Meanwhile, the Battle of the Somme was tearing up soil and tearing apart bodies in France. General Haig’s “Big Push” – a collaborative effort between British and French troops – was launched on July 1st 1916, and continued well into September. Two Canadian batteries of heavy artillery were part of the tremendous barrage (up to 3500 shells per minute) ahead of zero hour on the first day. (1) Canadian infantry were not involved until September, but the regiment raised by the Dominion of Newfoundland fought and was nearly destroyed at Beaumont Hamel on that first day, only a small part of “one of the greatest disasters in military history.” (2) After the battle sixty-eight men were left standing: the rest of the regiment – well over 700 volunteers – were dead, missing or injured. (3)
said the headline of the Globe’s on Monday July 3, 1916. The war summary was more measured:
The Allied armies have made notable progress, [but] it is too soon to speak in definite terms of the extent of territory occupied within the German lines, of the number of enemy troops captured, or of the losses on both sides. The struggle is not over. (4)
Casualty lists were issued in instalments: at noon, at 8 pm and at midnight. On this date a hundred years ago, the Globe’s list of casualties occupied almost two full columns of page three; the other four included an advertisement for Simpson’s department store (there was a clearance of women’s millinery), discussion of a scheme to provide men “honestly exempt” from military service with a badge to protect them from “the allegation of being slackers,” a report that soldiers were “tickled” to be moving from Camp Borden to other sites for further training, and a note that Canadian enlistment figures had reached 350,655 as of July 15th. (5)
(1) Tim Cook. At the Sharp End. Canadians Fighting the Great War Vol. 1: 1914-1916. 2007. 413-414
(2) Cook. 415
(3) “Newfoundland and Labrador in the First World War.” Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. (4) The Globe (1844-1936). July 3, 1916.1. Archive available from ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
(5) The Globe (1844-1936). July 20, 1916.3. Archive available from ProQuest Historical Newspapers.