One of the grimmest chapters in Newfoundland history was marked under brilliant blue skies in St. John's Tuesday, the sunny weather belying the sombre mood as the losses of Beaumont-Hamel were recalled 98 years to the day.

The Newfoundland Regiment was part of the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, one of the deadliest days in military history, but the regiment's losses were particularly acute because of the small population of the dominion that sent its troops.

Of the 801 regiment members that went into battle on July 1, 1916, only 68 could stand for roll call. Beaumont-Hamel left 255 dead, 386 wounded and 91 missing.

Services were held at cenotaphs and memorials across the province. Among those laying wreaths at the National War Memorial in St. John's was Jim Herder, who had three uncles - Hubert, Ralph and Arthur - who stormed the well-fortified German line in France that day.

"Hubert was killed immediately that morning. As you know, in those days the officers led the charge, and he was a lieutenant," Herder told CBC News.

Almost a century after the battle, Herder said he finds the sense of loss profound.

"So many lives were lost," he said. "We lost so many future leaders ... I'm just very proud to be a Newfoundlander, and to be a Herder."

With files from Azzo Rezori