Baptism of Fire
Newfoundland was a British Dominion at the time of the Great War, and like other Commonwealth countries raised an army of volunteers for the war effort. After serving in Turkey during the Gallipoli Campaign, the Newfoundland Regiment was deployed to the Western Front, where it experienced its first baptism of fire on 1st July 1916 at Beaumont-Hamel. Upon a battlefield that had already seen extreme losses and death, the Newfoundlanders were called upon to join in the fight, but found themselves immediately caught under German machine gun fire. Only 68 of the 801 men who had gone into battle answered the roll call the next day. The Newfoundland Regiment had suffered one of the highest casualty rates of the 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
The Newfoundland Memorial
After the First World War, the Newfoundland Government acquired the land where this action had taken place to erect a memorial to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. Designed by the landscape-architect Rudolph H. K. Cochius, it covers 30 hectares of battlefield and was inaugurated in 1925 by Field-Marshal Earl Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force during the Battle of the Somme.
With its remarkably well-preserved trenches, this memorial park enables visitors to better visualise a First World War battlefield. The Newfoundland Memorial depicts a bronze caribou, designed by Basil Gotto, which stands atop a rocky mound and overlooks the former battlefield. The top of this mound provides visitors with panoramic views of the former battlefield and trenches, while three bronze plaques at the base of the memorial commemorate 820 men from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve and the Mercantile Marine who gave their lives during the Great War and whose bodies have never been found or identified.
Another memorial, at the entrance to the memorial park, is dedicated to the 29th Division, to which the Newfoundland Regiment was attached, and a third memorial can be found on the other side of the park in remembrance of the 51st Highland Division, who captured these German positions on 13th November 1916. One single tree survived the devastation in the area: this is the skeleton of the “Danger Tree”, named as it was situated at a particularly exposed area.
- From 1 to 24 January 2017: Visitor Centre closed. No guided tours, but the memorial, battlefield and cemeteries remain open.
- From 25 January to 10 December 2017: Visitor Centre open every day from 9am to 5pm (open at 11am on Mondays). Free guided tours in French and English.
- From 11 December to 24 January 2017: Visitor Centre closed. No guided tours, but the memorial, battlefield and cemeteries remain open.
- Free access to the memorial all year
- 80300 Beaumont-Hamel
- Tel + 33 (0) 3 22 76 70 86
- Longitude 2.648048 | Latitude 50.073461