Beaumont-Hamel officer 'thought daily of soldiers who died under his command,' says family

The family of the man who commanded the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during its near annihilation at Beaumont-Hamel a century ago was in St. John's Thursday to make a donation to the regiment's museum.

Lt.-Col. Arthur L. Hadow's medals donated by family members to Royal Newfoundland Regiment museum

Lt.-Col. Arthur L. Hadow gave members of the Newfoundland Regiment the order to go over the top at Beaumont-Hamel on July 1, 1916. (Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum)

The family of the man who commanded the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during its near annihilation at Beaumont-Hamel a century ago was in St. John's Thursday to make a donation to the regiment's museum.

Lt.-Col. Arthur L. Hadow ordered Newfoundland's soldiers to advance towards German machine guns in France on July 1, 1916, on the opening day of the infamous Battle of the Somme. 

Of the 800-plus men in the regiment, only 68 answered roll call the next day. The rest were either killed, wounded or missing.

Hadow's grandchildren donated his war medals to The Royal Newfoundland Regiment museum in Pleasantville.

They also donated what Hadow once described as his most precious possession, a silver plate inscribed with the names of many of the soldiers who later died in battle.

The plate was given to Hadow by his fellow soldiers as a wedding gift in April 1916, just months before the carnage at Beaumont-Hamel.

The descendents of Lt.-Col. Arthur L. Hadow were in St. John's Thursday to donate some of his "precious possessions" to The Royal Newfoundland Regiment museum. (Mark Quinn/ CBC)

"There are so many people here who are related to people in the battles that it is just the obvious place for them to be," said Hadow's grandson, John Hadow.

Hadow said his grandfather was haunted by what happened during the war.

"Until he died in 1968, there was probably not one day that he did not think of the young soldiers who died under his command," said Hadow.

My regiment did magnificently,- Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur L. Hadow

Hadow said his grandfather never spoke of the events of July 1, 1916 with him or his father.

Within 20 minutes of going over the top, about 85 per cent of the hundreds of the Newfoundland Regiment members who left the trenches at Beaumont-Hamel were dead, dying or wounded.

"It wasn't until I read his diaries that I began to learn about the real horrors of what the regiment went through between August 1915 to October 1918," said Hadow.

"I expect none of us can begin to understand what Arthur felt on that morning the first of July when he sent all those brave young men over the top. In a letter to his mother on July 9, he wrote 'my regiment did magnificently.'"

Hundreds of members of the Newfoundland Regiment were killed or wounded in France at Beaumont-Hamel. (Rod Hand)

A military historian who spoke at the donation ceremony said Hadow had no choice but to follow the order from his superiors to send the men out of the trenches at Beaumont-Hamel.

"He would have known that he would have been replaced immediately by someone who would follow the order if he had refused," said regimental historian Anthony McAllister.

His family said coming to Newfoundland from England has been very moving.

"It's tremendous. Delayed shock I think really," said granddaughter Rosemary Hadow.

"You can feel the spirit of the people here and understand that they had a rapport between the men and the commanding officers even if they didn't see eye-to-eye a lot of the time because they were all very tough people."

About the Author

Mark Quinn

CBC News

Mark Quinn is a videojournalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.