100 years ago this very morning one of, if not the, bloodiest battles of World War I was fought; the Battle of Beaumont Hamel, the first Battle of the Somme.
As I now live in Newfoundland that has special significance. The very fabric of the Dominion of Newfoundland was changed that day. So many young men lost, lives altered. I encourage you to watch any of the specials the CBC has put together; to somewhat understand what it means to the people of this island, that at that time wasn't part of Canada (Canada and Newfoundland were officially united on April 1, 1949). Newfoundland paid a terrible price. Links are at the end of this post.
The causes of WWI (aka The Great War, The War to End War, etc.) are many. The terms imposed against Germany at the Treaty of Versailles on November 11, 1918 in many ways paved the road for WWII. But many people here ask why the first happened at all. Why were those men sent to the slaughter on July 1, 1916?
I'm a rare case amongst my generation: I heard firsthand accounts of WWI as achild from my Grandfather. He was born in Belgium in December 1907. He wasn't yet 7 years old when Germany invaded in 1914. His father died in mid-October, leaving a widow and two small boys, one nearing 7, the other just 3.
|My Grandfather and his younger brother ages 4 and about 6 months; spring 1912?|
There's no excuse for the men of the Newfoundland Regiment to have been sent over the top that day. The British commanders had word that the Germans knew about their plans and deeply entrenched on their side; it shouldn't have happened.
But there was a reason those men were there. For most it probably had more to do with the paypacket than any idea of "King and country". I'm sure some were aware that innocent people had had their homeland invaded, and the thought of their own wives and children/ mother and siblings/ grannies and sweethearts in that situation was enough to want to do something about it.
Simply stated, if the combined British, Irish, Scottish, Newfoundland, Canadian and American troops hadn't gone over, I for one, wouldn't be here today.
Today has dawned with bird song, a brilliant blue sky and puffy white clouds. Later, I will join others in remembrance of a horrific event that changed the lives of every family on this island I now call home. It almost feels odd for it to be so peaceful this morning. Today, while Newfoundlanders remember their fallen, I'm thinking of a boy who was 8 years old 100 years ago today, already the man of the house. And I'm remembering one of the most important things he ever told me, some 70 years later: when others are remembering their loss, we must remember to say "Thank you".
Newfoundland at Armageddon
Trail of the Caribou