Academic journal article Manitoba History

An Innovative Commemoration of the Somme

Academic journal article Manitoba History

An Innovative Commemoration of the Somme

Article excerpt

Honouring the narrative of the First World War has taken a creative turn in Britain that may inspire local commemorations. The Battle of the Somme marked an Allied offensive in France from July to November in 1916. Controversial and devastating to both sides, the Somme resulted in terrible carnage.

The joint Allied offensive planned for French forces to play a prominent role, but heavy casualties at Verdun reduced their ability to participate. As a result, British and other imperial forces including Canada, under the command of Sir Douglas Haig, assumed responsibility for most of the front. The first day of the Somme battle was a disaster, with nearly 60,000 casualties.

No Canadian infantry units participated in this first attack but, at Beaumont Hamel, the 1st Newfoundland Regiment, attached to a British division, was cut down on 1 July by German machine-gun fire as it attacked over open ground. Within 30 minutes, the regiment suffered a crippling 324 killed and 386 wounded out of 801 soldiers. Newfoundland, not yet a province within Canada, commemorates their losses in an evocative site at Beaumont Hamel which includes a well-preserved battlefield staffed with Canadian guides, as at Vimy Ridge. …

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