Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Royal Newfoundland Regiment at Gallipoli

As I mentioned in a previous post, 25 April 2015 marks the 100th Anniversary of the landing of Allied forces at Gallipoli, including forces from Britain, Australia and New Zealand. The only North American unit in the entire 8 month long campaign was the Royal Newfoundland Regiment (RNR) that landed later on 20 September 1915. However, today is not Memorial Day in the province.

Later in the war, the regiment was virtually wiped out on 1 Jul 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Since then July 1 has been Memorial Day in Newfoundland and Labrador. Traditionally, remembrance ceremonies are held in the morning, and then the day gives way to celebrations for the nationwide holiday, Canada Day.
Britain entered World War I on 4 Aug 1914 and about 1000 men had enlisted for the Newfoundland Regiment by the end of September. They trained on the outskirts of St. John’s before shipping out for more training in England and Scotland where they became part of the 29th Division of the British Army. (Newfoundland was a British Dominion and not part of Canada at the time.)

The British and French wanted to get supplies to their allies in Russia. Overland routes were blocked and getting past the German north coast in the Baltic was problematic. The third route was to get supplies through to the Russian Black Sea ports via the Dardenelles Strait controlled by the Ottoman Empire, allies of the Germans. The Gallipoli Peninsula is at the Mediterranean end of the north side of the Dardanelles.
Conditions on the battlefield were awful with both water shortages and weather to challenge the Allies. There was trench warfare here as well as Europe. The RNR are renowned for capturing Caribou Hill, which the Turks were using to snipe at the allied forces. No military breakthrough occurred so it was decided to withdraw.

While not arriving at Gallipoli at the beginning of the campaign, the Newfoundland Regiment provided necessary cover on the last day as troops pulled out, 9 Jan 1916. Thirty men had been killed or mortally wounded. Ten more had died of disease. In one of the worst winters in decades, the soldiers really suffered. One hundred fifty were treated for frostbite and exposure.

After a short rest period, the regiment would be assigned duty in France and suffer an immense loss. In all, 6200 men served in the RNR with 1300 dead – a very high price.

Sources: www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/first-world-war/fact_sheets/gallipoli

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