In times of COVID-19 restrictions that have prevented large gatherings, the July 1 Memorial Day services in Newfoundland and Labrador — outside of small gatherings — were largely held virtually Wednesday.
The usual parades and assemblies at war memorials and monuments to remember the sacrifices made for freedom were affected by the reality of a world fighting a deadly pandemic.
Technology, however, has made it possible to meet virtually, and people joined in a solemn ceremony Wednesday morning to mark the July 1 Memorial Day in Newfoundland and Labrador.
On its Facebook Page, the Newfoundland and Labrador Command, Royal Canadian Legion, hosted a video of a small number of people gathered at the National War Memorial in St. John's.
“Restrictions in place during the COVID-19 pandemic have forced any large gatherings from taking place,” the legion stated. “Please honour all of our veterans from our past and our present in your own special way. We will remember them.”
Each July 1, as the rest of Canada begins to celebrate Canada Day, people in Newfoundland and Labrador honour the fallen members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment who, on the morning of July 1, 1916, bravely faced a barrage of bullets and shells from a well dug-in German force on the fields near the town of Beaumont Hamel in France. It was one of many actions the Newfoundland Regiment was involved in during the First World War.
But Beaumont Hamel was particularly devastating.
In the fight for freedom for their families, friends and country, the soldiers of the regiment kept going forward until they could no more. It was an act of courage unsurpassed.
The Newfoundland Regiment had gone into action 801 strong. When the roll call was taken the next day, only 68 answered their names, mostly those who had been held back in reserve. The losses included 233 killed or who died of wounds, 386 wounded and 91 missing.
The July 1 Memorial Day also honours all the province’s fallen soldiers and those who served in all conflicts and peacekeeping missions.
Today we honour and remember the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel. Of the 800 Newfoundlanders who went into battle on July 1, 1916, only 68 were able to answer the roll call the next day. We Will Remember Them. #MemorialDay #CanadaRemembers https://t.co/MDqWOaj0C2— The Royal Canadian Legion (@RoyalCdnLegion) July 1, 2020
The ceremony Wednesday at the National War Memorial was much different from previous years. The usually crowded memorial platform and surrounding area contained only a few dignitaries carrying out the ceremony and a small scattering of others.
A scaled-down ceremony was also held at the Newfoundland Beaumont Hamel Memorial Park in France.