A Visit to Beaumont-Hamel July 10 2013 Photo Set

The Names.

Beaumont-Hamel. A place of bucolic, country serenity in the Somme region of northern France, and the location of the virtual annihilation of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment by German machine guns on on the morning of July 1, 1916. Much has been written about this massacre over the last almost 100 years and I’m not about to add my analysis, but suffice it to say, as David R. Facey-Crowther wrote, “So catastrophic was the event that it remained etched into the consciousness of Newfoundlanders for much of this (20th) century”.

Newfoundlanders go over the top, July 1, 1916. Photo from the provincial archive.

Newfoundlanders attack after the “over the top” order, only to be cut down by German machine guns trained on narrow breaks in the barbed wire strung across no man’s land. July 1, 1916. Photo from the provincial archive.

Soldiers comb through the devastation at Beaumont-Hamel after it was finally taken by the British on Nov 13, 1916.

Soldiers comb through the devastation at Beaumont-Hamel after it was finally taken by the British on Nov 13, 1916.

The opening of Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Park, June 7, 1925, Field Marshall Earl Haig presiding. The sirte was designed by Dutch architect R.H.K. Cochius, this and the other 5 caribous designed by British sculptor Basil Gotto who also created the Fighting Newfoundlander sculpture in Bowring Park, St. John's. Photo from the provincial archives.

The opening of Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Park, June 7, 1925,  The site was designed by Dutch architect R.H.K. Cochius, this and the other 5 caribous were designed by British sculptor Basil Gotto.  Photo from the provincial archives.

I’m a 6th generation Newfoundlander and named after my mom’s Uncle Paul Ulysses Lilly (1889-1971) from Exploits Islands, Notre Dame Bay, Newfoundland. A survivor of infamous World War 1 locations such as Cairo, Gallipoli, Suvla Bay and the Somme, a Uncle Paulman who returned to Newfoundland and never really spoke of his experience. He was a fisherman when he enlisted in the First Newfoundland Regiment in 1914 and was a Sergeant when he was demobilized in 1919. I’d hear occasional talk of Uncle Paul when I was young and noticed the admiring way my mother would speak of him. However, I met him only once. On that fateful day at Beaumont-Hamel, his role is a mystery. His service record reads, in nearly 100 year-old cursive, “7-1-16 with regiment”. Mom (his niece) would say that he was there for roll call the next day. Obviously, some details have been obscured by time and the fog of war. I don’t remember ever learning specifically about that battle in school. In my opinion, if Newfoundland History is still taught anywhere in this province, the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel should be the first unit.

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My uncle Paul Lilly’s enlistment document. Occupation, fisherman, annual salary $300. Age 25. 1485 days in the Newfoundland Regiment. Yeah, I’m proud.

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Uncle Paul’s demobilization document from 1919. Notice at the top of the page how the Newfoundland Regiment had already been given the Royal designation.

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Document accompanying his Victory Medal and British War Medal in 1921. He also received the British 1914-1915 Star. I sure would love to know where they are.

I’d been planning a visit for a few years and along with friends Barry Canning and Lloyd Reid, visited Newfoundland Park near the small town of Beaumont-Hamel on July 10, 2013 to pay our respects. It truly is a beautiful place, especially in the long light of late afternoon, and much credit should be given to the Canadian Department of Veterans Affairs and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for maintaining the site in a way that would make any Newfoundlander proud.

It’s difficult to imagine the din of mortar shells, machine guns and the cries of the fallen men and boys on that summer morning in 1916, but on July 10 2013, it was just the wind in the trees and a bird:

For more information on the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel and the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, I’ve included some links at the bottom. What follows is a sampling of the almost 200 photos I took that afternoon. Shot with Nikon DSLR and iPhone 5.

The 29th Regiment

A plaque commemorating the 29th Division, of which the not-yet-Canadian First Newfoundland Regiment was a part. At the entrance of Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Park, France.

Entrance

Looking back at the entrance to the Beaumont-Hamel Memorial, lined with trees from Newfoundland

The proud Newfoundland Caribou, symbol of the Regiment, surrounded by native Newfoundland shrubbery. This sculpture is identical to the others located at Gueudecourt, Monchy-le-Preux, Masnieres, Courtrai (Kortrik) and the only one in Newfoundland, Bowring Park, St. John's.

The proud Newfoundland Caribou, symbol of the Regiment, surrounded by native Newfoundland shrubbery. This sculpture is identical to the others located at Gueudecourt, Monchy-le-Preux, Masnieres, Courtrai (Kortrik) and the only one in Newfoundland, Bowring Park, St. John’s.

Some of the overgrown trenches behind the British front lines, south of the St. John's Road trench.

Some of the overgrown trenches behind the British front lines, south of the St. John’s Road trench.

Looking out over no man's land from the Caribou Memorial. The sheep keep the grass short and act as unwitting undetonated explosives finders. At this point, I was alone in the park as Barry and Lloyd had returned to the car. A somewhat unexpected occurrence that that will stay with me for a very long time.

Looking out over no man’s land from the Caribou Memorial with showers in the distance. The sheep keep the grass short and act as unwitting, undetonated-explosives finders. At this point, I was alone in the park as Barry and Lloyd had returned to the car. A somewhat unexpected occurrence that will stay with me for a long time.

The Danger Tree. This is a replica of the original landmark used by the 29th Battalion at Beaumont-Hamel and the place where the largest number of bodies were recovered after the battle.

The Danger Tree. This is a replica of the original landmark used by the 29th Battalion at Beaumont-Hamel and the place where the largest number of bodies were recovered after the battle.

Beaumont-Hamel is said to be the best preserved World War 1 trench system and several original artifacts remain. Including barbed wire hangers such as this one in the long grass of no man's land.

Beaumont-Hamel is said to be the best preserved World War 1 trench system and many original artifacts remain. Including barbed wire hangers such as this one in the long grass of no man’s land.

Wall supports still visible among the overgrown British trenches.

Wall supports still visible among the overgrown British trenches.

Y Ravine Cemetery. Impeccably maintained with row upon row of dead Newfoundland soldiers. Because the ferocity of the enemy machine gun fire cut these young men to pieces, some graves contain the remains of 2 or 3 young men. The British buried what they were able to recover. It's a grisly thought but it was all that could be done.

Y Ravine Cemetery. Impeccably maintained with row upon row of dead Newfoundland soldiers and yellow roses. Because the ferocity of the enemy machine gun fire tore them to pieces, some graves contain the remains of 2 or 3 young men. The British buried what they were able to recover. It’s a grisly thought but it was all that could be done. Rest in peace.

Plaque at the entrance of the Y Ravine Cemetery.

Plaque at the entrance of the Y Ravine Cemetery.

Y Ravine Cemetery

Y Ravine Cemetery

Here lies Private J. Hancock, age 18.

Private J. Hancock, age 18.

Final resting place of 25 year-old Lance Corporal R. Hynes and an unidentified soldier. As the the headstone states, known only to God.

Final resting place of 25 year-old Lance Corporal R. E. Hynes and an unidentified soldier. As the the headstone states, known only to God.

Final resting place of 2 unidentified soldiers.

Final resting place of 2 unidentified soldiers.

Y Ravine Cemetery. The names on these headstones read like the St. John's phone book. As Barry observed, you feel compelled to speak the names out loud as you move from grave to grave.

Y Ravine Cemetery. The surnames on these headstones read like the St. John’s phone book. As Barry observed, you feel compelled to speak their names out loud as you move through the ranks of graves.

German front line trenches as seen from the Y Ravine looking up the hill towards Hawthorne 2 Cemetery.

German front line trenches as seen from the Y Ravine looking up the hill towards Hawthorne 2 Cemetery to the north.

An amazing cathedral of trees surrounds the entrance to Hawthorne 2 Cemetery in the north corner of of Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Park. Visible in silhouette just above the path is the cemetery back wall. The monument and cross are tough to make out against a tree.

An amazing cathedral of trees surrounds the entrance to Hawthorne 2 Cemetery in the north corner of Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Park. The cemetery wall is visible in silhouette just above the path. The monument and cross are tough to make out against a tree.

Canopy of trees on the Avenue, the portion of the path approaching the Caribou Memorial from Hawthorne 2 Cemetery at Beaumont-Hamel.
Vaulted nave of trees on the Avenue, the portion of the path approaching the Caribou Memorial from Hawthorne 2 Cemetery at Beaumont-Hamel.



The Names.

Their names.

Tread softly here! Go reverently and slow!
You let your soul go down upon its knees
And with bowed head, and heart abased strive hard
To grasp the future gain in the sore loss!
For not one foot of this dank sod but drank
Its surfeit of the blood of gallant men.
Who for their faith their hope – for life and liberty
Here made the sacrifice – here gave their lives
And gave right willingly – for you and me.

From this vast altar-pile the souls of men
Sped up to God in countless multitudes.
On this grim cratered ridge they gave their all.
And giving won.
The peace of Heaven and immortality
Our hearts go out to them in boundless gratitude.
If ours – then God’s for His vast charity
All sees, all knows, all comprehends – save bounds
He has repaid their sacrifice – and we – ?
God help us if we fail to pay our debt
In fullest full and all unstintingly!

-John Oxenham (1852-1941) as seen on a plaque near the entrance of Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Park.
_____________________________________________

Some excellent resources to find out more about the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel and the Royal Newfoundland Regiment:

  • Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial on Wikipedia.
  • Glorious Tragedy: Newfoundlands Cultural Memory of the Attack at Beaumont-Hamel at Memorial University
  • The Royal Newfoundland Regiment on Wikipedia.

_____________________________________________

If you would like to use these photos in some other post or website, please feel free. Someone may learn more about the sacrifices made by the Royal Newfoundland Regiment on that day.

Please attend the Memorial Day Parade on July 1 and the Remembrance Day Parade on November 11, lest we forget.

wpk

poppy

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About Paul Kinsman

Musician, photographer, broadcaster, in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.
This entry was posted in Europe, Landscape/Seascape, Newfoundland, Photography, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to A Visit to Beaumont-Hamel July 10 2013 Photo Set

  1. Kathleen Kinsman Ott says:

    A beautiful piece, Paul. A deserving tribute to the brave Soldiers who gave of themselves so freely.

  2. Robert Young says:

    Paul, As a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Advisory Council, as past soldier in the modern regiment, as a professional photographer and as an old friend of yours, all I can say is “This whole piece is a beautiful, artistic and well done Tribute to the Newfoundlanders honored at Beaumont Hamel”
    Thank you.

  3. Krista says:

    A wonderful tribute to all who suffered in/from the battle. Beautifully written and lovely pics. Congrats on this artistic, historic depiction of a time that all NLers should never forget.

  4. JoAnn LeDrew says:

    Ron and I visited this sacred resting place of our fellow and brave Newfoundlanders. You have written a beautiful piece of art that is worthy of special merit. We were also moved while roaming this beautiful site. The silence is astounding as you gaze over the trenches.
    I enjoyed your account of your trip and I’m sharing this with Ron’s son Scott who is now enlisted with the Cape Breton Highlanders…his is only 17 but very interested in all things Military.
    Thank you for sharing with us the fantastic photos of this marvelous place.
    JoAnn

    • Paul Kinsman says:

      Thanks, JoAnn. I was happy to give Uncle Paul some recognition for his efforts as well. I’m sure you’re very proud of your grandson. The Highlanders were in Arras and saw plenty of action on the Western Front. I’m sure they have their own story to tell.

  5. Chris LeDrew says:

    Excellent job, Paul. It’s like you’re right there when you’re reading and scrolling through.

  6. Nathalie Vanasse says:

    Having stood on parade with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment countless times, I have always wanted to visit Beaumont Hamel. This piece is truly a wonderful tribute to a regiment who suffered much to fight for freedoms. They truly were “Better than the Best”

  7. Robert Corbett says:

    Paul: As a soldier of the RNR and a member of the Regimential Band, I also stood on that hollowed ground and felt the same thoughts you had. Your piece was well done and the pictures are awesome. Thanks again for a well documented piece. Sgt.(Retd) Robert Corbett CDII

    • Paul Kinsman says:

      Thank you, sir, I appreciate your comments. Since discussing this trip back in the spring I’ve spoken with a surprisingly large number of Newfoundlanders who have visited the site, and as you probably noticed during your visit, the guestbook shows just how many people from all over the world have paid their respect. At the time we talked about how we imagine young men from places like Change Islands, Twillingate or Exploits would feel marching across the rolling farmlands of northern France. The experience of following their footsteps almost 100 years later certainly gives one cause for refection and evokes many emotions.

  8. Bill Warren says:

    Paul, great article and amazing photos. I was in the Regiment in the mid-80’s, I joined the Regular Force, was posted to Germany and had the unique opportunity to walk the same ground that those that came before us did. Something I will always remember.

  9. Alison Carr says:

    Hi Paul,
    I’m writing from the Newfoundland and Labrador Studies journal at MUN, and we’re interested in using one of your images from Beaumont Hamel in an upcoming issue. Could you email me directly, at your convenience, and let me know if you’d be willing to grant such permission, and what your fee might be (if any)? I will give you more particulars about the project as well.

    Regards,
    Alison
    nls@mun.ca

  10. Norm Cottee says:

    Good evening Paul
    My mother , Mary Lilly (Cottee), Was Paul’s youngest sibling.
    During WW1, Paul sent her a gold locket while serving in France. She had Pauls’ picture in the locket, and when she passed the locket was given to grand daughter Pam Scholten , who was unaware of the identity of the ” mystery man.”
    Recently, Paul’s daughter Mabel Manuel identified the picture as her father, so the mystery is solved !
    Thank you for this wonderful article, and the many beautiful pictures that helped tell the story.

    • Paul Kinsman says:

      Hi Norm, so pleased to meet you, cousin:) That’s an amazing story about the locket Uncle Paul sent his little sister. I’d love to see it or a photo.

      • Norm and Vicki Cottee says:

        HiPaul
        We have been thinking about Beaumont-Hamel , and on re-visiting your postings read your response to the “locket “story, decided to follow-up with our niece Pam Scholten, the owner of this memento, to have a photo sent to you.
        She must be a mindreader,because a lovely email arrived including 2 photos of the locket on a background of Newfoundlannd plaid woven by my first
        cousin Mabel Manuel.
        We will ask Pam to send the photos to you.
        Our email is ncottee@shae ca

        Norm and Vicki[Woodward] Cottee
        780-467-8214
        Sherwood Park AB

  11. Beatrice says:

    Paul, as I read your articles, and see the pics, I can only invision the devistation and sacrifice those hero’s made…thank you for providing pieces of history that should be passed down…these pictures are not provided to our children in schools and as time goes on…is less and less put forth for our children to understand the strength, humility, commoradarie, faith that one had to be able to withstand what was required of one back then…it’s a beautiful tribute…Thank you. I will certainly teach my grandchildren. Bless you.

  12. Dave Smith says:

    Beautiful pics. Certainly makes you think of the supreme sacrifice these young men made for their country. I,’ll be attending the 100th anniversary this coming July and hope to visit these sacred places. I too have relatives from Exploits Island. They come from Jeffries Cove (near where the old connecting bridge used to be)

  13. Pam Scholten says:

    On this Memorial Day, I am compelled to reflect on the tragedy that occurred at
    Beaumont – Hamel. The loss suffered by all Newfoundlanders is truly incomprehensible.
    Thank you Paul, for keeping their memories in our hearts and minds, through your article.
    I will send you photos of the locket that our great uncle, Paul Ulysses Lilly, sent to his sister, Mary Lilly from France, over one hundred years ago.
    Pam – Saint John, New Brunswick

  14. Hello Mr Kinsman
    We are a museum for military history in southwestern germany and just had a public lecture on the battle of the Somme. Now we want to publish this lecture in our museum magazine and are looking for a picture of the caribou memorial. You have a great one on your web-site. Might it be possible to use it for printing? Of course we will send you the magazine afterwards.
    Thanks a lot. Kindest regards, Alex Jordan

  15. Rosalind house cross says:

    Hello…my name will mean nothing. Rosalind house cross. My mother was your mother’s cousin. (Mary ( pynn) house)) of exploits then Twillingate then corner Brook. Whew! It is hard to try to make connections here.
    Anyway uncle Paul was my great uncle. His sister Hilda May pynn was my grandmother.
    I have been to Beaumont Hamel. I have been moved to tears and goosebumps there. I was unaware of uncle Paul’s connection even though I was aware that he suffered ” shell shock” after ww1. Thank- you sharing.
    Note I inadvertently found this as I searched info re my husband’s great uncle Herbert herdman( war vet who left england for Australia))another story!

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