BEAUMONT-HAMEL, FRANCE, July 1, 2016 /CNW/ - A commemorative ceremony was held today at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial in honour of those who fought and died 100 years ago at Beaumont-Hamel on July 1, 1916—the opening day of the Battle of the Somme.
A number of dignitaries attended the commemorative ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the battle and laid wreaths in honour of the fallen. They included Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, the Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs Canada, the Honourable George Furey, Speaker of the Senate, the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Ambassador of Canada to France, Jean-Marc Todeschini, Sécretaire d'État chargé des Anciens combattants (French Secretary of State responsible for Veterans), representatives of Canadian Veterans' organizations, Veterans and Canadian youth.
During the First World War, the Newfoundland Regiment (later re-designated the Royal Newfoundland Regiment) served in the Battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel as part of the 88th Brigade in the 29th British Division. Beaumont-Hamel seared the collective consciousness of Newfoundlanders. Post-war they gathered on the anniversary of the battle, in Newfoundland and with others in France, to remember the extraordinary devotion and courage of the men who fell there. And so they have gathered since. Many men from different regiments fell within the boundaries of the Memorial site on that one fateful day at the beginning of July 1916. So now, as then, it remains a place for respect, for reflection and for pilgrimage.
Commemorative ceremonies to mark the 100th anniversary were also held today in Ottawa at the Canadian War Museum and at Newfoundland and Labrador's National War Memorial in St. John's.
- 2016 marks the 100th anniversaries of the Battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel.
- The First World War's Battle of the Somme began in northern France on July 1, 1916, when waves of Allied soldiers began climbing out of their trenches to advance through a hail of enemy fire toward the German lines.
- The brave members of the Newfoundland Regiment who went into action near Beaumont-Hamel that day were hit especially hard, with only 68 of the more than 800 men who had taken part being able to answer the roll call the next morning.
- More than 24,000 soldiers of the Canadian Corps would later also become casualties before the fighting on the Somme finally came to an end in November.
"Today's commemorative ceremony at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial site is a commitment to remember the sacrifices and service of all our soldiers who fought and lost their lives in the Battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel. They served with conviction, with pride, and with compassion and they are the reason we remember."
The Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
SOURCE Veterans Affairs Canada
For further information: Media Relations: Veterans Affairs Canada, 613-992-7468