Government of Canada delegation to make historic mission to northern France to bring home unknown Newfoundland First World War soldier

News release

The unknown soldier will begin his journey home to his final resting place

21 May 2024 – Ottawa, ON – Veterans Affairs Canada

Over 12,000 Newfoundlanders served on land, sea and air during the First World War. Hundreds of young men rushed to join the newly formed Newfoundland Regiment and the Royal Naval Reserve, while women signed up to work as nurses or with the Voluntary Aid Detachment overseas. Families and communities back home stayed active, supporting the troops from the home front. Their sacrifices and achievement will never be forgotten.

From May 22 to 25, delegations from the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and a team from the Canadian Armed Forces, will participate in a commemorative program to recognize and honour all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who served in uniform, in particular those with no known grave. The delegations, supported by the Canadian Armed Forces, include Veterans; representatives of Veterans organizations, remembrance institutions, Indigenous groups and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and parliamentarians—many of them from Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Government of Canada delegation will be led by Minister Seamus O’Regan, on behalf of Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, and Randeep Sarai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence.

Delegations will depart from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador and travel to northern France to begin the process of bringing an unknown Newfoundland soldier home to rest.

The delegations will visit and pay their respects at memorial sites and cemeteries for Newfoundlanders who served, fought and died in the First World War. These sites include four of the six memorials informally known as the Trail of the Caribou. At the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Ancre British Cemetery, delegates will learn about and honour Captain Eric Ayre. His brother Bernard, as well as their cousins Wilfrid and Gerald Ayre, all of whom fought during the Battle of the Somme, were killed on 1 July 1916.

On 24 May 2024, the delegations and invited guests will attend a reception at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial. The Governments of France, Canada, and Newfoundland and Labrador will deliver speeches, and the Royal Canadian Legion-Newfoundland and Labrador Command will provide greetings, during this reception.

On 25 May 2024, the Government of France will formally transfer the remains of an unknown soldier to the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador in a public ceremony at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial. The same day, the delegation will attend a ramp ceremony in France before the unknown soldier is flown in a Canadian Armed Forces aircraft back home to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. The delegation will also participate in a ramp ceremony in St. John’s when the unknown soldier arrives on Newfoundland and Labrador soil.

Follow the Canada Remembers social media channels and use the hashtags #NLMemorial100 and #CanadaRemembers to join us in activities in Canada and in France. Share your connection to Newfoundland during the First World War and learn more about Newfoundland and Labrador’s unique military history.


“We’re going to bring our son home.”

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr.
Minister of Labour and Seniors, on behalf of the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

“I am honoured to make this historic journey to France with the Canadian delegation to repatriate an unknown Newfoundland First World War soldier. I look forward to hearing the stories of the brave service members who gave so much. Together, we will always remember their sacrifices and achievements and preserve their legacy.”

Randeep Sarai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

“Falling in combat is the ultimate sacrifice a person can make for their country. The Canadian Armed Forces understands the profound importance of this event, and is honoured to carry out the transfer of remains and coming reburial of our fallen member at the Newfoundland National War Memorial in its soon to be inaugurated tomb of an unknown soldier. Every person who makes this ultimate sacrifice for their homeland deserves a place of peaceful, dignified, rest for eternity. We are deeply proud to bring him home to his permanent place of rest.”

General Wayne D. Eyre
Chief of the Defence Staff, Canadian Armed Forces

The unknown soldier’s journey home to Newfoundland and Labrador is deeply meaningful to the people of our province. On the morning of July 1 each year, we observe Memorial Day – honouring the contribution of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians’ sacrifices during the First World War. This year’s ceremony will commemorate the centennial of the National War Memorial in St. John’s and will include the burial of this soldier, creating a moving and unforgettable event in our province’s history.”

The Honourable Steve Crocker
Minister of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

“The Royal Canadian Legion Newfoundland and Labrador Command is extremely proud of its role, over the past five years, in this historic Centennial Remembrance Project and in the completion of Lt. Col. Thomas Nangle’s dream. It would be remiss of me if I didn’t publicly acknowledge the unwavering crucial support of Premier Dr. Andrew Furey and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. I also want to sincerely thank the Government of Canada, Veterans Affairs Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and the very hard-working Centennial Project Steering Committee. I assure our proud Veterans, their families and loved ones, and the serving men and women of our renowned Canadian Armed Forces that, “At the going down of the sun and in the morning – We Will Remember Them!"

Gerald Budden
President, Royal Canadian Legion – NL Command

As the centennial anniversary of the National War Memorial approaches, we feel privileged to be part of these special commemorative events. We are proud to have been able to facilitate this exceptional step for the repatriation of an unknown Newfoundland soldier from the Western Front. He represents the collective contribution and sacrifice of all those from Newfoundland and Labrador who lost their lives in conflict, for the freedoms we all enjoy today.”

Claire Horton CBE, Director General, Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Quick facts

  • During the First and Second World Wars, Newfoundland was a separate member of the British Empire and not yet part of Canada.

  • The tomb of an unknown Newfoundland soldier will symbolize Newfoundlanders and Labradorians from all branches of service who have no known grave.

Associated links


Media Relations
Veterans Affairs Canada

Isabelle Arseneau
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Captain Jordan Mitchell
Public Affairs Officer
Canadian Armed Forces

Emily-Jane Gillingham
Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation

Gary Browne
Royal Canadian Legion NL Command

Media Relations
Commonwealth War Graves Commission

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