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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Canada Day - Remembering the Battle of the Somme

Tomorrow is Canada Day. A celebration of the nation we live in, but did you know it’s also the anniversary of the battle of the Somme? It was on July 1, 1916 that this historic battle at Beaumont Hamel began. It was also this day that the Newfoundland Regiment fought its first engagement in France. An engagement that would prove to be the regiment’s costliest of the war.

After the battle, one report on the efforts of the Newfoundlander's, from the Divisional Commander stated, “It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour, and its assault failed of success because dead men can advance no further.”

For its size, no unit suffered heavier losses than did the Newfoundland Regiment which began the battle with 801 men. Only 68 answered to roll call the next day.

For decades it was a custom in the province to remember these fine men on July 1, the anniversary of the day so many perished. With official recognition of Canada Day having been set for the same date, the people of the province would attend solemn ceremonies and watch legion parades in the morning then raise the Canadian flag in the afternoon. Some would call it a livable compromise, but even this is no longer happening.

These days the parades and legion gatherings are relegated to another, arbitrarily determined day. Newfoundland and Labrador lost many sons in what was arguably one of the bloodiest battles of World War I, four from one family alone. The historical acts of remembrance that people of the province took part in is woven into the fabric our shared history. That fabric is now torn and tattered. The memories relegated to the back pages of history and the dust of battle swept under the collective carpet of this country.

On July 1 a small group of protestors usually gather to remember the day by wearing black arm bands and marching on Confederation Hill. Will they do the same this year or a year from now, or will they’re numbers begin to dwindle over time? One can only hope that at least some segment of our population does not forget those that went before.

Newfoundland and Labrador has a rich and vibrant history that should make everyone in the province hold their heads high with pride. The problem today is that the people of the province have been stepped on and pushed around for so long that they don’t even realize it.


Sheila P said...

Memorial Day was a big event when I was growing up. Now its pretty much forgotten. Its a shame and a black mark on the province that we let Canada dictate how we remember our soldiers. Soldiers who were not in the Canadian forces but the Newfoundland forces.

Anonymous said...

it is a shame...

a fitting conflict maybe?

Maria said...

We've sold our soul to get the Dole.

Canada gave us our social safety net back in 49 and we lost and we gave up our souls in return.

This is shameful.