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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

July 1, 1916 - Remember Beaumont Hamel

It has been some time since I posted to the Shotgun. My legal practice and my political activism have kept me away from the bloggy bog. My apologies.

I realize that today many Canadians celebrate Dominion Day or some new beast of a holiday known as Canada Day. For me and for many other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, this is not a day for celebration. For many in Newfoundland and Labrador, this is a sad day, but it should also be a time when we pay tribute to the great fighting Newfoundlanders who gave so much for us.

This is the day we mourn the loss of most of the Royal Newfoundland regiment at the battle of Beaumont Hamel on July 1 1916.

That battle cost us some of our brightest leaders. The Dominion of Newfoundland spent more per-capita on the war effort than most allied countries. Yet it is my understanding that it was one of the very few countries NOT to have a sizable part of its war debt forgiven.

This debt contributed greatly to the need for a commission government from 1934 to the late 1940s. It contributed greatly to the forces that, in a less than fair way, swept Newfoundland into Confederation. For those who believe Confederation was a mistake and who also mourn loss of statehood for the Dominion of Newfoundland on March 31, 1949, there is perhaps a painful connection between that date and this one.

While celebrating Dominion Day, please take a moment to think about the men who lost their lives at Beaumont Hamel.

Posted by Liam O'Brien on July 1, 2008 in Canadian History | Permalink


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Thank You for the link Liam, I found the read quite informative, and of course felt a touch of sadness for the terrible end to so many lives.

I still bid you, Happy Dominion Day!

Posted by: prairie dog | 2008-07-01 4:35:06 PM

For me and for many other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, this is not a day for celebration.
Posted by Liam O'Brien on July 1, 2008

As you're a mick why don't you explain the role of the Catholic Church actively using it's influence to get a no vote for Confederation.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-07-02 8:42:05 AM

Long live Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Posted by: Marc | 2008-07-02 8:48:54 AM

In response to Stig, I can say that there were some noticeable cleavages in support for/against Confederation and/or Responsible Government. one of these was along denominational lines. . . though it was far from clear cut. Some Protestant and R.C. leaders in the 1940s did wade in with their opinions on this matter.

For those interested in more of the historical background regarding Confederation, I would recommend these books:

J.E. Fitzgerald, ed. "Newfoundland at the Crossroads: Documents on Confederation with Canada"

"Newfoundland in the North Atlantic World, 1929-1949" by Peter Neary

"More than a Poor Majority: The Story of Newfoundland's Confederation with Canada"
by Bren Walsh

Based on the evidence I've reviewed, I'd say the single largest external influence on that campaign may have come in the form of finances -- The Confederates worked very closely with Liberal party of Canada bagmen resulting in their campaign having many times more funding than the campaign of the RGL (Responsible Government League) or even the Economic Union Party. Even Confederate stalwarts like Harold Horwood admitted that Canadian Liberals were great sources of cash for the campaign. Interesting times.

Posted by: Liam O'Brien | 2008-07-02 9:20:56 AM

Great post, Liam.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-07-02 10:16:21 AM

Don't forget the other battles fought on and around July 1: Gettysburg and Vicksburg. These important Union victories turned the tide against the rebellion.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2008-07-02 10:37:55 AM

Don't forget the other battles fought on and around July 1: Gettysburg and Vicksburg. These important Union victories turned the tide against the rebellion.
Posted by: Zebulon Punk | 2-Jul-08 10:37:55 AM

A much more important battle began on July 1st than those American skirmishes. The First Battle of El Alamein which stopped the German advance in North Africa and was to allow the allies after the Second Battle of El Alamein to begin the Italian campaign.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-07-02 11:50:21 AM

A sad day indeed, even sadder that it is in a gradual decline. To add insult to injury, the day set aside to honor our war heroes is largely being overtaken by Canada day, a day to celebrate a country that as inhibited us at every turn to prosper, ridicule us, and who has tried to eliminate our culture for the sakes of integration.

Posted by: Jack Dreaddy | 2009-05-12 12:52:03 PM

Liam, do you think for a moment that an independent Newfoundland would be viable today? What happens when the oil runs out, or people start using alternatives? Before answering, remember how much money St. John's has received in transfer payments over the decades. It would be interesting to compare that to the unforgiven debt you mention.

And J.D., I'd be most interested to hear exactly how Canada has hindered the development of Newfoundland. As far as I can tell, Ottawa has done nothing but adhere to the rules to which Newfoundland agreed to abide when it joined Confederation in 1949. But like a dyspeptic nephew, St. John's has repeatedly demanded special treatment from the Feds, including a greater share of offshore resources than would otherwise be the case, as well as special concessions in the equalization formula for transfer payments. This bellyaching climaxed under the "anyone but Conservative" campaign of Danny Williams, who then had the gall to complain that his province had no representation in Ottawa.

So forgive me, guys, if I find Newfoundland's aspirations to nationhood and the delusions of victimhood that inspire them to be unconvincing.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-12 1:29:47 PM

The man puts up a post to honor war dead who volunteered in the Great War only to be used as cannon fodder by a bunch of Brit jeks, and MOST of you turn it into a petty debate about independence.
BTW, there were lynch mobs looking to hang Smallwood's ass when he signed away their independence.

What a bunch of complete assholes,(save for a few)

Posted by: JC | 2009-05-12 2:24:57 PM

It was the original poster who chose to push the subject of independence, JC. I did not even remark upon the war dead. If anyone has discredited the fallen sons of Newfoundland, he has.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-12 2:37:08 PM

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