"It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour, and its assault only failed of success because dead men can advance no further." — Major-General Sir Beauvoir de Lisle, Commander of the British 29th Division, on the 1st Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont-Hamel
July 1st is Canada Day where the country celebrates its birthday. In Newfoundland, while we are part of Canada since 1949, another day is remembered - Memorial Day. On July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme in World War I, 801 soldiers of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment rose from the British trenches and went into battle at Beaumont-Hamel, nine kilometers north of Albert in France. After only 30 minutes the regiment was devastated. Only 68 men stood to answer the regimental roll call the next morning. 255 were dead, 386 were wounded, and 91 were listed as missing in action and presumed dead. Every officer who had gone over the top was either wounded or dead.
While researching relatives in an old cemetery I found a gravesite which brought home more the meaning of Memorial Day. The graves of two young men, relatives through my mother's paternal side of the family, James Atwill, who died on July 1, 1916 as part of the Newfoundland Regiment and his brother Duncan, who died two years later in action in France. James was 25 and Duncan 21. Such a waste of life and such a terrible war, as all wars are.
I started drawing a heliconia - a cousin of the bird of paradise flower. These are ornate showy bracts that hang down and are very tropical. Its a good exercise in negative space for me with all the background foliage and stems. The complexity of the background isn't as daunting as it seems as it gives me a degree of 'artistic license' in terms of leaf shape and depth of field. Just getting the values correct to provide the illusion will be the challenge.