As Canadians, we owe a debt of gratitude to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families, and nothing reminds us of this more than the 100th anniversary of the First World War of which we marked the beginning on Aug. 4.
As we mark this occasion in our history, we remember the thousands of Newfoundlanders who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving overseas during the Great War.
As the Member of Parliament for Random-Burin-St. George’s, I am reminded daily of the sacrifices made by those who serve in all branches of the Canadian military.
More than 700 men and women from Random-Burin-St. George’s are among those who continue to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces.
It is important to recognize their courage and sacrifice, and their ongoing commitment to protect us and others in times of crises.
Long history of service
Newfoundlanders have a long history of serving in armed conflicts. From 1914-1918, more than 6,200 Newfoundlanders served as members of the Newfoundland Regiment.
One quarter of the regiment’s overseas force lost their lives and almost three-quarters of those who served in battle became casualties.
The loss of so many young lives, compounded by the number of wounded, disabled and sick who returned to Newfoundland after the war, has had a significant and lasting impact here at home.
In particular, the losses sustained by the Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont-Hamel on July 1 1916, were staggering.
Of the 801 Newfoundlanders who went into battle that morning, fewer than 110 remained unscathed.
In fact, only 68 soldiers were able to answer the roll call the next day, with 255 dead, 386 wounded and 91 missing.
The deceased included 14 sets of brothers.
Despite these horrific losses, the Newfoundlanders who served during the First World War acquired a reputation second to none as a regiment that could be entirely depended upon, whatever the cost.
They did not complain, they did not cower in the face of adversity, they had faith in their training, they understood their mission and they carried out their duties with courage, skill and resolve.
Remembering all who serve
The 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War is an opportunity for us to remember all those who have served for Newfoundland and Labrador and for Canada since the Great War.
Although the First World War did not prove to be “the war to end all wars,” as many at the time thought it would be, we must continue to hope that one day world peace will be achieved.
As we reflect on the consequences of a conflict which began a century ago, we must continue to support the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces and be there for them as they, and those who served before them, are there for us and for those in conflict today throughout the world.
As we pray for a time when nations find a peaceful way to resolve differences and deal with their grievances, let us pray for and support those who continue to serve by putting themselves in harm’s way just as those who served a century ago did in doing their best to make the world a better place.
Judy M. Foote