Commemoration Day (Memorial Day)

Commemoration Day, better known as Memorial Day, is a statutory holiday observed on July 1 in Newfoundland and Labrador (seePROVINCIAL AND TERRITORIAL HOLIDAYS). It began as an observance of the virtual annihilation of the Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont Hamel on 1 July 1916 in the opening phases of the disastrous BATTLE OF THE SOMME. Of the 801 men of the regiment who advanced against entrenched German positions, fewer than 70 were able to make it to roll call the following day. Not many Newfoundland communities were untouched by this tragedy.

A shocked British colony held a memorial service on 1 July 1917 honouring the sacrifices at Beaumont Hamel. By 1919 it had become a regular event, formalized in 1920 with the Commemoration Day Act designating the first Sunday in July to acknowledge the deeds and sacrifices of Newfoundlanders who participated in WORLD WAR I. This practice remained until CONFEDERATION when the day was observed along with Dominion Day (Canada Day) on July 1. In 1990 the legislature amended the act restoring the original date of observance. More recently, however, popular sentiment has restored July 1 as the day to be observed as Memorial Day and is marked by public ceremonies at the Newfoundland War Memorial in ST JOHN'S. To avoid a conflict between the 2 commemorations, the morning is dedicated to Memorial Day and the afternoon to Canada Day. Memorial Day is observed in addition to REMEMBRANCE DAY in November.