Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Day Five cont'd. Beaumont Hammel -Newfoundland Regiment War Memorial

From Chateau de Pierrefonds we made our way to Beaumont Hammel and the Newfoundland Regimental War Memorial.

On the way we saw and stopped at our first memorial as we journeyed along the Battle of the Sommes lines.  This was one of the points where the battle first began.  A small placard and two flags honouring a general from each of the British and French armies.

We travelled just a short distance and came upon our first cemetary.  Any cemetary with more than 400 war graves is given this stone epitaph and a stone cross cenetaph.

I've grown up seeing photos of the rows of graves.  It's part of every Nov 11th Rememberance Day curriculum.  I won't deny seeing the first Canadian Grave marker affected me deeply.   There was a noticeable change in both children at the same point that this was indeed real.  It wasn't a photo from school but a real person

Daddy walking with the children teaching them about various aspects of the Battle of the Somme and Canada's contribution

A marked grave.  RIP

Something that struck us was how incredibly well maintained these cemetaries are kept.  It's impeccable and strangely beautiful.  It was nice to see such care.   The other thing that struck us was how many there were.  It's hard to explain how it affects you but you drive along and there is just one after another after another and the toll the Great War took really starts to hit home.

The Commonweath War Graves Commission is responsible for the maintenance of all the graveyards in Europe.  At the end of 1919 The Commission had spent 7,000 GBP, twelve months later that figure had risen to 250, 000GBP.  In France and Flanders alone, over 160 kilometers of walls had been erected using over 280 000 cubic metres of stone.  In 1923 over 4, 000 headstones a week were being sent to France and by 1927 more than 500 cemetaries were complete, over 400 000 headstones, 1000 croses of Sacrifice and 400  Stones of Rememberence had been erected.  150 000 names commemorated on Memorials.   By the spring of 1921, 1000 cemetaries had been established and deemed fit for visitors.  Today the commission has 710 hectares of land under its control of which 450 is under fine horticultural maintenance.

With the Second World War the commission had to start afresh.  As the tide of war moved in the Allies Favour, the Commision was able to return to many of it's 1914-1918 cemetaries to it's pre war standards within three years, and it was time to begin work on the memorials from the most recent war.

 From there we found our way to the Newfoundland Regiment Memorial site.  This was very important for my husband to see.  The visitors center was closed but my husband had enough knowledge to act as an excellent guide for the kids.
 The Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial was dedicated to the memory of those Newfoundlanders who served during the First World War and specifically commemorates those who died and who have no known grave. The memorial site was opened June 7, 1925, by Earl Haig.

  Inscribed on three bronze tablets located at the base of the monument are the 814 names of those members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve and the Mercantile Marine who died during the First World War and who have no known grave.

 Such a beautiful magestic monument.  The caribou stands on a mound, surrounded by rock and shrubs native to Newfoundland, proudly facing in the direction of the former foe, and overlooking the trenches and ground across which the battalion advanced on July 1, 1916. (descriptions from the Veteran's Affairs Canada website)

It was fitting it was raining the day we visited.
On July 1, 1916, 798 all ranks deployed into the trenches (excluding 33 others detached to Mortar and Machine Gun Companies) and 22 officers and about 758 other ranks were sent forward against the enemy (approximately 10% of a battalion was held in reserve during any attack). Of these, all the officers and slightly under 658 other ranks became casualties. Only around 110 remained unscathed. 

 The Battalion's War Diary on July 7, 1916, states that on July 1, the overall casualties for the Battalion were 310 all ranks killed, died of wounds or missing believed killed, and that 374 all ranks were wounded, a total of 684. Some of the wounded subsequently died.

It was here, it all started to become incredibly real for all of us.  Deeply moving.

The mounts for the barbed wire

We signed the register at the memorial site and it was time to make our way to Arras as it began to pour.  We stayed at 3Luppars Hotel and it was adequate for a one night stay.  I don't think I'd recommend it for others as the mattress was very very hard but was only a night.  We took the children out for dinner and they had decided they wanted to try fondue.
We went with our servers recommendation

 Anxiously awaiting his dinner

She was enjoying the meat platter...the fondue??  Not so much.

While he is making a face he actually liked it.

She is trying to convince us she likes it.

But her face gives it away

Dear Gawd, don't make me eat another bite.

Now.  I actually have a video of her that is rather funny at the dinner table.  I may post it a little later.  After dinner we retired to the hotel for the night to make our way to Vimy Ridge in the morning.


  1. Hi
    we did a similar tour in sept 2010.
    There was a student from Newfoundland at the Beaumont Hamel centre when we were there, so we had a great conversation, since she had visited the other sites that have the caribou. and,
    the design of the exhibit is the same as the War Memorial museum in Ottawa which we had visited before this trip.

    What I discovered when I watched the November 11th ceremonies in Ottawa is that the somewhat indifference to the ceremonies of previous years changed to something quite emotional.

    great blog, looking forward to reading more.

  2. Thank you cbaarch. It's incredible how moving it becomes.