Royal Newfoundland Regiment to be commemorated with caribou monument in Gallipoli

It took a decade of meetings and discussions, but the Royal Newfoundland Regiment is finally being commemorated with a caribou monument in Gallipoli.

Sixth and final monument for the Trail of the Caribou, tracing history of regiment in World War I

A caribou statue — like this one at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial in France — will be installed at the Gallipoli battlefield in Turkey. (Submitted by Geoff Goodyear)

It took a decade of meetings and discussions, but the Royal Newfoundland Regiment is finally being commemorated with a caribou monument in Gallipoli.

House of Assembly Speaker Perry Trimper announced Wednesday that the monument — the sixth one to mark significant battles fought by the regiment during the First World War — will be installed near Hill 10 Cemetery on the Turkish peninsula.

"That's something that this land, whether it be a province or formerly as a country, has been seeking for a century, so it's huge progress," said Trimper, who went to Turkey in January for talks with the Turkish government.

"From the top of the government on through to the director of historic sites at Gallipoli, I thought that I was going to come back with at least an agreement that a delegation would come to Newfoundland and Labrador for further discussions," he said.

The monument will be erected near Hill 10 Cemetery, where eight Newfoundlanders are buried. (Ted DIllon/CBC)

"I was quite surprised that over the course of the days I was there, I could see some momentum building, and I was back in touch with officials here to say 'they're offering up a location.'"

Frank Gogos, chair of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum, said he was excited by the news.

We went in there with a lot of gusto, thinking we were ready to take on the world, when in actual fact it turned out to be an unfolding tragedy.- Frank Gogos

"Turkey has been in the past been reluctant to add monuments to the Gallipoli peninsula and the fact that they have allowed this one to go there is a testament to the resolve of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to have our soldiers commemorated on their soil," he said.

"It's important because Gallipoli is the first place where the Royal Newfoundland Regiment entered the First World War," he said.

"It was the first time in over a hundred years that Newfoundlanders had fought in a war. We went in there with a lot of gusto, thinking we were ready to take on the world, when in actual fact it turned out to be an unfolding tragedy, which began in Gallipoli and continued through Beaumont Hamel and other battles subsequent to that."

First Newfoundland soldier killed in more than 100 years

Eight Newfoundlanders, including Hugh McWhirter — Newfoundland's first soldier to be killed in active service in over one hundred years — are buried at Hill 10.

There may be quid pro quo with the Newfoundland and Labrador and Canadian governments for some sort of Turkish monument in Canada, said Trimper. A Turkish delegation is in Newfoundland and attended Wednesday's session at the House of Assembly.

"This all comes about because we were once at war with each other," he said, adding that the then-Dominion of Newfoundland sent almost 1,100 troops to Gallipoli as the Allied campaign and the invasion of the Dardanelles was advancing.

Speaker of the House Perry Trimper says he was surprised at how quickly momentum built recently — after years of discussions — in Turkey for a statue to be allowed. (Gary Locke/CBC)

"We sent an invading force there. It's nice to see, a century later, that we're talking in peace and finding ways to work with each other, not only in remembering the past, but in also finding ways to work in a very forward way."

Asked whether he was concerned about the province being in talks with an administration facing criticism for crackdowns on judges, academics and journalists, among others, Trimper noted the country is a NATO ally facing a difficult situation since a failed coup in 2016.

Complicated situation

"International relations are very complicated. I happened to arrive the day after Operation Olive Branch started," he said, referring to a military operation launched by Turkey into Syria in January. Trimper said he was taken to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, which was attacked during the attempted coup.

"While they're in there deliberating, their own forces are firing on the assembly," he said.

"I saw the results of that rocket attack from fighter jets on the adjacent buildings. That causes one to pause. It's a complicated question, and yes, I have a complicated answer but what I said to the foreign affairs minister … [was] 'I'm glad I'm sitting here with you and understanding what you're going through,' because I feel diplomacy is a very effective way for nations to work with each other."