Nfld. & Labrador

Allan Hawco, Mark Critch to trace steps of Newfoundland Regiment in new documentary

A new film about the Newfoundland Regiment's role in World War I will feature two familiar personalities from the province.
A new film about the Newfoundland Regiment's role in World War I will feature two familiar personalities from the province. Allan Hawco and Mark Critch talk to the CBC's Debbie Cooper. 5:02

A new film about the Newfoundland Regiment's role in World War I will feature two familiar personalities from the province.

Well-known actor Allan Hawco and comedian Mark Critch are currently shooting The Trail of the Caribou, a CBC production which is taking them through Turkey, France and Belgium, following in the footsteps of the regiment during its campaigns in the Great War.

"It's quite a spiritual experience to make that trek," Hawco told the St. John's Morning Show.

"We're so lucky that we're going to be able to go. Any way we can share this story with Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada and the world is good — because this documentary is going to be really big."

The caribou statue in Bowing Park in St. John's is the only one outside of Europe that honours the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. (CBC)

The caribou, the symbol of the Newfoundland Regiment, is at the centre of the documentary. Caribou statues are erected at five sites where the regiment fought significant battles in Europe. One stands in Bowring Park in St. John's.

"Growing up in Newfoundland you always had that connection with the caribou in the park," said Critch.

"As you get older, what that represents kind of resonates with you."

More to regiment's history than just Beaumont-Hamel

Most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians know of the tragedy of Beaumont-Hamel, which claimed the lives of 324 men in the regiment on July 1, 1916. The producers of The Trail of the Caribou hope to shed light on the other battles as well, many of which — unlike Beaumont-Hamel — were hailed as great victories. 

"It's great to tell the whole story of the regiment, because Beaumont-Hamel kind of overshadows all of the great successes they had," said Critch.

The Trail of the Caribou documentary will mark the centennial of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel. (CBC)

"A lot of people know about Beaumont-Hamel," said Hawco. "What people often forget is that the Newfoundland Regiment went on a number of very successful campaigns and had quite a legendary status in the allied forces during the First World War."

The Trail of the Caribou is currently on schedule to premiere on  the 100th anniversary of Beaumont-Hamel. While July 1  is also Canada Day, Hawco hopes the documentary will clue people in to what is arguably the most tragic day in Newfoundland and Labrador history.

"Our Memorial Day is July 1 and its always sort of bothered me that in the province we've never really marked it in the way that we could," he said.

"Our sacrifice was not only in human lives, but in our nation. These people could have gone on to be our leaders, our prime ministers, our great athletes."

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