The Somme region of Picardy in northern France is synonymous with the fiercest battles fought in the First World War and of the many rural villages in this beautiful and pastoral area that witnessed the conflict, Beaumont-Hamel was the closest to the front line.
Beaumont-Hamel, and the vast plateau upon which it is located, became part of the theatre of war on July 1st 1916 when the 1st Battalion of the Regiment of Newfoundland, Canada, fighting for the Allies, engaged the German Army here. This was the first day of the Battle of the Somme, and the Canadian battalion's first engagement in conflict. In an unsuccessful assault lasting little more than thirty minutes almost all of the soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the Regiment of Newfoundland were lost in the German counter-attack.
The original village of Beaumont-Hamel, captured by German troops as a fortress town, was almost entirely destroyed during battle.
Today, Beaumont-Hamel has become an unmissable destination on our battlefield trips for those who wish to learn about, and pay their respects to, those who fought in the Great War. Covering thirty hectares, it is the site of the largest preserved battlefield of the Somme, at which visitors can walk between the German trenches and the Allied defensive positions and see the craters left by the bombs which fell here.
One of only two National Historic Sites of Canada that are located outside that country, Newfoundland Memorial Park at Beaumont-Hamel is a profoundly moving and poignant destination. Standing on a hill overlooking the battlefield, a memorial in the form of a bronze statue of a caribou - the emblem of the Regiment of Newfoundland - gazes towards the enemy positions. Three bronze plaques at the foot of the monument bear the names of the Canadian soldiers who were lost in action and for whom no official grave exists.
The park also contains a Visitor and Interpretation Centre which was opened in 2001 and which provides a historical and social background to Newfoundland's contribution to the First World War and charts the history of the Newfoundland Regiment from its establishment in 1914 to the end of the war in 1918. Exhibits include memorabilia, photographs and video films and the visitor centre also houses the Newfoundland Book of Remembrance and a bronze plaque which details the Battle Honours awarded to the men of the Newfoundland Regiment.