France – Beaumont World War One Tour - Orlando / Florida Guide
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The Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial is the largest of the five Caribou sites in France and Belgium,
Here on July 1, 1916 the 1st Battalion of the Newfoundland, regiment suffered 684 casualties, this was over 70 percent of its normal operating full strength.
It was later found that most of these casualties came from the 780 or so men who had heroically advanced to the attack that morning. Of those who went into the advance only about 110 survived unscathed. Only one other battalion suffered heavier casualties that day and this was the 10th West Yorkshire Regiment at Fricourt.
The site was purchased by the regimental chaplain, Tom Nangle, at the end of the war with funds raised largely by the women of Newfoundland. It is the biggest battalion memorial of the Western front and the largest area of the Somme battlefield that has been preserved. The site encompasses the ground over which the Newfoundland battalion as well as several British battalions attacked on that fateful day, as well as part of the German front line system. The centrepiece is the caribou, the symbol of Regiment, and the memorial to all those Newfoundlanders who served in the Great War and to those missing who have no known grave.
Soon after entering the site, you will reach the St. John’s Road trench. This was named after the capital of Newfoundland. It was mostly dug by the Newfoundlanders around May 1916, soon after their arrival in France with the 29th British Division, whom they had joined in Galipoli in September 1915. After the Galipoli evacuation in January 1916, they moved with the Division to Egypt, and then in early April to France.
This trench was a support trench, part of the complex that formed the front line defences. Along with this trench there was also the communication trench which connected it to the forward trenches.
The Newfoundlanders at Dawn on July 1, 1916 waited in this trench for the leading assault battalions to take the forward German lines, after which they were to continue the attack beyond Beaumont onto the Beaucourt ridge.
However, with what at the time was perceived to be the partial failure of the leading assault battalions, an hour after zero hour they were ordered “to move forward in conjunction”. The result of this failure only became clear later as we have now discovered.
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