Memorial Day

(Not to depress anyone on this lovely and otherwise-celebratory-in-Canada day, but history is important, guys…)

Happy Canada Day! Well, mostly… see, when you live in Newfoundland, July 1 is a bittersweet holiday (and not just because so many people still swear that joining Canada was a mistake– not today’s topic, don’t worry). No, it’s because in Newfoundland, July 1 is also Memorial Day, the day set aside to remember the lives lost at the battle of Beaumont-Hamel, France, on July 1, 1916.

It’s not an insignificant number. The Newfoundland Regiment (then hailing from a tiny dominion of the British empire, not from Canada) was destroyed: more than 650 casualties, most within 15-20 minutes of leaving the trenches. Anywhere you read about the Newfoundland Regiment and this battle, the terms “nearly annihilated,” “almost wiped out” or “decimated” are sure to appear.

War is awesome, isn’t it?

But Great Big Sea tells the story far better than I can. The “Blue Puttees” was the nickname of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

(traditional, lyrics courtesy of the b’ys themselves)

RECRUITING SARGEANT*

Two recruiting sergeants came to the CLB,
for the sons of the merchants, to join the Blue Puttees
So all the hands enlisted, five hundred young men
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me

They crossed the broad Atlantic in the brave Florizel
And on the sands of Suvla, they entered into hell
And on those bloody beaches, the first of them fell
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me

So it’s over the mountains, and over the sea
Come brave Newfoundlanders and join the Blue Puttees
You’ll fight in Flanders, and at Galipoli
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me

Then the call came from London, for the last July drive
To the trenches with the regiment, prepare yourselves to die
The roll call next morning, just a handful survived.
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me

And it’s over the mountains, and over the sea
Come brave Newfoundlanders and join the Blue Puttees
You’ll fight in Flanders, and at Galipoli
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me

The stone men on Water Street still cry for the day
When the pride of the city went marching away
A thousand men slaughtered, to hear the King say
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me

And it’s over the mountains, and over the sea
Come brave Newfoundlanders and join the Blue Puttees
You’ll fight in Flanders, and at Galipoli
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me

So it’s over the mountains, and over the sea
Come brave Newfoundlanders and join the Blue Puttees
You’ll fight in Flanders, and at Galipoli
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me

Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me

Catchy tune, no?

So today we (whether Newfoundlanders, CFAs like me, or mainlanders in the know) remember these brave men and grieve the loss of life.

…and then we get to go and throw some burgers on the BBQ and watch fireworks for Canada Day. *waves flag*

Fantastic (if old) blog post from Rick Mercer, who is actually from here… here.

More information on the  Royal Newfoundland Regiment here and here, and some good information on Memorial Day and its origins here. This article on the memorial in France has good information on the battle, etc.

*I don’t know they it’s spelled that way on track listings. Thoughts? Guesses? Answers?

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About Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with a Mountie, two kids who take turns playing Jeckyll and Hyde, two cats, an intentional boxer and an accidental chihuahua. She's the author of the bestselling Bound Trilogy (mature YA Fantasy). www.katesparkes.com View all posts by Kate Sparkes

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