At 8:45 am on July 1 1916, the Newfoundland Regiment and the First Battalion of Essex received orders to move forward on to the Beaumont- Hamel Battlefield. An event that would go down in history as the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
The Newfoundland regiment was situated in a support trench they named St John’s Road. Regiment could not take the communication trench to advance forward and out of sight of the enemy. The communication trench was congested with the dead and wounded and under constant shell fire.
Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Lovel Hadow ordered the men into formation and to advance directly onto the battlefield. The regiment men were the only ones moving on the field and clearly visible to the Germans. Within 20 minutes most were killed or wounded. Of the 780 men who moved forward, only 110 survived. Their advance made it no further than the “Danger Tree”; a war ravaged lonely tree in No Mans Land used as a land marker. The tree was less than 1000 yards from the trench.
Nestled in isolation in St John’s Bowring Park is an Oasis of Peace and natural beauty.
Here, there is no sense of war. The only sound that breaks the silence is distant bird song not shell fire. Here the stoic and mighty caribou stands as the guardian of the regiment’s memory and reminder of their bravery. As does his twin on the field of Beaumont -Hamel in France and in close proximity to a replica of The Danger Tree that stand at the very same spot today.
On September 28 1917, King George V honored the the regiment with the title “The Royal Regiment of Newfoundland”
On July 1st when Canada celebrates the nations birthday, it is a day of remembrance in Newfoundland and Labrador.