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Battle of Beaumont Hamel

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Beaumont Hamel Trenches

Beaumont Hamel Trenches

Harold Clements / Hutton Archive / 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:

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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