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Battle of Beaumont Hamel

An Especially Tragic Loss for Newfoundland

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Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial in France

Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial in France

Robert Lovesey / FlickrVision / Getty Images

About the Battle of Beaumont Hamel

The opening day of the Battle of the Somme was a slaughter for the Allies, and the 1st Newfoundland Regiment was virtually annihilated at the Battle of Beaumont Hamel. In Newfoundland and Labrador, July 1 is Memorial Day to commemorate Newfoundland's heavy losses in the Battle of Beaumont Hamel.

 

War

World War I

Date of Battle

July 1, 1916

Location of Battle

Beaumont Hamel, France

Newfoundland Troops

1st Newfoundland Regiment, one of the four battalions of the British 29th Division's 88th Brigade.

Battle of Beaumont Hamel Casualties

  • 733 of 801 men in the 1st Newfoundland Regiment were killed or wounded.
  • Total Allied casualties on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme were 57,470, of which 19,240 were fatal.

Battle of Beaumont Hamel Summary

  • The "Big Push" was a mainly British offensive on the Somme in France. The plan was to break the German defences and clear a path for the cavalry through to the English Channel.

  • The Newfoundlanders were assigned, with a battalion from the Essex Regiment, to take the third enemy line, by which time it was expected there would be little opposition.

  • The Germans not only knew of the planned assault however, but the earlier Allied siege to weaken their defences had also missed many of its targets.

  • At 2 am July 1, the 1st Newfoundland Regiment completed a five-hour march to the trenches.

  • At 8:45 am the Newfoundlanders were ordered in to support the 87th Brigade.

  • The Essex Regiment was delayed by clogged trenches and the Newfoundlanders had to cross 900 metres (over half a mile) of exposed front alone, in broad daylight. No Allied artillery fire covered them.

  • Few made it even as far as the Allied barbed wire, and those who did were expected to move in parade-ground formations through zig zag lanes that had been cut in the wire.

  • The men who made it to No Man's Land could see across another 500 metres (547 yards) of exposed slopes to the German first line of defence.

  • The Battle of Beaumont Hamel was over for the Newfoundlanders in less than half an hour.

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