For the information of our American neighbours and British, Australian and other international friends, today is our Canada Day . July 1, formerly 'Dominion Day', celebrates the anniversary of the enactment of the British North America Act when the British colonies of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and a province of the British Empire were united into the single country of Canada in 1867. Sadly, I must work today but will get a day of in lieu tomorrow. My mind will be on my work...and it will be on those out celebrating today. My son has a cadet ceremony and parade to attend this morning. In part to celebrate Canada Day, but also to honour an occasion not well-known outside of Newfoundland and Labrador.
On July 1, 1916 the 1st Newfoundland Regiment, along with British and French troops, began the Battle of the Somme near the village of Beaumont-Hamel in France. It marked the first day of what would be four months of fighting. The final outcome, a movement forward of the front lines by 10km, would cost the British and their allies more than 650,000 either killed, wounded, missing or taken prisoner. The image above was borrowed from the Veterans Affairs Canada web site.
Etched into the memories and fibre of older Newfoundlanders are the loses sustained by the 1st Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont-Hamel on the first day of action on July 1, 1916. These brave soldiers, nicknamed the "Blue Puttees" because of the colour of their leggings on their lower legs, left the trenches in the early morning. Of the 801 who went into battle, only 68 answered roll call the next morning. The count was 255 dead, 386 wounded and 91 missing. The numbers were staggering for the island dominion of Newfoundland with a population of about 240,000 (12,000 of whom enlisted in the war).
The commander of the 29th British Division said of the actions of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment:
"It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour, and its assault only failed of success because dead men can advance no further."
Happy Canada Day to my Canadian friends and best wishes to my American friends who will be celebrating their Independence Day this weekend.