- Current Mood: excited
Not only is today Canada Day, it is also Memorial Day here in Newfoundland. Today commemorates the first day of the Battle of the Somme when 90% of the First Newfoundland Regiment was wiped out within 20 minutes of the battle.
During the First World War Newfoundland was a largely rural Dominion of the British Empire with a population of 240,000, and not yet part of Canada. The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 led the Government of Newfoundland to recruit a force for service with the British Army. Even though the island had not possessed any formal military organization since 1870, enough men soon volunteered that a whole battalion was formed, and later maintained throughout the war. The regiment was nicknamed the "Blue Puttees" due to a fabric shortage which saw the regiment wearing blue puttees rather than the standard olive drab puttees. The regiment trained at various locations in the United Kingdom and increased from an initial contingent of 500 men to full battalion strength of 1,000 men, before being deployed.
Battle of the somme
At 8:45 a.m. on July 1st the Newfoundland Regiment received ordered to move forward. Movement forward through the communication trenches was not possible because they were congested with dead and wounded men and under shell fire. Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Lovell Hadow, the battalion commander, decided to move immediately into attack formation and advance across the surface, which involved first navigating through the British barbed wire defenses. As they breasted the skyline behind the British first line, they were effectively the only troops moving on the battlefield and clearly visible to the German defenders. Most of the Newfoundland Regiment who had started forward were dead, dying or wounded within 15 to 20 minutes of leaving the trench. Most reached no further than the Danger Tree, a skeleton of a tree that lay in No Man's Land that was being utilized as a landmark. So far as can be ascertained, 22 officers and 758 other ranks were directly involved in the advance. Of these, all the officers and slightly under 658 other ranks became casualties. Of the 780 men who went forward only about 110 survived unscathed, of whom only 68 were available for roll call the following day. For all intents and purposes the Newfoundland Regiment (the future leaders of the Dominion of Newfoundland) had been wiped out, the unit as a whole having suffered a casualty rate of approximately 90%. The only unit to suffer greater casualties during the attack was the 10th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment, attacking west of Fricourt village.
- Current Mood:Somber