1 July 2017 – Memorial Day, NFLD

1 July 1917 – 2017
Memorial Day – Newfoundland & Labrador

The launching of the Battle of the Somme was first announced with an air of celebration in newspapers on 1 July 1916. The St. John’s Daily Star July 1, 1916. Courtesy of the Digital Archives Initiative, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL.

Today we gather with our families and communities to celebrate Canada Day, marking the 150th Anniversary of our nation. In the midst of these celebrations, it is important to note that for some this day also marks sadness. In Newfoundland & Labrador, July 1st marks a sombre anniversary; that of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment’s massive losses at Beaumont-Hamel. On 1 July 1916, the youth of Newfoundland went over the top on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. In just half an hour, the entire regiment would be destroyed, suffering 324 killed and 386 wounded. Of 801 available men, only 68 volunteers could answer roll call the next morning.

As casualty lists began to trickle in, the horrific losses of that first day became apparent. The St. John’s Daily Star July 13, 1916. Courtesy of the Digital Archives Initiative, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL.

In response to these great losses, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador established their own day of mourning, actually preceding Remembrance/Armistice Day of 11 November, by marking 1 July 1917 as their Memorial Day. Consequently, 1 July 2017 is not just the 150th year of Canada, but also the 100th Anniversary of Memorial Day. In Newfoundland and Labrador, 1 July is first and foremost Memorial Day, marked by the observance of solemn ceremonies at cenotaphs, honouring the province’s immense sacrifices. Only after these sacrifices have been mourned does the province begin the transition to the celebration of Canada Day in the afternoon.

This sign marked a trench line in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment’s sector during their attack at Beaumont-Hamel.
© IWM London (FEQ 68)