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Beyond Gallipoli: New Perspectives on Anzac


Chapter 12



Commemorating the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the First World War1

Raynald Harvey Lemelin


Before I begin this chapter, I feel it is important to disclose who I am and why I wanted to write on this topic. I am French-Canadian; my ancestors have been in North America since 1670, not quite as long as when the colony of Newfoundland was established in 1583. The First and Second World Wars are difficult topics for French-Canadians to discuss, and when we do discuss the two World Wars, we often focus on the ‘grand narrative’ that French-Canadians largely opposed conscription and opted not to enlist. Sadly, very little voice is given to all those French-Canadians who actually enlisted and fought in the First and Second World Wars.2 The reason I point this out is that when I first heard of the exploits of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the First and Second World Wars, I would often state ‘that no one cares what Newfoundland and Labrador did, since they weren’t part of Canada when they accomplished these feats’. Apart from being incredibly insensitive, this statement also overlooked the tremendous contributions of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment (RNR) in the First and Second World Wars.

The greatest transformation in my understanding came when I traveled to Northern Labrador for research and first heard the story of Lance Corporal John Shiwak. Shiwak was one of many Labradorian Inuit who enlisted and was killed in combat in 1917 and was buried in Masnieres, France.3 A few years later, when visiting the city of St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, I became aware of the bravery of the Newfoundland Regiment at the Somme (i.e. Beaumont-Hamel) on July 1, 1916. Although July 1 would always be known as Canada Day for me, I also now recognise it as a day of memorial for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Through my travels and research opportunities, I gained a greater appreciation of other narratives associated with the Great War for in 2014 I meet Arlene King, the Senior Manager, Commemorative Sites, European Operations for Veterans Affairs Canada. During one of our conversations, Arlene King explained how Newfoundland and Labrador had commemorated the achievements of the RNR by establishing the Trail of the Caribou. Although six bronze caribous have been erected in Europe and Canada, she explained that no caribou or any other marker for that matter commemorate ‘the only troops from North America involved in this theatre of war’.4 King was referring to a little known fact that the RNR was the only North American detachment to fight in Gallipoli. Intrigued by this, and concerned by Canada’s moderate commemorative activities pertaining to the First World War,5 I decided to consult various literature and social media outlets on the issue with the hopes of clarifying why no commemorative markers recognising the contributions of the RNR at Gallipoli have been erected. In the summer of 2015, I also had the opportunity to visit Gallipoli and acquire further information on the subject.

A number of authors have discussed the role and commemoration of the RNR during the Gallipoli campaign6; more recent articles include Lemelin7, MacGregor8, and Winter.9 Few of these authors with the exception of Gough10, Lemelin11, McGaughey12, MacGregor13 and Parsons14 have discussed the absence of any memorial honouring the RNR in Gallipoli.

The Rooms’ (i.e. the provincial museum of Newfoundland and Labrador) webpage on the Great War indicates that the ‘five military actions involving the Royal Newfoundland Regiment’ along the Western Front are commemorated by the presence of a bronze caribou.15 The absence of any mention of Gallipoli does suggest that the role of the RNR at Gallipoli was until quite recently, perceived as less significant when compared to what transpired in Belgium and France. McGaughey16 states that the replacement of the typical marker (i.e. the bronze caribou) for a granite cross was particularly problematic considering that Turkey is a Muslim State, and therefore both ideas were rejected, and no marker was installed. Perhaps it was simply that the funding ran out as Newfoundland attempted to deal with a crushing debt during the Depression and would later join the Canadian confederation in 1949.17 Last, since the Canadian Expeditionary Force was not involved in Gallipoli, it has never been an interest of the Canadian Government to recognise the role of the RNR at Gallipoli. In an attempt to answer this question this chapter provides an overview of the Dominion of Newfoundland at the beginning of the First World War, examines the various theatres of war that the RNR engaged in during the Great War, then describes the quest for commemoration (i.e. the establishment of the Trail of the Caribou) and the post-Great War repercussions on the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador. The various notions associated with the lack of commemoration of the RNR at Gallipoli until recently, are examined in the discussion.

Newfoundland and Labrador and the Great War

The Dominion of Newfoundland and Labrador

‘Consisting of the island of Newfoundland and the coastal territory of Labrador18 bordering Canada on the North American mainland, Newfoundland (established in 1583), was one of the British empire’s oldest colonies’.19 With a population of 224,921 citizens, Newfoundland and Labrador in 1901 could be best described as rural with some urban pockets (e.g. St. John’s). Although members of the Micmac and Innu First Nations, Inuit, Germans (Moravians), French, Chinese, Lebanese, and Jewish migrants could be found in Newfoundland and Labrador, the majority of residents (97.5%) were born in Newfoundland and Labrador.20 Despite efforts to diversify the local economy through developments in forestry, mining, railway, and industry, nearly three-quarters (70.6%) of the working population in 1901 was employed in the fishing industry (e.g. catching and curing fish).21 Other occupations included farming, sealing, the trades, the service industry, and civil servants.22 This overwhelming dependence on primary industries created challenges in literacy and education.23

The Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the First World War

After the declaration of war in August 1914, Newfoundland and Labrador quickly mobilised, and by early September 1914, the First Five Hundred (there were actually 537 of them) also known as the ‘Blue Puttees’ enlisted.24 As the last regiment to enter the conflict in Turkey, and the only troops from North America involved in Gallipoli, the Newfoundland Regiment (as it was known then) consisting of 1,076 men, landed at Kangaroo Beach on September 20 to join the 88th Brigade of the 29th Division.25 ‘Gallipoli proved a rough baptism. Thirty men were lost to Turkish gunfire, another ten to disease carried by the hordes of flies’.26

The Newfoundland Regiment’s engagement with the Turkish Army was limited. However, on November 4, Captain Donnelly, Sergeant Greene, Private Hynes, and three other men from the Newfoundland Regiment, occupied a knoll near the front of the Newfoundland line, that had been used a sniping outpost by Turkish sharp-shooters. Every attempt by the Turkish army to reclaim the position was repulsed and the location was never used again by Turkish snipers.27 The knoll became known as Caribou Hill and ‘Captain Donnelly was awarded the Military Cross, Sgt. W. M. Greene and Pte. E. Hynes received the Distinguished Conduct Medal’28 for their efforts. During the withdrawal from Gallipoli, the Newfoundland Regiment was part of the last rearguard to leave Turkey in 1916.29 Following this engagement, the Newfoundland Regiment would see extensive combat along the Western Front of Europe.

On July 1st 1916, the Newfoundland Regiment was ‘assigned to the second wave of the British attack on the German trenches in the Beaumont-Hamel sector of the line. The attack failed and the Battalion was cut to pieces – of the 801 Newfoundlanders who took part in the assault, 710 were killed, wounded or missing by day’s end. This event, explains Major, ‘is the single greatest tragedy in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador’.30 Although, the Newfoundland Regiment, as highlighted next, would go on to fight in numerous other battles, July 1st would become so firmly embedded in Newfoundland and Labrador lore that it would become a national day of commemoration for the dominion.31

After July 1916 ‘the Newfoundland Regiment fought successfully in a number of battles during the final two years of First World War. The battalion achieved a stunning victory at Gueudecourt in October 1916, experienced further, but costly, successes at Sailly-Saillisel, Monchy-le-Preux, and Cambrai in 1917’.32 Renamed the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in 1918, the RNR was crucial to the Hundred Days Offensive by the allies, which brought an end to the war.33

Although the numbers pertaining to the enlistment and casualties differ, it is estimated that over 6,200 men served in the RNR, the Royal Naval Reserve Forces, and in the Forestry Corps.34 Considering the population of Newfoundland and Labrador was only 224,921 at the beginning of the century, the total casualties of 3,733 (1,419 dead, 2,314 wounded) are believed to be some of the highest casualty rates for the British Forces.35 It should also be noted that these figures do not include the 3,268 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who enrolled in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, nor the nearly 175 Newfoundland and Labrador women who ‘served overseas as military nurses, motor ambulance drivers, and V.A.Ds’.36 Calls to commemorate the lost and sacrifices were made soon after the conclusion of the Great War.

The Trail of the Caribou

Following the conclusion of the First World War, numerous memorials were established throughout Newfoundland and Labrador (Grand Fall, Grand Banks-Windsor), however, the responsibility of developing a national and international commemorative strategy fell to the Patriotic Association, the Great War Veterans’ Association, and Lieutenant-Colonel Father Thomas Nangle, the former Roman Catholic Padre of the regiment and Newfoundland’s representative on the Imperial War Graves Commission.37 As the Director of War Graves, Registration, Enquiries and Memorials, Nangle viewed the memorials as everlasting tributes ‘to the men who gave their all so that the land may live’.38

Two national memorials commemorating the First World War were established in the capital of St. John’s; the National War Memorial was established in 1924,39 while the Memorial University College was created the following year.40 Nangle and the committee also sought to establish a commemorative strategy across Europe.41 The Trail of the Caribou as it came to be known was designed to trace the path of the RNR through its engagements in the First World War. Differing from the commemorative obelisks, arches and crosses ‘appearing all along the Western Front’,42 Nangle and the committee opted for the establishment of bronze caribous representing the RNR’s defiance and bravery in battle (see Table 12.1 below). Devised by the British sculptor Captain Basil Cotto, the bronze caribou design was selected because it was distinctive, artistic, and at £1,000 (C$3,000), relatively inexpensive.43 The first bronze caribou to be erected was at Beaumont Hamel in 1925.44 Five others, including one in Bowring Park in St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador would soon follow.45

Table 12.1 – The Trail of the Caribou in Europe


Although there are prominent memorials to the Australian, British, French, New Zealander, and most recently, the memorial to the 10th Irish Division at Gallipoli,46 there is, apart from the graves found at the Hill 10 and Lancashire Landing Commonwealth Cemeteries, no memorial recognising the role of the RNR in Gallipoli.47 This omission is somewhat surprising considering that Nangle reportedly included Caribou Hill in Gallipoli in the Trail of the Caribou.48 The lack of any formal commemoration for the Newfoundlander Royal Regiment at Gallipoli, argues McGaughey, is a serious oversight and ‘an enduring mystery in the historiography of the Great War’s commemoration.’49 The following section examines some of the factors both abroad and at home, that could have led to this omission.

The missing Caribou of Gallipoli

Following the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923 largely destroyed and abandoned settlements along the European side of the Dardanelles (Çanakkale Boğazı/ Çanakkale Straight) in the province of Çanakkale were repopulated and rebuilt. In 1973, the Gelibolu (Gallipoli) Peninsula Historical National Park covering 33.000 hectares (330 km2) of the southern end of the Gallipoli Peninsula was established.50 Protecting one of the largest naval and land battlefields in Europe the Park holds an extensive range of sunken ships, guns, trenches, forts, bastions, and the graves and memorials of approximately 250,000 Turkish soldiers as well as 250,000 from Australia, New Zealand, England and France.51 In addition, there are outdoor exhibits, reconstructed trenches, forts and museums.52 With visitations exceeding 230,249 visitors in 2004, the park is quite popular with local, national and international visitors.53 Most recently, the entire peninsula has been included on the tentative list for World Heritage Site designation.54 Although the failure to erect a memorial in honour of the RNR in Gallipoli has been attributed as an inability to overcome religious and cultural sensitivities in Turkey, the reality is that 47 Turkish memorials and 33 Commonwealth and French memorials and cemeteries, including one of the newest memorials established in 2010, and dedicated to the 10th Irish Division at Gallipoli55 are found throughout the Gallipoli peninsula.56

By borrowing heavily to finance its war effort, the leaders of Newfoundland and Labrador ‘had done its own people a disservice’.57 The results were that by the 1920s Newfoundland and Labrador was overwhelmed with a debt exceeding 34 million dollars.58 By 1934, ‘interest on the public debt had multiplied to an astounding 63 per cent of revenues’,59 and the Dominion was on the verge of bankruptcy.60 Dismay over this economic uncertainty and political turmoil led individuals to conclude that the future of Newfoundland and Labrador was indecisive because ‘the best and the brightest’ of her sons had been lost in the Great War.61 The problem with the myth of the ‘lost generation’, explains Cadigan, is that this notion demeans ‘intentionally or not, the people who survived the war and, though often damaged in some way, nevertheless went on building their futures’.62 Nor does it recognise that most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians ‘had lost faith in liberal democracy and were, in fact, open to the idea of government by an appointed commission’63 from Britain, and later became a member of the Canadian Confederation. In 1926, one of the Trail of Caribou’s most dedicated and ardent champions, Nangle, departed for Rhodesia, where he married, raised children and joined politics.64

When Newfoundland became the newest member of the Canadian confederation in 1949, certain activities pertaining to the military and commemoration came within the jurisdiction of various federal agencies. So, although ‘Canada manages a number of First World War battlefields located along the Western Front (including the Beaumont-Hamel National Historic Site),65 it has been surmised that since the Canadian Expeditionary Force was not involved in the Gallipoli campaign, it has never been of much interest to the Canadian government to recognise the role of the RNR in Turkey. But recent national coverage in Canada of the re-enactment of the Blue Puttees March in St. John’s,66 the celebration of Anzac Day in Newfoundland,67 and the recent participation of the Canadian minister of state for foreign affairs, Lynne Yelich, along with members of the RNR, in the Anzac centennial ceremonies in Turkey this past April,68 suggest that there is an increasing awareness of the Gallipoli campaign in the Canadian consciousness. These media events were further supported by a field visit at the Hill 10 cemetery in May 2015, where it was noticed that both the Canadian flag and the provincial flag of Newfoundland69 were present on the graves of the soldiers from the RNR.70

‘The greatest challenge facing the completion of the Trail of the Caribou may not be Canadian apathy so much as Canada’s First World Centenary Strategy which, according to Laurent Veyssière, a member of ‘conseil scientifique de la Mission du centenaire’ plans to do very little between 2014 and 2016, and will rather focus most of its energy on the 150th anniversary of Confederation and the centenary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 2017.’71 Indeed, no new funding will be allocated to the Canadian First World Centenary. Instead, government departments, agencies and crown corporations ‘have been ordered to finance the commemoration costs out of existing budgets’.72 With this type of strategy currently in place, it seems unlikely that any Canadian funding will be dedicated to completing the Trail of the Caribou in the near future.


As stated earlier, various theories have been provided to explain the absence of a marker commemorating the role of the RNR in Gallipoli, including the idea that the role of the RNR at Gallipoli was deemed less significant when compared to what transpired along the Western Front.73 Others like McGaughey74 have stated that the replacement of the bronze caribou for granite cross was particularly problematic considering that Turkey is a Muslim State, and therefore both ideas were rejected. Bearing in mind that caribou engravings are present on the graves of Newfoundland and Labrador soldiers throughout Commonwealth Cemeteries, the notion that the caribou or the cross for that matter cannot be displayed on Turkish soil is somewhat inconsistent. Another explanation suggests that the funding simply ran out as Newfoundland and Labrador struggled through the Depression, when they entered the Second World War, and when they joined the Canadian Confederation in 1949.75

What this chapter, along with more recent works by Lemelin76 and MacGregor77 suggests, is that it was most likely a combination of many factors at home (the debt, Nangle’s departure for Rhodesia, the Second World War, and joining the Canadian Confederation) and abroad (i.e. the establishment of protected areas in Turkey) which resulted in the Trail of the Caribou remaining incomplete. The challenge today, is that completing the Trail of the Caribou would require not only provincial support from Newfoundland and Labrador, but also federal support from the Governments of Canada and Turkey. Although seeking the approval from the Turkish Government to complete the Trail of the Caribou in Gallipoli would be complicated especially with the peninsula being recently listed on the tentative list of World Heritage Sites, the reality is that is that there are already a number of cemeteries, memorials and sunken ships near and in Suvla Bay. Thus it may be easier to acquire the approval of the Turkish Government, provided the monument would be respectful of local customs, than to acquire the support of the Canadian Government who appears to have little to no interest in commemorating the first few years of the First World War Centenary.

Completing the original Trail of the Caribou would require provincial support from the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador, support from the governments of Canada and Turkey, and discussions with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, as the potential site manager. Although federal First World War Centenary plans do not include a reevaluation of the Trail of Caribou, the upcoming centennial of Beaumont-Hamel in 2016, and the Canada 150 funding program, developed to celebrate 150 years of Confederation in 2017, might present a new avenue for pursuing a much needed acknowledgement of the role of the RNR at Gallipoli. There has been a modest recent increase of interest in this aspect of Canada’s military history and if some of this momentum can be maintained, it is conceivable that one last bronze caribou will soon stand ‘on guard’ at Gallipoli.78


1 A similar version of this article was published as: Raynald Lemelin, ‘Newfoundland: Commemorating the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in Gallipoli’, History Australia Vol 12, No. 3 (2015): 183-191. Reprinted with permission.

2 Pierre Vennat, Les ‘poilus’ québécois de 1914-1918 : histoire des militaires canadiensfrançais de la Première Guerre mondiale (Montréal : Éditions du Méridien, 1999).

3 ‘Lance Corporal John Shiwak Died: November 20, 1917’, Canadiangreatwarproject. com, accessed March 19 2015.; Earl Pilgrim, Freddy Frieda Goes to War: A Labrador Native’s Story (St. John, NL: DRC Publishing, 2012).

4 Michael Winter, Into the Blizzard: Walking the Fields of the Newfoundland Dead (Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2014), 80.

5 See Jack Lawrence Granatstein, ‘Why is Canada botching the Great War centenary?’ The Globe and Mail, 21 April 2014, accessed 21 July 2015,; Anne Pélouas, ‘Au Canada, un devoir de mémoire pour chaque centenaire’ Le Monde, 16 Mai, 2014, accessed 20 July 2015,; Jonathan Weier, History Matters, ‘What is the ‘right way’ to commemorate the First World War?’ (blog), posted 7 April 2014, accessed 21 July 2015,

6 Sean Cadigan, Death on Two Fronts: National Tragedies and the Fate of Democracy in Newfoundland, 1914-43 (Toronto, ON: Allen Lane, 2013); Patrick O’Flaherty, Lost Country: The Rise and Fall of Newfoundland 1843-1933 (St. John’s, NL: Long Beach Press, 2005); Whitney Lackenbauer, ‘War, Memory and the Newfoundland Regiment at Gallipoli’, Newfoundland Studies 15, no. 2 (1999): 176-214; Kevin Major, As Near to Heaven by Sea: A History of Newfoundland and Labrador (Toronto, ON: Penguin Books, 2001); Jane McGaughey, ‘Stalking the Warrior Tuktu,’ (blog), posted on 8 October 2011, accessed March 19, 2015.; Gerald Nicholson, The Fighting Newfoundlander: A History of The Royal Newfoundland Regiment (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006); W. David Parsons, Pilgrimage: A Guide to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in World War One. (St. John’s NL: DRC Publishing, 1994); Frederick W. Rowe, A History of Newfoundland and Labrador (Toronto, ON:.McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, 1980); Winter.

7 Raynald Lemelin, ‘Newfoundland: Commemorating the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in Gallipoli’, History Australia 12:3 (2015): 183-191.

8 Tom MacGregor, ‘Pilgrimage to Turkey: Going back to Gallipoli,’ Legion Magazine (January/February 2016): 22-33.

9 Winter.

10 Paul Gough, ‘Sites in the imagination: The Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial on the Somme’, Cultural Geographies 11, no. 3 (2004): 235-258, doi: 10.1191/1474474003eu306oa

11 Lemelin.

12 McGaughey.

13 MacGregor.

14 Parsons.

15 ‘Acknowledgements.’, 2010.

16 McGaughey.

17 Cadigan, Death on Two Fronts.

18 Although the term Newfoundland is used throughout the text, it is recognised that Labrador was an important component of the dominion. It also recognises that the 2001 amendment to the Canadian Constitution officially changed the province’s name to Newfoundland and Labrador. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, ‘Newfoundland’s name change now official’, accessed 24 August 2015.

19 Lemelin, 184.

20 O’Flaherty.

21 O’Flaherty.

22 O’Flaherty.

23 O’Flaherty.

24 Nicholson.

25 Winter.

26 Major, 328.

27 Parsons.

28 Parsons, 11.

29 Parsons.

30 Major, 329.

31 Gough; Robert J. Harding, ‘Glorious Tragedy: Newfoundland’s Cultural Memory of the Attack at Beaumont Hamel, 1916-1925’, Newfoundland and Labrador Studies 21, Vol. 1 (2006).

32 McGaughey.

33 McGaughey.

34 O’Flaherty.

35 Rowe.

36 O’Flaherty, 290.

37 ‘Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site: Commemorations Overseas’,, accessed March 19, 2015.

38, ‘Commemorations Overseas’.

39 ‘Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site: Commemorations’, Heritage., accessed March 19, 2015.; ‘Remembering the war’,, 2010.

40, ‘Remembering the war’.

41 Nicholson.

42 Nicholson, 516.

43, ‘Commemorations Overseas’.

44 Nicholson.

45 McGaughey.

46 Royal Munster Fusiliers Association, ‘10th Irish Division at Gallipoli’, (blog), posted 24 March 2010,

47 McGaughey; MacGregor; Parsons.

48 Parsons.

49 McGaughey.

50 ‘Çanakkale (Dardanelles) and Gelibolu (Gallipoli) Battles Zones in the First World War’, (15 April 2014).

51, ‘Çanakkale and Gelibolu’.

52 Abdullah Kelkit, Sezgin Celik, and Hayriye Eşbah, ‘Ecotourism potential of Gallipoli Peninsula Historical National Park’, Journal of Coastal Research 26, no. 3 (2010): 562-568.

53 Kelkit et al.

54, ‘Çanakkale and Gelibolu’.

55 Royal Munster Fusiliers Association, ‘10th Irish Division at Gallipoli’.

56, ‘Çanakkale and Gelibolu’.

57 Major, 333.

58 Major.

59 Major, 333.

60 Major.

61 Cadigan.

62 Cadigan, xv.

63 Cadigan xvi.

64, ‘Acknowledgements’.

65 Gough.

66 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, ‘March of the Blue Puttees to be re-enacted in St. John’s’, 4 October 2014, accessed 20 July 2015,

67 Jason Kenney, ‘Defence Minister Jason Kenney honours ANZAC Day and the Centennial of the First World War Gallipoli Campaign’, 25 April 2015, accessed 20 July 2015,

68 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, ‘Canadians at Gallipoli: Royal Newfoundland Regiment honoured. Newfoundland troops were only North American soldiers at the bloody First World War Battle’, 24 April 2015, accessed 20 July 2015,

69 Note this is the new flag for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador which was officially adopted in 1980. Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, ‘Provincial Flag’, 2 April 2013, accessed 24 August 2015.

70 Lemelin, 189.

71 Pélouas, ‘Au Canada, un devoir de mémoire’.

72 Granatstein, ‘Why is Canada botching the Great War centenary?’ See also Weier, ‘What is the ‘right way’ To Commemorate The First World War?’

73 McGaughey; Parsons.

74 McGaughey.

75 Major; Cadigan.

76 Lemelin.

77 MacGregor.

78 Lemelin, 189.

Beyond Gallipoli: New Perspectives on Anzac

   by Raelene Frances and Bruce Scates