After more than a decade of negotiations, planning and the onset of a pandemic, the final piece of the Trail of the Caribou was dedicated in a ceremony held on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey on Friday.
The memorial is dedicated to 1,076 Royal Newfoundland Regiment soldiers who landed at Suvla Bay on Sept. 20, 1915.
The regiment was part of the Gallipoli campaign from 1915 to 1916. According to Veterans Affairs Canada, 22 Newfoundlanders were killed and 80 were wounded during the campaign. The memorial is located next to Hill 10 Cemetery, where eight members of the regiment are buried.
Frank Gogos, vice-chair of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Regimental Advisory Council, said the ceremony was moving.
“I don’t know how to describe it, to be honest with you,” he told CBC News. “It’s just one of those things, you know? You’re caught up in the moment.”
The 680-pound, 2.5-metre-tall bronze caribou was installed in April 2021, but pandemic restrictions prevented a dedication ceremony at the time. The statue is the last of six monuments that make up the Trail of the Caribou. The other memorials are situated in five locations in France and Belgium where Newfoundlanders fought in the First World War.
Commemorating the fallen
Gogos, who was involved in both the planning and building of the monument, said it’s important to commemorate those who died during the war — and those they left behind.
“Unless you’re actually standing on a battlefield, standing near one of these memorials in a foreign country, you cannot understand the concept of what it actually means to people who … sent their sons and daughters off to war and they don’t come back,” he said.
He said the monuments are also important for educating people about the impact of war.
“If we stop commemorating the sacrifices of those who came before us, we risk losing the connection which will result in decisions made that could escalate into more wars.”
Friday’s ceremony involved a delegation of people from Newfoundland and Labrador, including members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, and provincial and federal officials.
“Today’s official transfer of the Gallipoli Newfoundland Memorial to Veterans Affairs Canada will ensure the continued preservation and presentation of the trail for future generations,” said Premier Andrew Furey during the ceremony.
Furey said the province is providing land in St. John’s for a memorial that will be built by the government of Turkey.
In about a month, Gogos said, a Turkish delegation will arrive in St. John’s to dedicate the monument, which will be located near Quidi Vidi Lake.
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