossed over their wire, advanced over the downward slope of No Man’s Land and through the German wire before attempting to enter the German trenches, a distance of approximately 470 meters. The distance from St. John’s Road to the British Front Lines was 250 meters.
The Regiment was completely exposed to the German machine gun fire with “A” and “B” companies proceeding first, followed by “C” and “D” companies behind. These men were the only targets for the German machine guns as they walked into a hail of German bullets and shells. Many of the men did not make it to their own front line and the dead and wounded soldiers from previous assaults were now blocking the gaps in their own wire. The furthest advance made by the Newfoundlanders that day was the “Danger Tree” which is situated about mid-way in No Man’s Land.
By 9:45am it was all over for the Newfoundlanders. LCol. Hadow informed Brigadier General Caley that the attack had failed. Of the 801 men that went over the top, 710 became casualties - 272 were killed in action or died of wounds and 438 were wounded. Every officer of the Newfoundland Battalion who went into battle that day became a casualty, fourteen were killed and eleven were wounded. Brigadier General de Lisle later stated in a letter to the Prime Minister of Newfoundland, “It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour and its assault failed only because dead men can advance no further.”
These words were meant to be of great praise on the actions of the Newfoundland Regiment, however they offered little comfort to those that were left behind to mourn the loss of loved ones. It was approximately two weeks later before the people of Newfoundland became totally aware of the devastation that had occurred at Beaumont Hamel.
To also commemorate the event for the first time on July 1st a ceremony was also held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa with Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaelle Jean and the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada in attendance.