No-man’s Land and Newfoudlanders

Well, it’s been a long, long time since I posted on my blog. It’s the New Year so I’ll take another stab. I’m writing a new novel about the Battle of the Somme which took place in France during WW1, or ‘The Great War’ as it it often called. On July 1, 1916, Newfoundland was a country and a ‘dominion’ of Great Britain, so when England declared war on Germany, Newfoundland was automatically at war as well. The Newfoundland Regiment of over 800 men lined the trenches along the Somme River in France outside the villages of Beaumont-Hamel. Open land known as “no man’s land”lay between them and the German lines which had been bombarded for days with little or no effect. On July 1, even though hundreds of thousands of British soldiers died in an attempt to cross ‘no man’s land, the Newfoundland Regiment was ordered to attack. The next day at roll call 68 Newfoundlanders answered. The rest were either dead, wounded (many of whom died from their injuries), captured or never found.

Newfoundland became a province of Canada in 1948, and as Canadians we celebrate Canada day on July 1. For us Newfoundlanders we also remember and celebrate the brave men of the Newfoundand regiment who went over the trenches into a blaze of canon and gunfire knowing full well that this would probably be their last day on earth. These young men, mostly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five were willing to lay down their lives for a mother country across the ocean on another continent.

2016 will mark the one hundred year anniversary of one of the most tragic battles of any war. Newfoundland lost a large number of its young men in their prime and left a mark on every Newfoundlander.  Many sets of brothers and cousins lost their lives that day. I can only imagine what it must have been like for a small community of 200 to have lost thirty of their young men.

In my research I was astounded by the pride and loyalty that Newfoundland felt for England and their resolve to do whatever was needed to come to its aid.

I’d like to share the opening paragraph of my manuscript with you.

I never imagined I would die this way. Young, surrounded by thousands, yet alone and faraway from home. I thought I would be afraid, but I’m not. Only ten minutes ago. I was crouched in our trenches, anxiously smoking Woodbines, waiting for the whistle to signal our launch into attack. The pain in my chest has dulled to a mild ache, each throb in rhythm with my heartbeat. The ground is firm beneath my back. Funny, the firmness is comforting like the rugged ground  of my country, Newfoundland. Maybe if I close my eyes I’ll see my home, see Mom one last time. Her sea green eyes filled with tears as she waved to me from the dock. She’ll be upset if I don’t say goodbye. Dad stood tall as I marched with the other volunteers to fight for the empire. He’ll understand the sacrifice I made for King and Country. And little Alice. She’ll miss me the most I think. Her big brother always made time for her. I open my eyes and my breath comes out as a shudder. Can I still be here among the dead and dying in this barren place? No-Man’s Land?

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