Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

June 12, 2010 08:21 ET

Minister of National Defence Pays Tribute to Newfoundland War Dead

BEAUMONT-HAMEL, FRANCE--(Marketwire - June 12, 2010) - The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, today visited a memorial dedicated to Newfoundlanders who died in the First World War near the site of the deadliest battle for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the Battle of the Somme.

Minister MacKay stopped to pay his respects enroute back to Canada after participating in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Defence Ministerial meeting in Brussels, Belgium. The event brought together Defence Ministers from across the Alliance for two days to discuss a range of important issues facing NATO.

When the First World War broke out, Newfoundlanders rushed to enlist. From a total population of about 240,000, more than 12,000 Newfoundlanders would join up during the war. The 1st Newfoundland Regiment – later to earn the official designation "Royal" from the British Crown in recognition of the regiment's gallant actions in the battles at Ypres and Cambrai – was quickly assembled, with the first recruits sent overseas in October 1914.

On July 1, 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, the 1st Newfoundland Regiment fought its first engagement in France, and paid a staggering price. Of the 801 Newfoundlanders who went into battle that morning, only 68 were able to answer the roll call the next day, with 255 dead, 386 wounded and 91 missing – a casualty rate of approximately 90 per cent.

"The incredible sacrifices of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont-Hamel are still remembered in Newfoundland and Labrador today, where July 1st is commemorated as Memorial Day," said Minister MacKay.

"I am humbled by those who gave so much to liberate the European continent in both World Wars, and am constantly proud of the men and women of the Canadian Forces who continue to fight to protect the peace and stability earned by their predecessors."

The Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial depicts a great bronze caribou, emblem of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, on the highest point overlooking the battlefield. The memorial has become a Newfoundland symbol of sacrifice.

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