Nfld. & Labrador

Newfoundland Regiment chaplain honoured at St. John's ceremony

A St. John's-born man who worked to ensure the war sacrifices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were never forgotten is getting his own recognition.

Thomas Nangle spearheaded Caribou Trail, documented graves of Nfld. soldiers

Lieutenant Colonel (Padre) Thomas Nangle. (Courtesy: Gary Browne)

A St. John's-born man who worked to ensure the war sacrifices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were never forgotten is getting his own recognition.

Lt.-Col. Thomas Nangle, named a person of National Historical Significance by Parks Canada, was honoured with a plaque at a ceremony Tuesday morning at the Canadian Forces Station in St. John's.

Nangle's pursuit to mark the history of the First World War included the creation of the Caribou Trail, which features a bronze sculpture of that animal as a monument in five battlefields in France and Belgium.

Early religious work

Nangle, born in 1889, went to Ireland to study for the priesthood after graduating from St. Bonaventure's College in St. John's.

He was ordained in 1913 by the Archbishop of Newfoundland and served parishes in Topsail, Bell Island and St. John's.

At a plaque-unveiling ceremony, Thomas Nangle was praised for his efforts to highlight the role of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians during the First World War. (CBC)

After the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel, Nangle joined the British army's chaplaincy and was posted to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, where he was considered a popular chaplain or "padre," until eventually acquiring the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

Post-war persistence

Nangle was appointed as Newfoundland's representative to the Director of War Graves Registration and Enquiries, in addition to the Imperial War Graves Commission. He travelled Europe, documenting the burial sites of Newfoundlanders. 

Nangle also purchased a portion of the Beaumont-Hamel battlefield to preserve the graves of Newfoundland's fallen soldiers.

Part of the display about Father Thomas Nangle at the Basilica Museum in St. John's. (Courtesy: Basilica Museum)

He negotiated with hundreds of French landowners to get the land needed for the Caribou Trail monuments.

He also supervised the construction of the National War Memorial in St. John's.

African life

Following his work with the Imperial War Graves Commission, Nangle moved to Southern Rhodesia — which eventually became Zimbabwe — and had a foray into the British colony's politics.

A plaque honouring Thomas Nangle was unveiled at the War Memorial in St. John's. (CBC)

He married and had four children. 

Nangle never returned to Newfoundland before his death Jan.4, 1972.