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Remembrance Dog Tags – Fallen Canadians on July 1st, 1916 at Beaumont-Hamel

Aim

To increase youth awareness and remembrance of the Newfoundlanders who died at Beaumont-Hamel during the First World War’s Battle of the Somme.

Objectives

Youth will be expected to:

  • understand the contributions of Newfoundlanders who served at Beaumont-Hamel on July 1, 1916;
  • learn about military identity discs, known as ‘dog tags’; and
  • develop an awareness of the importance of remembering the sacrifices and achievements of the Newfoundlanders who gave their lives at Beaumont-Hamel.

Target audience

This activity is suitable for ages 12 to 17.

Sequence of events and anticipated time frame [75 minutes]

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

  • Introductory discussion [15 minutes]
  • Research and preparation [15 minutes]
  • Presentations [30 minutes]
  • Wrap-up discussion [15 minutes]
  • Possible extension activity [variable]

Materials

Introductory discussion [15 minutes]

Ask youth if they know what a military “dog tag” is. Have they ever seen one? This dog tag activity is designed to help them “put a face on remembrance.”

Newfoundlanders’ efforts at Beaumont-Hamel during the First World War came at a high cost and the losses sustained by the 1st Newfoundland Regiment there on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme July 1, 1916, were staggering. Some 800 Newfoundlanders went into battle that morning and sadly, more than 700 of these brave soldiers would be killed, wounded or go missing in the fighting. You may want to read the fact sheet Newfoundland Regiment and the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel for more information on the subject.

Taking a few moments to think about these soldiers is a way to remember all those who served. Share with youth that July 1st marks the anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel

What is a military dog tag?

A dog tag is a piece of formal identification for military personnel. It must be worn when soldiers are on duty. The name “dog tag” comes from the similarity to real tags used to identify dogs. It was officially called an “identity disc” or I disc. The tag bears important information on the individual, such as the name, rank, service number, blood type and religion (to call the appropriate clergy person in case of injury or death).

The shape and type of information on these tags evolved over the years. Modern Canadian tags are designed to be broken in two pieces in the event of death; one piece remains with the deceased and the other piece is sent to the authorities.

Research and preparation [15 minutes]

Using cardboard paper for added strength, print the dog tag cards (PDF). They contain information about some 87 Newfoundlanders who died on July 1, 1916, during the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. Sadly, more than 300 Newfoundlanders died or went missing on July 1, 1916. The individuals that can be seen in this activity are those who had a personal photo available on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial at the time the lesson was developed.

  • Cut out the individual pieces. If you wish to re-use the dog tags, laminate them.
  • Make two holes in each of the dog tags and attach a piece of string or metal beaded chain.
  • Distribute the dog tags.
  • Have youth research the individual on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial Web site and ask them to add their fallen Newfoundland soldier’s service number and age directly on the dog tag. Have youth write down as many personal information on the fallen they can find on the memorial page. Encourage them to look each picture when available.
  • They may search the Internet to find out more personal information about their fallen soldier, such as their hometown, place of enlistment, places where he/she served, cause of death, place of burial, etc., which could be included in their presentation. The Newfoundland Regiment and the Great War database is a great resource to search the service files of over 6,000 Newfoundlanders who served in the First World War.

What is the Canadian Virtual War Memorial?

This site contains a registry of information about the graves and memorials of more than 118,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders who served valiantly and gave their lives for their country. Included on this site are the memorials of more than 1,800 men and women who died in service to Canada since the Korean War, including peacekeeping and other operations. The site also contains digital images of photographs and personal memorabilia. The purpose of the Canadian Virtual War Memorial is to recognize and keep alive the memory of the achievements and sacrifices made by those who served Canada in the defence of freedom and so have contributed to the development of Canada as a nation.

Presentations [30 minutes]

Have each youth present ‘his’ or ‘her’ fallen Newfoundlander to the group.

Wrap-up discussion [15 minutes]

Lead a discussion around the dog tag activity by asking the following questions:

  • Do they better understand the contributions of Newfoundlanders in uniform who died in service in the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel?
  • Are there other ways to use the dog tags to honour those who served? (Note: for example, wearing the dog tag at a Remembrance ceremony, creating a ‘peace tree’ with all dog tags representing the ‘leaves’ of the tree, etc.)

Possible extension activity [variable]

Youth may wish to vary this activity by doing a research on a Newfoundlander who died in Beaumont-Hamel on July 1st but whose name is not on the dog tag document provided. Information about the fallen would still be available on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial and The Newfoundland Regiment and the Great War database.

Have youth inquire if any of their ancestors, family or community members died while serving Newfoundland or Canada during the First World War. Have them interview family members or members of the community to collect and document any first-hand information on these individuals. Encourage youth to bring in photos, personal diaries, letters or artifacts wherever possible. Share the research in a whole group session. The information gathered could be converted to an electronic format (e.g. photographs or journals scanned and saved as image files) and submitted to the Canadian Virtual War Memorial. Scanned images can be submitted on-line from the digital collections page on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial or sent by email at VAC.CVWM-MVGC.ACC@vac-acc.gc.ca.

Youth could also research Newfoundlanders who served in the First World War and survived by using The Newfoundland Regiment and the Great War database.

To learn more about this important battle, youth can visit Beaumont Hamel: July 1, 1916 or Blood in the Mud. They can also explore the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial.

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