Newfoundland Memorial Park
Among the most impressive sites at the Somme, and along the whole
Western Front, is the Newfoundland Memorial Park - land owned and
preserved by Canada. At the time, Newfoundland was part of the
United Kingdom; it has since been incorporated into Canada.
As we have already seen at
7:20, the Hawthorn Mine was blown and the
bombardment switched to the German rear. The infantry waited ten minutes after the explosion to advance, giving the
Germans a head start on returning to their trenches and to prepare for
the attack. The attack was repulsed with heavy losses. Afterward, at around 7:55, the Germans
began bombarding the British trenches with artillery and hitting them
with machine gun fire.
Although the attack had been an abject failure, as was the case in
other sectors, there were reports of some success. This may have
spurred the divisional commander to renew the attack and commit the
reserve. So at around 8:45, the 88th Brigade was ordered to
attack renew the attack with the 1st Newfoundland Regt supporting
them on their right,
with the 1st Essex Regt supporting further to the right.
Both the Newfoundland Regiment and the 1st Essex were in
a trenches to the rear. The Essex regiment would move to the
front line through the communications trenches, now clogged with the
wounded from the first attack. This took one or two hours to
acomplish. Despite this precaution, the 1st Essex took frightful
casualties in a futile attack. The commander of the Newfoundland
Regiment had decided to avoid the clogged trenches to his front by
going over the top and advancing over open ground. It would be a
The letters correspond to the panoramas below.
A) St. John's Road
The Newfoundland Regiment was in this support trench
called St John's Road, named after the capital of Newfoundland.
Beyond the road at left is a parking area with markings showing
the location of communication trenches. which you can see on the left
of the panorama.
B) Park Entrance
This is a 180 degree view from the park entrance. The
support trenches that the Newfoundland men attacked from can be seen on
either side. A small museum building is at right. We will
continue along the path in the center, following the attack. Just
in front of the people you can see the memorial to the 29th Division.
C) Approaching Caribou Monument
Now we are approaching the Caribou monument, which you can see at right.
D) Caribou Monument
This is from in front of the Caribou monument. On the right side
of the panorama, a path leads into the trench system. Before we
continue that direction, first let's climb up to the monument.
The regiment's cap badge included a caribou.
This is the view looking east from the monument mound. The
trenches preserved in the park are a special treat as most Western
Front trenches have been filled in to facilitate farming.
From atop the mound there is an excellent view of the ground ahead to
the German line, which was near the 51st Highland Division monument,
which commemorates their attack on November 13th. For
orientation, the Hawthorn Crater is between and behind the 51st
Division monument and the Hawthorn Ridge No. 2 Cemetery, but it cannot
be seen due to the trees. Beaumont Hamel is about 1,000 yards
behind the German front line. Redan Ridge is beyond Beaumont
Hamel - then Serre is further still but difficult to distinguish.
The British front line trench can be seen along the length of the
E) Exiting Communications Trench
After a short trip through a trench from the caribou, we emerge
and will now walk along the path at left toward German lines. Due
to erosion, the trench has lost about two feet of depth. The path
branching off to the left from the main path parallels the British
front line. You can see the front line trench extending into the
field in the center of the panorama. Next we will continue along
the path to the frontline trench.
F) British Front Line
Having walked along the path from the left, we are now at the
British frontline trench, built by the British in July 1915 after they
took over the sector from the French. It was 300 yards that
the Newfoundland men endured to reach the frontline trenches, then they
had to pass through the gaps in their own barbed wire and proceed
another 300 yards to
reach the German barbed wire. They had already suffered horribly
just reaching the front line, but they continued on. We
will follow them, continuing along the path to the left toward German
G) Danger Tree
We are now in no man's land near the Danger Tree, now represented in
stone. The attackers took note of a tree here and tended to move
toward it as the attack bogged down. Many of the casualties
suffered by the Newfoundland Regiment were in this area. Next
toward Y-Ravine Cemetery then continue to German lines.
H) Wellington Trench
Before the attacks of July 1st, it was planned to advance the trenches
to this point to lessen the distance that the attackers would have to
cross. Time ran out, and the project was not completed.
North Alley connected Wellington Trench with the former front
line. Only after the failed attacks was Wellington Trench dug,
and it was from here that the Highlanders successfully launched their
attack in November. Note what could be shell craters or collapsed
dugouts on the left side of the panorama.
I) Y-Ravine Cemetery
After this area was finally captured in November, burials began here at
Y-Ravine cemetery for many of the men who had died in no man's land on
July 1st and whose bodies had not been recovered.
J) No Man's Land
Continuing along the road, the German frontline trench is now in sight.
If you will note, we are now on the physical crest of the ridge.
The German front line on the left of the panorama is actually on
the reverse slope.
K) German Front Line Trench
In this 360 degree view we have reached the German front line.
Y-Ravine in the German rear is now in view. As we saw in
the previous panorama the German front line is on the reverse slope so
the field of fire to the front is limited. If you look down the
road in the center of the panorama - toward the British - you can see
the road reach a crest. The area beyond this crest is dead ground
which cannot be fired on from here. To make up for this
deficiency, the Germans dug tunnels forward to sentry posts overlooking
the low ground, and they made liberal use of barbed wire in this area.
This dead ground could, however, be reached by Germans firing
from the ridges behind the German front line. This ride can be
seen behind the Y Ravine.
L) Y-Ravine Trench
Continuing along the road we come to a branch ravine of Y-Ravine.
(thusly the shape and name of Y Ravine) The Germans used this
ravine to approach the front lines in safety and dug entrances to
dugouts from the ravine.
Continuing along we can now see the main branch of Y Ravine.
German troops used the ravine to reach the front lines here in
relative safety from rear areas near Beaumont Hamel. The German
also had dugouts along the length of the ravine.
N) 51st Highland Division Memorial
On November 13th the Highlanders finally captured the area, including
the village of Beaumont Hamel. Behind the Highland Division
Memorial, the German trenches pivot back.
In this 180 degree view we see the end of the ravine. The
Highland Division monument is visible in the trees at center. The
trenches visible on the right are pivoting to the rear - nearly 90
degrees - and extended outside the confines of Newfoundland Park to
P) Hawthorn Ridge No. 2 Cemetery
The Highland Division monument can be seen down the path on the left of
the panorama. The Hunter's Cemetery nearby was made in a shell
crater. It is here that the German trench line pivots to the
rear. Before walking back to the park entrance, we see the
Hawthorn Ridge No. 2 Cemetery, which contains many killed from July 1st.
Newfoundland Regiment started with 780 men attacking and lost 26 officers and 658 men.
Copyright 2012 by John Hamill