July 1 is Memorial Day in Newfoundland and Labrador, a solemn day of remembrance of the single greatest disaster in Newfoundland history. At Beaumont-Hamel, the Newfoundland Regiment was virtually wiped out in half an hour on the first morning of the Somme Offensive, July 1, 1916. All the officers were killed or wounded. On one of the bloodiest days of the war, only one other battalion had a higher casualty rate.
And what of those who served and returned? Each soldier tells a story.
Walter Frederic Rendell was born in St John’s in 1888. He was 26 when he enlisted in September 1914 – one of the First Five Hundred enlistees – was named Captain Adjutant and embarked for Alexandria on the SS Florizel in October 1914. He suffered a shrapnel wound in action at Gallipoli in September 1915. He was sent to England to recover, returning to the Western Front only a year later (thus not being in action on the fateful July day). He was wounded again at Gueudecourt in October 1916. He returned to Newfoundland in 1917, where he was Chief Staff Officer of the Militia Department until 1924. He rose in the ranks throughout the war and was named a CBE in 1919 for his war services. In WW2, Rendell was the first Commanding Officer of the Newfoundland Militia.
Rendell married Dorothy Webster in 1920. They had two sons. He died on 14 December 1951 and is buried in the Forest Road Anglican Cemetery, St. John’s.