Thomas Nangle, chaplain of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. On one day, the regiment lost 273 of its 801 soldiers. Courtesy of Gary Browne, Witty Album

Newfoundland remembers WWI

  • August 3, 2014

In 1914 the Dominion of Newfoundland was not yet part of Canada, but as part of the British Empire it too was at war. On Monday evening, Aug. 4, St. John’s soaring Catholic cathedral, the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, will host an ecumenical service to remember the precise moment 100 years ago when Newfoundland Governor Walter Davidson received a telegram informing him that England was at war.

Davidson immediately sent out a call to arms. Men responded by joining the Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the merchant marine, Newfoundland Forestry Service, Royal Flying Corps and volunteer Aid Detachments. Some joined the Canadian Army and other units. Nine-hundred of them died during the war, including 273 of 801 Newfoundland Regiment soldiers who went over the top at Beumont Hamel, France, one day in 1916.

It was a huge sacrifice to ask of a tiny outpost of the Empire with just 322,000 people.

Newfoundland's women also served in the war as nurses and ambulance drivers. Back home in Newfoundland women formed 250 branches of the Women’s Patriotic Association.

Before joining Canada in 1949, Newfoundlanders remembered their dead on Memorial Sunday — the closest Sunday to July 1 — by wearing a small, blue forget-me-not flower. Today they join the rest of Canada in wearing the red poppy on Nov. 11, armistice day.

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