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Prime Minister Furey accepts the repatriation of an unknown WWI soldier

Prime Minister Furey accepts the repatriation of an unknown WWI soldier
Prime Minister Furey accepts the repatriation of an unknown WWI soldier

 


The following statement was read today in the House of Assembly by the honorable Dr. Andrew Furey, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador:

Veterans, dignitaries and distinguished guests, as the 14th Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, it is my most distinct honor and privilege to rise in this Honorable House to speak on the Repatriation of an Unknown Soldier of the First World War and to share the talk I gave on Friday. evening.

The name Beaumont-Hamel is spoken with a sense of melancholy in our province.

But with an even deeper sense of pride.

For every Newfoundlander and Labradorian, it is hallowed ground.

In a leafy corner of Bowring Park is a sculpture called The Fighting Newfoundlander.

His right arm is bent back, caught in the middle of throwing a grenade.

The left arm holds the rifle with a fixed bayonet.

Around his neck is a gas mask.

Beneath the broom moustache, he looks confident. Purpose. Ready.

The man who posed for this sculpture was Corporal Thomas Pittman from Little Bay East in Fortune Bay.

A small corner of our world.

Thomas was wounded at the Battle of the Somme but made it through the war to return home.

Thomas was one of the lucky ones.

The statue he posed for while stationed in England is more about those who did not return.

Those who gave their lives fighting for something they felt was bigger than themselves.

This is the essence of sacrifice.

This is bravery and courage.

That's being a hero.

Hundreds more like Thomas Pittman answered the call.

They proved their mettle at places like Monchy-le-Preux, where just 10 of them held off an advancing German army for more than 11 hours before breaking free.

The Newfoundland Regiment was the only regiment to be granted a royal title by the then King George V.

No other British Army regiment would be awarded such a distinction during the First World War while the fighting was still ongoing.

But great bravery came at a high cost.

In cemeteries and memorials across Europe, many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are among those graves endowed with the words known by God.

But they are known to us.

Our brothers. Our heroes.

They came from small communities, towns and ports from across the province where today many memorials list the names of those who never returned.

This soldier is one of them.

A name carved in stone.

Engraved in the heart of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Through the crack of artillery, the whisper of gas, I wonder how often he thought of home.

Longing for the kind of stillness that comes when you're hugged by rugged cliffs or hear a wind moving through the barrens.

I wonder how often his family hoped for a word from him but dreaded news from the front, so far away.

In the long days and weeks and years that followed, I'm sure they dreamed that somehow,

somehow, he would make his way home.

On Saturday we realized that dream.

To symbolically answer the long-ago prayers of many families across Newfoundland and Labrador, we began the journey to bring one of them home.

While his journey started over 100 years ago for this young man. Just a few days ago I had the privilege and honor to be alone with my family and her and reflect on the impact of the lost sons and family members.

I felt his family's fear.

I felt his family's loss.

I felt his families needed to bring him home.

It shook me and brought me to tears.

July 1st is Canada Day and all over our great country there are celebrations and fireworks.

But in Newfoundland and Labrador, the day is also a day of mourning.

It marks the great sacrifice of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont-Hamel.

This July 1 will also mark the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Newfoundland National War Memorial.

This year we have the great honor and responsibility of having this unknown First World War Newfoundland soldier re-interred in a new grave at the War Memorial.

A location in the heart of the city center, overlooking the harbor of St.

We completed that journey for one, and we honor all those left behind.

A quiet chorus to remind us of what was lost.

And what should never be forgotten.

I want to express my gratitude to those who made this historic journey possible. A special heartfelt thanks to Mr. Berkley Lawrence, Mr. Frank Sullivan and Mr. Gary Browne of the Royal Canadian Legion – Newfoundland and Labrador Command for their commitment to honoring our sacrifice in the First World War. Please join me in a round of applause as they are here in the gallery today.

I also want to thank the Commonwealth War Cemeteries Commission for allowing the remains of our unknown soldier to be repatriated with the same dignity and respect as other Commonwealth countries do.

Their continued care for our fallen heroes is gratefully appreciated by all of us.

We must also recognize the Republic of France for its steadfast commitment to our fellow allies and their remembrance of their sacrifices in both World Wars.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the dedicated support of Veterans Affairs Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Without their help, this trip and the commemorative events in Newfoundland and Labrador would not be possible.

Your efforts ensure that the legacy of those who served, both past and present, will be remembered by future generations.

Their names will be mentioned.

This Unknown Soldier will represent the collective contribution, courage and sacrifice of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who served, fought and died in all branches of the military and related support services, especially those with no known graves.

We are taught from a very young age about the strength and sacrifice of what is known as the fighting Newfoundlander.

This legend was born in the muddy trenches of the Somme in the dark days of the First World War.

I was lucky enough to be here with my father before.

And to return with my children.

To pass the torch from one generation to another.

I have always felt that this is a pilgrimage every Newfoundlander and Labradorian should make.

To live the well-quoted line from Ode to Newfoundland that says, where once they stood, we stand.

Because you can bring these souls home when you hold them in your heart.

Lest we forget.

God bless you, Newfoundland and Labrador.

2024 05 27
1:50 in the afternoon

Sources

1/ https://Google.com/

2/ https://www.gov.nl.ca/releases/2024/exec/0527n06/

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