God Rest the Souls of the Brave Newfoundlanders: Beaumont Hamel, 1916

Definitely not mundane, but sadly pointless.

Yesterday was the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Battle of the Somme.

Newfoundland “did its bit” and sent the Newfoundland Regiment, of around 800 men, to aid the Empire in its “hour of need.”

The Newfoundland Regiment went over the top at Beaumont Hamel at 8.45 a.m., July 1, 1916.

Half an hour later, their battle was over.

At the end of the day, 68 answered the roll call.

The rest were dead or wounded.


There were similar moving stories here about the thousands of innocent young Australians and New Zealanders who were killed in the first days of the Battle of the Somme. Such utter futility…

Here’s to all the mindless killing in all wars. Mostly pointless.

Thanks for the moving story.

I’m still not sure if it’s a traditional song or not, but Great Big Sea does a wonderful tribute to the Royal Newfoundlanders in its song “Recruiting Sargeant”:

"The call came from London for the last July drive,
“To the trenches with the Regiment, prepare yourselves to die.”
Roll call next morning, just a handful survived,
Enlist, ye Newfoundlanders, and come follow me.

So it’s over the mountains and over the seas,
Come, brave Newfoundlanders, and join The Blue Puttees;
You’ll fight the Hun in Flanders, and at Gallipoli,
Enlist, ye Newfoundlanders, and come follow me."

Not pointless. I saw an interesting programme last night that explained how the lessons of July 1st 1916 were learned with, for the military, surprising swiftness, and within weeks the tactics were revised, attacks went off later in the day so the enemy had less daylight to organise counterattacks, commanders on the ground were given freer rein, the “creeping barrage” was developed and there was more use of combined arms and aerial observation.

The price paid for the lessons was high, but it was not, at the last, paid in vain.

God rest their souls indeed. The programme ended with a brief look at the magnificent monument at Thiepval (I’ve been there), plastered with the names of 70,000 Allied troops - they’re just the ones with no known grave. There’s no meaningful response you can make except to stand in silence. Thank you, Newfoundlanders - and all the rest of you.

I caught that on the Beeb as well, it was interesting to see how they developed their tactics. For the time, I suppose there wasn’t really any other way to fight the war.

Also a bit grim, especially the bit where we see a German machine gunner mowing down advancing British troops, tiny figures dropping as he aimed from left to right, from his point of view. Not as grim of course as being told to walk towards the machine gunners.