OTTAWA, July 1, 2014 /CNW/ - On behalf of the Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs, Senator David Wells today participated in a wreath laying ceremony in Ottawa to pay tribute to the Newfoundland soldiers who served at Beaumont-Hamel and the almost 700 Newfoundlanders who died or were wounded during the first day of fighting.
Wreath laying ceremonies to mark the anniversary were also held in St. John's, Newfoundland, as well as in Beaumont-Hamel, France.
- The Battle of the Somme began at 7:30 a.m. on July 1, 1916, along the Western Front in France. Thousands of soldiers from Britain, Newfoundland, and France climbed out of their trenches to walk across "No Man's Land" through a hail of machine gun fire toward the German lines. By the day's end, more than 57,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers had been killed, wounded, or were missing.
- The 1st Newfoundland Regiment was virtually decimated near the town of Beaumont-Hamel, although the survivors, reinforced with new troops, continued to serve. The regiment later earned the official designation "Royal Newfoundland Regiment" in recognition of its gallant service during the First World War.
- During the late summer and fall of 1916, in offensives that began at Courcelette, the Canadian Corps also fought with distinction on the Somme.
- The striking Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial in France—featuring a bronze caribou, which is the emblem of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment—commemorates the more than 800 Newfoundlanders who died in the war and have no known grave.
"For more than four horrific months the Battle of the Somme raged on, taking a heavy toll with more than 24,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders becoming causalities. As we celebrate the birth of our nation, let us remember the determination and valour of those who have defended our freedom."
The Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs
"It is a privilege and an honour to commemorate the Battle of the Somme. On this day it is important to remember and honour the valiant actions of the men of my home province and the remarkable bravery they showed at Beaumont-Hamel. The Newfoundland Regiment, who gave so much to help protect our freedom, serves as a greater testament to the rich history of our nation and the great sacrifice that was made by our people at Beaumont-Hamel. Today—and indeed every day—we stand proud in honour of our fallen."
Senator David Wells
Image with caption: "Senator David Wells lays a wreath to honour the Newfoundlanders who served at Beaumont-Hamel during a ceremony to mark the 98th anniversary of the Battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel. (CNW Group/Veterans Affairs Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20140701_C1829_PHOTO_EN_4053.jpg
SOURCE: Veterans Affairs Canada
For further information: Barbara Mottram, Director of Communications, Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs, 613-996-4649; Media Relations, Veterans Affairs Canada, 613-992-7468