Newfoundland marked the sombre anniversary of the Battle of the Somme Friday. (CBC)

As the rest of the country celebrated a sunny Canada Day, residents of Newfoundland and Labrador stood under a cloudy sky to mark a sombre anniversary.

Veterans, politicians and ordinary citizens turned out in St. John's Friday morning to remember a day that has gone down as one of the saddest experiences in the history of the province.

Friday is Memorial Day and commemorates July 1, 1916, when the Battle of the Somme began during the First World War.

Soldiers of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, stationed as part of British forces near the small town of Beaumont-Hamel in northern France, joined the fight.

Under heavy fire from German forces, the regiment's 801 officers and men were ordered to advance. Within 30 minutes, the regiment lost 90 per cent of its men. Some 255 were dead, 386 were wounded and 91 were listed as missing in action and presumed dead.

This year, as they do every year, people turn out at the National War Monument in downtown St. John's to lay wreaths and pay tribute to the Newfoundland regiment.