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Until it became a province of Canada in 1949 Newfoundland was an independent British colony. Upon the outbreak of war Newfoundland offered a force of 500 soldiers and an increase from 500 to 1000 in the naval service.
The Newfoundland Contingent sailed for England on October 3rd 1914, its ship having been joined at sea by the convoy carrying the First Canadian Contingent. Upon the convoys' arrival in England the Newfoundland Regiment was separated from the Canadians and sent to training camps in Scotland. In early 1915 the Regiment was moved to the large British camp at Aldershot and in September was sent to Egypt on its way to its first commitment, Gallipoli.
The Newfoundland Regiment landed at Suvla Bay on the Gallipoli peninsula on the night of September 19th 1915 in order to reinforce the hard-pressed British 88th Brigade of the 29th Division. From the beginning the Regiment had a hard time; day and night the Turkish army in control of the high ground surrounding the beach poured a constant stream of artillery and sniper fire down upon the British line. Casualties mounted day by day and the constant enemy fire made re-supply difficult at best, and food and water shortages were common. In spite of the hardships the Regiment played an important part in advancing the line on November 4th and was awarded two Distinguished Conduct Medals and a Military Cross during the fighting at Caribou Hill.
With the coming of winter the conditions on the peninsula went from bad to worse. On November 26th a severe storm struck the Regiment a nasty blow. Three days of torrential rain and driving sleet washed away trenches and supplies and as the temperature fell rapidly the rain turned to snow. With food and water running short and little or no shelter to be found even the hardy men of Newfoundland, who were no strangers to bad weather, began to succumb and several died of exposure. By December 10th the Regiment was down to quarter strength.
On the 20th December the British withdrew from Suvla and the Newfoundland Regiment was sent to Cape Helles to assist in the final withdrawal of British forces. By then only 170 men were left. The Newfoundland Regiment was moved to France on the 22nd of March 1916, and there they began the task of rebuilding the tattered remnants of the unit in preparation for there next engagement on the Somme.
The rebuilt Regiment, still with the British 29th Division, went into the line on April 22nd, facing Beaumont Hamel, a particularly strong part of the German line. On July 1st 1916 the Newfoundland Regiment, 801 strong, went over the top and into history. To reach their objective the Regiment had to walk across 800 meters of bullet-swept ground, with each man carrying a 60 pound pack , a rifle, 120 rounds of ammunition, two grenades, two sandbags, a shrapnel helmet, a gas mask, rations, canteen, ground sheet and field dressing . With no support or anything to distract enemy fire the Regiment sustained casualties which can scarcely be equaled by any unit during the war. Within half an hour the battle was over for the Regiment. As the men struggled to find their way through the small gaps in the barbed wire the German machine guns cut them down by the hundreds. As the dazed survivors staggered back to their lines the tin signs they wore on their back for unit identification glinted in the hot sun , making ideal targets for the German gunners. Only 68 men made it back to their lines not wounded ~ a casualty rate of over 90%. The commanding officer, Lt. Col. A. L. Hadow, a British Officer, reported that the attack had failed despite training , discipline , and valor , because dead men can advance no further. The Newfoundland Regiment had ceased to exist.
The Newfoundland Regiment was again rebuilt and went on to fight at Monchy and Cambrai and would be granted the title of Royal in recognition of its conduct in the defense of Masnieres. The Royal Newfoundland Regiment served with honour and distinction. It was and is a credit to the people of Newfoundland and Canada
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|These pages were researched and written by Brian Lee Massey & are © Copyright 1997 - present. This site may be freely linked to but not duplicated in any fashion without my consent.||
Poppy graphic and poppy bar graphic designed by Brian L. Massey and may not be used on other sites. The Poppy is a Trademark of Dominion Command, Royal Canadian Legion, and is used on The Canadian Great War Homepage with their permission
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