The Guns of 1917: Newfoundland at the Somme

A special six part series of columns by William Roubicek on Vimy Ridge

William Roubicek is a recent graduate of Charles Hays Secondary School and member of the Captain Cook Sea Cadets. This is the third of six columns that chronicle the journey by his corps to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.

When the rest of the country celebrates Canada Day, the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador observe Memorial Day.

The holiday commemorates a fight that took place on July 1, 1916 near the tiny township of Beaumont-Hamel, two hours north of Paris. It was the first day of the Battle of the Somme, an engagement that would last for more than four months.

The Newfoundland Regiment, which served with the British 29th Division, sent 810 soldiers into action that morning.

Newfoundland was still a British Dominion. It would not become a province of Canada for another three decades.

Despite its modest population of 241,000, more than 8,500 Newfoundlanders enlisted to fight during the First World War. By way of comparison, all the students and staff of Prince Rupert Middle School would represent the same proportion of our city’s population.

By 10 a.m., all but 68 members of the Newfoundland Regiment had been killed or wounded in the failed attack.

Today, the scarred landscape of Newfoundland Memorial Park is crisscrossed with reconstructed trenches. The Great Caribou Monument stands on a block of granite, facing the direction of the Regiment’s advance. A bronze arrow embedded in the wall shows it is 2,500 miles to Newfoundland.

As I walked through the graveyards, I noticed that the men who died were my age. They would have been my peers. I couldn’t imagine the horror those soldiers must have felt seeing their brothers and comrades gunned down.

They had family, friends, favourite foods, treasured books, embarrassing stories, entirely unique outlooks on the world. And in less than 30 minutes, their entire regiment was extinguished.

I hope these men would have been glad to know that their sacrifice was not in vain. Their courage bought the freedom we have to visit these grass-covered battlegrounds in peace.

Just Posted

VIDEO and story: Totem pole raised on Lelu after LNG project falls

More than 100 people came to the pole raising on Lelu Island after the end of Pacific NorthWest LNG

Prince Rupert’s Got Talent returning to the stage

The city’s young performers will put their talent on display Oct. 21

Hockey arena is safe despite ammonia use

City says the use of ammonia in refrigeration systems poses no threat to the public

VIDEO and story: Heart of Our City — Join the club

Trish Banighen keeps a full schedule in Prince Rupert

Wolverine’s first open house

Questions answered on the Prince Rupert Fuels Service project for the port

VIDEO: Sears liquidation sales continue across B.C.

Sales are expected to continue into the New Year

Human remains found at Silver Creek property

RCMP have been searching the property in the 2200 block of Salmon River Road for the past three days

New B.C. acute care centre opens for young patients, expectant mothers

Facility aims to make B.C. Children’s Hospital visits more comfortable

Search ramps up for B.C. woman after dog, car found near Ashcroft

Jenny Lynn Larocque’s vehicle and dog were found in Venables Valley, but there is no sign of her

Police officer hit by car, stabbed in Edmonton attack back on job

Const. Mike Chernyk, 48, returned to work Thursday

UBC medical students learn to care for Indigenous people

Students in health-related studies to take course, workshop to help better serve Aboriginal people

Dorsett has 2 goals, assist in Canucks’ 4-2 win over Sabres

‘It was a real good hockey game by our group,’ Canucks coach Travis Green said.

Berry disappointed: Bear tries to eat fake fruit on woman’s door wreath

A Winnipeg woman has taken her berry-embellished wreath down, after a hungry bear visited her porch

Man in custody linked police search near Salmon Arm

Police have not connected arrest to search at Salmon River Road property

Most Read