Rendez-vous at Monchy Newfoundland Memorial - Monchy-le-Preux
In the centre of Monchy-le-Preux stands the bronze statue of a proud caribou looking out to the horizon. The Monchy Caribou is one of five memorials erected in Europe to honour the soldiers from Newfoundland who took part in the First World War. The others are in Masnières (Nord), Beaumont-Hamel, Gueudecourt (Somme), and Courtrai in Belgium.
In 1914 Newfoundland was part of the British Empire and separate from Canada, which it later joined in 1949. At the start of the war young Newfoundlanders volunteered for the Newfoundland Regiment and, after training, took part in the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey (1915) before being transferred to the front in Europe where they fought in the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.
The British Army opened the Battle of Arras on 9th April 1917 and the village of Monchy-le-Preux was an extremely important strategic objective for that operation because of its position on a hill overlooking the Scarpe Plain. The British 37th Division took the village on 11th April and this event is today commemorated by the memorial in Tilleul Street.
On 14th April at 5.30 in the morning the Newfoundland Regiment and the 1st Essex Battalion launched an attack on the German positions on Infantry Hill, situated to the east of Monchy. British losses were very high. In his defence of Monchy during the German counter-attack that followed, Lieutenant Colonel Forbes-Robertson of the Newfoundland Regiment could count on a mere ten men, of which eight were Newfoundlanders and yet they managed to hold off about 300 German soldiers for four hours until reinforcements arrived.
Of the 591 soldiers of the Newfoundland Regiment who took part in the attack, 460 were either killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
Standing atop a German fortified post, the Caribou of Monchy continues to bell in the direction of Infantry Hill in honour of the Newfoundlanders who received from George V, in recognition of their courage, the right to name themselves the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.