Sunday, July 1, 2012

'Dead men can advance no further'

Today is Memorial Day in Newfoundland and Labrador, the most solemn day of the year.

Today is also Canada Day, the country’s 145th birthday — a day of celebration.

The tragedy for Newfoundland at Beaumont Hamel, France during the First World War is often overshadowed by the nation’s birthday.

At midday we’re supposed to switch from a Memorial Day focus to Canada Day focus.

Which is hard to do. 

July 1, 1916 was the bloodiest day in Newfoundland and Labrador history.

Of the 801 Newfoundland officers and men who took part in the assault at Beaumont Hamel — most of whom were in their late teens or early 20s — only 68 answered the roll call the next day.

The Commander of the 88th brigade — Brigadier-General Cayley — wrote to then-Prime Minister of Newfoundland, Sir Edward Morris.

He wrote about the courage and discipline displayed by the members of the Newfoundland Regiment in their first battle on the Western Front at Beaumont Hamel.

He wrote: “It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour, and its assault only failed because dead men can advance no further.”

For the small nation of Newfoundland, the loss was absolutely devastating — felt in every town, in every outport, and in every family.

July 1st — Lest we forget.

July 1st — Happy Birthday!

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