"A story . . . of hard fighting and great deeds . . . of an unconquerable and irrepressible spirit and of sad losses." The Daily News, St. John’s, 1917
The Newfoundland Regiment took part in numerous battles during the First World War. Beaumont-Hamel was a defining battle where the Regiment was decimated. After Beaumont-Hamel, the Newfoundland Regiment is remade with new recruits. From 1916 to the war’s end, our men fight in battle after battle, moving from France to Belgium. The list of our tough encounters gains a name: The Trail of the Caribou.
The caribou becomes a symbol for the fighting Newfoundlanders’ identity and pride, overseas and at home. Along with the name comes a reputation: tough, brave and skilled. The crowning moment comes in 1917, when the Newfoundland Regiment earns the designation “Royal” from King George V, the only regiment so honoured in the war.
"We were all green . . . they start to shell, and we were there in the open . . . didn’t know what to do!" Recollections of Private William Gellately
Newfoundland Regiment, mid-1900s
British Forces land on the Gallipoli Peninsula in April 1915. Heavy casualties mean the 7th Battalion Royal Scots is called in as reinforcement—but almost half are killed or injured in a devastating train accident en route. The Newfoundland Regiment, a last-minute replacement, arrives in Gallipoli in September.
Our sailors serving with the Royal Navy have been patrolling the Dardanelles since February. Still, Gallipoli delivers many firsts for the Regiment’s soldiers: their initial taste of combat and first experience of trench conditions—living with dirt, disease, hunger, cold, fear, death.
Gallipoli is real danger, real war. Hard lessons are learned.
"They boast that they reached the nearest point to Constantinople—a hill which they captured, called by them Caribou Hill." “Newfoundland Losses in the Advance,” London Times, July 8th, 1916
Gallipoli was the Newfoundland Regiment’s baptism by fire. A patrol occupied and held a Turkish position on November 4th, 1915. Three members received the Regiment’s first gallantry awards and proved that the Newfoundlanders were effective soldiers. “Caribou Hill” was named on maps to honour this first battlefield success.
Sergeant John L. Slattery
Newfoundland Regiment #2594
Shot and captured at Masnières in 1917, Levi Blake received poor care and little food as a POW. The Women’s Patriotic Association sent him a tobacco pouch and pipe, displayed in the centre case. After attacking a German sentry, Levi was moved to civil prison in Germany, where he remained until freed at war’s end.
November 20th–29th, 1917
In this offensive to break through the German Hindenburg line, the Regiment captured the town of Masnières and defended Allied gains, earning the title “Royal.”
Private Charles Forsey
Royal Newfoundland Regiment #3651
During the Allied push to victory in Belgium, the Regiment was shelled while resting. Charles Forsey of Gambo was wounded while rescuing his comrades. His leg was later amputated. While in hospital, he realized that shrapnel had struck the book in his breast pocket and had saved his life.