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Honoured in Battles: The Battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel


To raise awareness of the participation of Canadians from across the country in the Battle of the Somme, as well as the Battle Honours earned by various regiments who took part in the battle.


Youth will be expected to:

  • demonstrate a basic knowledge that soldiers from across Canada saw action in the Battle of the Somme, as exemplified by the province of origin of various regiments that earned a Battle Honour for their participation.
  • research Canadian regiments that were awarded a Battle Honour for the Somme and present their findings to the class.

Target audience

This activity is suitable for ages 12 to 17.

Sequence of events and anticipated time frame [70 minutes]

(This activity can be modified to fit available time.)

  • Discussion [15 minutes]
  • Research [30 minutes]
  • Presentations [25 minutes]
  • Possible extension activity


Discussion [15 minutes]

The First World War’s Battle of the Somme is a well-known chapter in Canada’s military history. Our soldiers were part of the massive series of Allied offensives launched in Northern France in July of 1916 against the strong line of German defenses.

Ask youth what they know about the First World War. Let them talk about movies, books, songs, exhibits, family stories, travel, etc., that have shaped their knowledge of the “Great War”. Ask them what they know about the Battle of the Somme. You could invite them to read The Canadian Corps and the Battle of the Somme as well as The Newfoundland Regiment and the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel historical sheets to help fuel the discussion.

A few months before the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917, seen as a defining moment in the shaping of Canada as a nation, the Battle of the Somme saw soldiers from every region of the country fight in different actions of the same larger campaign. The Canadian losses between July and November 1916 on the Somme were very high, with over 24,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders becoming causalities. Today, 57 Canadian regiments carry the Battle Honour for the Somme.

What is a Battle Honour?

Battle honours, or honorary distinctions as they used to be called, are awarded to provide public recognition and to record a combatant unit's active participation in battle against a formed and armed enemy. Combatant units are units whose purpose is to close with and defeat, neutralize or destroy the enemy as an effective fighting force.

The Canadian Armed Forces battle honours system draws on the rich heritage of the British forces. British battle honours originated with the army, which granted its first honorary distinction in 1695 to the 18th Regiment of Foot. Several military honours were granted for actions which occurred in Canada during the 18th and early 19th Centuries, such as "Louisburg, 1758" and "Quebec, 1759". Prior to Confederation, British authorities were responsible for the award of battle honours to 'Canadian' units. After Confederation, the Canadian Militia decided on and allocated honours to its own regiments. The first regiment to be awarded a Canadian battle honour was the 60th "Missisquoi" Battalion of Infantry (disbanded in 1898) who were given the honour "Eccles Hill" for service during the Fenian Raids of 1870.

Present-day Canadian Armed Forces members identify with the Battle Honours earned by their predecessors with the utmost respect and are inspired by these courageous actions.

Research [30 minutes]

Divide the list of Canadian regiments that have a Battle Honour for the Somme among youth. You may want to group them in teams. Ideally, the research should include at least one regiment per province or region of Canada, as one of the goals of the activity is to make youth realize that individuals from coast to coast were fighting in the same campaign on the Somme front in 1916.

Ask each group to gather basic information about their regiment, such as the description and symbolism of their badge and their motto, where the regiment is from, where the regiment fought and what the regiment did during the Battle of the Somme to earn a battle honour there. Information for each regiment is available under Official Lineages on the Department of National Defence website.

If time allows, youth may want to expand the research to other battles their regiment may have been part of in the First World War. They could also find photos and war diaries for individuals who served in their regiment during the Battle of the Somme. Sources of information on the Web do vary, of course.

Presentations [25 minutes]

Have each team present their regiment to the class. It might be useful to have a map of Canada and Europe available. For each presentation, youth could put a marker on the map where the regiment was originally from, or where the headquarters are now, using a printed image of their regimental badge. You may want to prepare a listening grid for the class to help them take notes during each presentation.

Possible extension activity

You may want to use various resources available in the Battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel section of our website to expand this lesson, such as additional historical information and details about individuals who distinguished themselves on the Somme. External sites like the War Museum, the Canadian Encyclopedia or the Legion magazine also have valuable information on the Battle of the Somme.

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