Did you know?
When Britain declared war on August 14th, 1914, Newfoundland (Then a British Dominion, and 35 years away from Confederation with Canada) was automatically at war too?
Within a month 1,000 young men signed up to join the newly created Newfoundland Regiment, and within less than just two months, on October 3rd, the first contingent of 500 sailed for training in England and Scotland. More volunteers would soon follow.
Patriotic and enthusiastic, they signed up “for not more than one year” and sailed away for a great adventure. One young soldier told his Mother – “I hope I get there before the war is over.” Little did they know what awaited them.
On September 20th, 2015, one thousand and seventy-six Newfoundlanders came ashore at Suvla Bay on the Dardanelles Peninsula in Turkey. Turkish artillery and snipers welcomed them and forced them to hunker down in shallow foxholes. Private Walter McWhirter became the first casualty the very next day.
On the third day, Private William Hardy was killed. This was their brutal introduction to Gallipoli.
Gallipoli was a very costly disaster to the Allies and after just four months, the British operation was forced to withdraw in January 2016. The Newfoundlanders were among the last to leave, but not before earning three medals of Bravery for their fighting abilities. They also left behind forty of their men.
Thirty were killed in action and ten died of disease. 80 were wounded. The dead are buried in three cemeteries at Gallipoli: Hill 10 and Azmak, at Suvla, and Lancashire Landing at Helles.
Seven men subsequently died of wounds on an evacuation hospital ship and were buried at sea. Their names are inscribed on the monument at Beaumont Hamel. But, they were not homeward bound yet.
France & Belgium
They were now embarked for France and Belgium where the fields around the Somme and Ypres awaited them on Europe’s Western Front. As yet, they had never heard of Beaumont Hamel or Guedecourt or Masnieres or Monchy Le Preux or Courtrai. They were to find out very soon.
A Royal Title
By war’s end, more than four years later, these brave Newfoundlanders would return home with the title “Royal” added to their name – the only Regiment to have received this distinction during the war.
Over 6,200 served and 1,300 paid the supreme sacrifice. Many would bear scars in mind, body and soul that would haunt them for the rest of their lives. Their mothers, fathers, wives and children would also live every day with the suffering.
Newfoundland gave up her sons, who were the strongest and the best. Their Regimental Motto says it even more appropriately – “BETTER THAN THE BEST.”
Their potential contribution to the future well-being of Newfoundland and Labrador would never be known. We Remember Them.
By Guest Author: Gerry Peddle
OMM. CD. BA. LTh. BD. DD.
Archdeacon Gerald Peddle was ordained a Priest of the Anglican Church of Canada in 1969. Now retired from active ministry, he has served parishes in Newfoundland and Labrador, Québec, Ontario and the Arctic. He has also served as a Chaplain to the Canadian Armed Forces. His final appointment, in the rank of Brigadier General, was as the Chaplain General at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. Subsequently, for the next six years he provided specialist ministry to both National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada. In total, he has served more than 51 years in active ministry.
Although in retirement, Gerry is far from retired and maintains his passions by serving as the Chairman of the Board for Beechwood, Canada's National Military Cemetery in Ottawa. He has also served as an International Guide, specializing in Battlefield Tours for several years. In June 2022, we look forward to having Gerry back on the battlefields with us, escorting us on this special pilgrimage, alongside our regular battlefield team.