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Unknown N.L. soldier who fought in France over 100 years ago returns home

Click to play video: 'Canadian unknown soldier from WWI repatriated to N.L. from France'
Canadian unknown soldier from WWI repatriated to N.L. from France
WATCH - Canadian unknown soldier from WWI repatriated to N.L. from France – May 26, 2024

The remains of an unknown soldier who fought during World War One was returned from France to his home in St. John’s Newfoundland Saturday.

The soldier was formally transferred by the Government of France to the Government of Canada and N.L government in a public ceremony at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial in France, which honours Newfoundlanders who fought in the 1916 Battle of the Somme.

The soldier was later flown in a Canadian Arms Forces aircraft back to Newfoundland, where a reburial ceremony was held.

A Government of Canada plane arrives in Newfoundland on Saturday, May 25.
A Government of Canada plane arrives in Newfoundland on Saturday, May 25. Global News

“The repatriation of these remains is a historical day for our province,” N.L. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure John G. Abbott said in a press release Wednesday.

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“It recognizes the collective contribution and sacrifice of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who served, fought, and died in all branches of the military and respective support services, especially those who have no known graves.”

Unknown N.L. soldier who fought in France over 100 years ago returns home - image

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Newfoundland National War Memorial in downtown St. John’s, where the unknown soldier will be officially laid to rest in a black granite tomb on July 1.

July 1 is Canada Day for most Canadians, but in N.L. it’s also Memorial Day. The day is a time to remember the hundreds of young soldiers from the Newfoundland Regiment who died on July 1, 1916, during a disastrous battle at Beaumont-Hamel in northern France.

A delegation of representatives from the provincial and federal government, as well as other related organizations, travelled from Canada to France and back throughout last week for each ceremony in honour of the unknown soldier.

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The delegates returned from France Saturday evening, passing through several points of historical significance with the soldier’s remains before arriving at a secure location. The stops include former Camp Pleasantville (where First World War soldiers trained), the National War Memorial and the Sergeant’s Memorial.

A ceremony is held for Newfoundland’s unknown soldier at Frances Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial on Saturday, May 25.
A ceremony is held for Newfoundland’s unknown soldier at Frances Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial on Saturday, May 25. Global News

“As a proud Newfoundlander and Labradorian, and as a veteran, I am deeply honoured to participate in the repatriation of the unknown soldier in France,” Lloyd Parrott, MHA for District of Terra Nova, said in the press release.

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“(This repatriation) underscores the enduring commitment and dedication of all who have served our nation. We will always remember and pay tribute to those like our unknown soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

From June 28 to June 30, the unknown soldier will lie in state in the East Block Lobby of the Confederation Building. The N.L. government encourages the public to attend to pay their respects during that time.

On July 1, a funeral procession of Canadian Armed Forces members will escort the casket of the unknown soldier to the National War Memorial site. The casket will then be lowered into its final resting place — a custom-design tomb overlooking St. John’s harbour.

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“It is my distinct honour to serve as Next of Kin for the unknown during this poignant moment in our province’s history,” said N.L. premier Andrew Fury in the press release.

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