Almost universally July 1st is Canada Day, seen basically as the Canadian version of the American Independence Day (July 4th). But if you look right and slightly up on the map of Canada there is a slightly different meaning.

What is now the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador only joined Canada after the Second World War. However the people of Newfoundland had a much darker reason to remember July 1st that pre-dates them being part of Canada. That goes back to 1916 and a small corner of France near the river Somme.

The field in question is called Beaumont-Hamel and it was one small part of the larger Battle of the Somme. The bulk of the British forces along with ‘colonial’ regiments were committed to the battle. On the grand scale the losses were devastating with over 60,000 causalities in one day.

The casualities of one regiment could almost get lost in that massive number. But on the battlefield at Beaumont-Hamel the Newfoundland Regiment, almost 800 men, moved into the line in an attempt to exploit what was believed to be some success of earlier waves of soliders. The information was wrong and all that was accomplished was to send men forward in an almost hopeless cause. By the end of the day, less than 70 remained with 710 causalities. In the words of Major-General Sir Beauvoir De Lisle:

It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour, and its assault only failed of success because dead men can advance no further.

Newfoundland Memorial

The loss at home was massive. No town or village was unaffected and it reached into almost every home. So July 1st will forever be known as Memorial Day in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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