The Sunday Magazine

How the battle of Beaumont-Hamel devastated Newfoundland

Writer David Macfarlane and musician Douglas Cameron combined words and music in a powerful production that tells the story of the Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont-Hamel. It's called 'The Door You Came In,' and they are Michael’s guests.
Writer David Macfarlane and musician Douglas Cameron's new show, 'The Door You Came In' combines songs and stories about Macfarlane's family, Newfoundland and the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. (Provided by David Macfarlane and Douglas Cameron)

This interview originally aired July 17, 2016.

The story of what happened at Beaumont-Hamel is seared into the hearts of Newfoundlanders. 

It was the opening assault of the Battle of the Somme. Approximately 800 young men of the Newfoundland Regiment charged across the battlefield. They were mowed down by German machine guns. The regiment was nearly wiped out. 

The deaths at Beaumont-Hamel would become a symbol for Newfoundland's loss over the course of the war. David Macfarlane wrote about how World War I shaped Newfoundland in his 1991 book The Danger Tree, which weaves together stories about the war, his family, and the strange magic of Newfoundland. 

"It changed Newfoundland forever. My family, the Goodyears...What happened to the Goodyear family was not unusual, in that five boys enlisted, three were killed, and two were wounded," Macfarlane told The Sunday Edition's Michael Enright. 

Now, those stories have been given a new life in The Door You Came In: Songs and Stories From The Danger Tree, a show Macfarlane created in collaboration with musician Douglas Cameron. The show combines stories from the book with original and period music.

To mark the centenary of Beaumont-Hamel, Macfarlane and Cameron performed the show in towns across Newfoundland the summer of 2016. 

Click 'listen' above to hear Macfarlane and Cameron talk about their creative partnership, how World War I shaped Newfoundland and the power of combining words and music. They also performed some of the songs from the show.