Newfoundland Regiment, No. 3 Platoon, A Company, Fort George, Scotland, ca. 1915.
97 years ago today at 08:45, the Newfoundland Regiment fixed bayonets and charged across no man’s land to the fortified village of Beaumont-Hamel on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
Although the Canadian Corps would only be sent in several months later, in the Autumn, Newfoundland was not yet a part of Canada and so the Newfoundlanders were among the first waves of British troops to enter combat at the Somme.
780 soldiers charged forward on that terrible morning, and within twenty minutes over six hundred of them would lose their lives in a torrent of machine gun fire and shrieking artillery. Only sixty-eight of the survivors would be available for roll call the next morning.
However, this did not mark the end of the Newfoundland Regiment. Within two months, the regiment was already back on the firing line, and in the Battle of Arras, which saw the capture of Vimy by the Canadian Corps, the Newfoundlanders would lose almost five hundred men in a single day holding off a German attack.
They would continue to fight for the rest of the war. In September 1917, King George V awarded the regiment with the “Royal” prefix. The Royal Newfoundland Regiment was the only regiment of the entire British Army to receive this honour during the First World War, and it was the third British Regiment to receive the “Royal” prefix in a time of war, the most recent one before that being during the Napoleonic Wars over a century earlier.