The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada have received approval from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on the National War Memorial Centennial Project.
An important part of this Project is the repatriation of an Unknown First World War Solider from Northern France. This soldier will be re-interred in a specifically designed tomb at the National War Memorial in St. John’s to represent Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who served in all branches of the military.
This fallen soldier will symbolically honour Newfoundland and Labrador’s war dead from the years before the province became part of Canada in 1949. The process will be to select this Unknown Soldier, transport the remains home and re-inter him in St. John’s. This is similar to process followed when Canada established the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa in 2000.
The National War Memorial Centennial Project was initiated in 2019 as a partnership between the Royal Canadian Legion – Newfoundland and Labrador Command and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. The repatriation of an Unknown Soldier component was spearheaded in 2020 by the Royal Canadian Legion – Newfoundland and Labrador Command.
The National War Memorial Centennial Project will be unveiled on July 1, 2024. This coincides with the centennial of the Newfoundland National War Memorial, and the 108th anniversary of the Battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel.
Frank Sullivan, Royal Canadian Legion, Newfoundland and Labrador Command said:
“In 1919, Padre Thomas Nangle of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment had a vision, a dream of a National War Memorial in St. John's to remember our fallen. Work commenced in 1919 and during this time, he requested the repatriation of an Unknown Soldier to be part of this memorial. The request was never actioned. With this approval to repatriate an Unknown Soldier by Sir Bill Rollo and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for the Rededication in 2024, his vision, his dream will be complete.”
The Honourable Andrew Furey, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador said:
“It is an honour for the Provincial Government to partner with the Federal Government and the Royal Canadian Legion – Newfoundland and Labrador Command on the National War Memorial Centennial Project. Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province in Canada to have a National War Memorial, and now, we will be the only one to have a dedicated tomb component. This, is a reflection of our unique political history and a testament to the important role we had during the World Wars. Today’s announcement is an acknowledgement of Newfoundland and Labrador’s status during the First World War, and the efforts and sacrifices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”
Claire Horton, CBE, Director General, Commonwealth War Graves Commission said:
“We are proud to have been able to facilitate this exceptional step for the repatriation of a Newfoundland soldier from the Western Front who, though unknown, represents the collective contribution and sacrifice of all those who lost their lives in conflict, from Newfoundland and Labrador, for the freedoms we all enjoy today.”