July 1st to all Canadians represent the birth of our wonderful country. But, here in Newfoundland & Labrador, the date also means remembrance and respect given to those who sacrifice their lives for the Commonwealth. July 1st is Memorial Day here in the province. The first half of the day, a day of reflection for a generation of men lost on the battlefield on this day, in 1916. This year marks the 100th anniversary of that tragic event. The below is taken from The Rooms Facebook posting regarding the explanation of why today is such a day of mixed emotions for Newfoundlanders & Labradorians and how the caribou is held in such a high regard among the people of the province and the Regiment.
July 1st is a time for celebration for the people of Canada, in Newfoundland and Labrador, the day has a more somber meaning.
Memorial Day commemorates the participation of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in the Battle of the Somme at Beaumont-Hamel, France.
On July 1, 1916, 801 members of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment fought in that battle and only 68 answered the roll call the next morning.
“We here in Newfoundland have felt the effects of the war… The dreadful reality of war has come to too many families throughout the land. And there are very few districts in the Island which are not mourning… sons lost on the field of battle. The war is an all absorbing topic, it is never absent from our thoughts. It is like some dreadful nightmare that we cannot shake off. Our prayers and desires are for a speedy end of the war, for an early peace, but for a peace at the same time, which will render impossible another such world calamity as that which we are suffering now.”
(Source: Edward Patrick Roche, 1918 – 107‑2‑6)
Shortly after the Great War, the Government of Newfoundland purchased the ground over which the 1st Newfoundland Regiment made its heroic advance on July 1. Much of the credit is due to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Nangle. As Director of Graves Registration and Enquiry and Newfoundland’s representative on the Imperial War Graves Commission, he negotiated with some 250 French landowners for the purchase of the site. He had a leading part in planning and supervising the erection, at each of the five Newfoundland Memorials sites in Europe, of a statue of the noble caribou, the emblem of the Regiment, standing facing the former foe with head thrown high in defiance.
Lest we forget