Centennial Anniversary of the Newfoundland National War Memorial (1924-2024)

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On July 26, 2022, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, in partnership with the Royal Canadian Legion, the Government of Canada and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, announced the renovation of the Newfoundland National War Memorial. The renovation of the Memorial included the repatriation of the remains of an unknown Newfoundland soldier from the battlefields of the First World War in northern France.

An unknown Newfoundland soldier

During the First World War, Newfoundland was a self-governing realm of the British Empire with Dominion status. Newfoundland joined the Canadian federation in 1949. The official name of the province was changed to Newfoundland and Labrador in 2001.

About 12,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians signed up to serve during the First World War. More than 1,700 people died tragically, and more than 800 of them have no known grave.

The majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians served in British military services and respective support units: navy, army, air force, merchant navy, forestry companies, volunteer auxiliary detachments and nursing services, both abroad and on the home front. A significant number also served in the Allied services of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

The remains of an unknown Newfoundland soldier will represent the collective contribution and sacrifice of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who served, fought and died in all branches of the military and respective support services, and who have no known graves.

This includes the Navy, Army, Merchant Navy/Merchant Navy, Forestry Companies/Units, Church Lads Brigade, (Royal) Newfoundland Constabulary, Voluntary Auxiliary Detachment, Nursing Services, Fishermen (Coast Watchers/Spotters) and related overseas/home support services, and their loved ones.

The journey of an unknown soldier from Newfoundland is told through four commemorative events, ending with the ceremony commemorating the centennial of the National War Memorial. More details about these ceremonies can be found below.

The Newfoundland National War Memorial

Unveiling of the Newfoundland National War Memorial, 1924 (courtesy of The Rooms, Provincial Archives Division (E47-40), St. John’s

The Newfoundland National War Memorial was officially unveiled on July 1, 1924 by Field Marshal Douglas Haig, former Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces during the First World War.*

The First World War ended with the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918. As the armistice approached, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and their returning veterans wanted to properly commemorate the fallen, so an intensive community commemoration effort was undertaken.

Work on the monument began in 1918 when the Governor of Newfoundland, Sir Charles Alexander Harris, established a Commemoration Committee under the Patriotic Association of Newfoundland. The next six years were full of indecision, challenges, disappointments and delays. But in 1921, under the new and intrepid leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Nangle, and with the strong support of the Great War Veterans’ Association of Newfoundland, the Memorial was completed.

*The Newfoundland National War Memorial was designated a National Historic Site in 2019 due to its artistic significance and the fact that the monument was inspired by John McCrae’s famous poem, In the Flemish Fields.

Today, the Newfoundland National War Memorial represents the collective sacrifice and service of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who served in all branches of service, during wars, conflicts, combat and peacekeeping efforts.

The monument is built of marble, with bronze statues and iron railings, and was the work of world-famous British artists Gilbert Bayes and Ferdinand Victor Blundstone.

Bronze plaques representing each of the following adorn the memorial:

  • The War of 1812-1815
  • The first World War
  • The second World War
  • The Korean War
  • The war in Afghanistan

It is the province’s largest and most substantial public work of art, combining allegorical and realistic figures to depict Newfoundland’s “First World War effort.” It overlooks the Port of St. John, the departure point for many of those who served and died, and the location to which many veterans, including those who were physically and mentally scarred, returned.

On Memorial Day, July 1, 2024, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will proudly come together to solemnly celebrate 100e anniversary of the unveiling and dedication of the Newfoundland National War Memorial.

On that day, the remains of an unknown soldier from what was then known as the Dominion of Newfoundland will be repatriated from northern France. The remains will be interred on the plateau of the Newfoundland National War Memorial, in memory of all those Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who lost their lives in conflict, especially those with no known graves.

MEMORIAL EVENTS

The journey of the unknown Newfoundland soldier is told through four commemorative events, culminating in the ceremony commemorating the centennial of the National War Memorial.

  • Repatriation Ceremony, Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial – Auchonvillers, France (May 25, 2024)
  • Arrival in St. John’s, NL (May 25, 2024)
  • Able – St. John’s, NL (June 28 – 30, 2024)
  • Reburial of the remains and ceremony to commemorate the centenary of the National War Memorial – St. John’s, NL (July 1, 2024)

May 25, 2024 at 11:00 am

Handover ceremony for the repatriation of an unknown First World War soldier from Newfoundland

Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Monument, Auchonvillers, France

The government of France will transfer the remains of an unknown World War I soldier from Newfoundland to the government of Canada.

The Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will host this special ceremony, which is open to the public.

May 25, 2024

Arrival of remains of unknown World War I Newfoundland soldier (time TBA)

St. John’s International Airport, 100 World Parkway, St. John’s, NL

Upon arrival in St. John’s, a hearse carrying the coffin containing the remains of an unknown Newfoundland soldier will follow a ceremonial route from the airport, passing several historic sites intrinsically linked to the First World War military history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The public is invited to line the streets to pay their respects as the procession makes its way along this Historic Route (TBC).

June 28-30, 2024

Lying in the state of an unknown First World War soldier from Newfoundland (Times TBC)

Confederation building, Prince Philip Drive 100, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador

On the morning of June 28, the coffin containing the remains of an unknown Newfoundland soldier will arrive at the Confederation Building, where it will be placed in the lobby of the Eastern Bloc. The remains will lie in state for three days, until the morning of July 1. The public is invited to view the coffin and pay their respects to an unknown soldier during the official laying in state.

July 1, 2024 at 10:30 am

Official ceremonies to mark the 100th anniversary of the Newfoundland National War Memorial and the reburial of the remains of an unknown Newfoundland soldier of the First World War.

National War Memorial, Waterstraat 92, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Royal Canadian Legion – NL Command will host a ceremony marking the centennial of the National War Memorial in St. John’s.

The remains of an unknown First World War soldier from the then Dominion of Newfoundland will be reinterred in a custom-designed tomb, in memory of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians from all branches of service who have no known grave.

These ceremonies are public. However, it should be noted that due to the large number of official participants in the ceremonies and the expected high level of public interest, space in the vicinity of the National War Memorial will be limited.

The ceremonies are broadcast live. Details will be announced at a later date.

After the ceremonies, the Memorial will be closed to the public for a few hours so that the grave cover can be placed and secured in place. The Memorial will then reopen for the public to pay their respects.

Extra information:

Commando Royal Canadian Legion NL: http://www.legionnl.com

Veterans Affairs Canada: Repatriation of an unknown First World War Newfoundland soldier – Veterans Affairs Canada