[ SkipToMainMenu ]

Thomas Nangle

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Nangle, Chaplain to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in WWI, in light of his recent designation by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, responsible for Parks Canada, as a person of national significance in defining Canada's history.

Thomas Nangle was born in St. John's in 1889 and was ordained by the Archbishop of Newfoundland in 1913. When the Great War broke out in 1914, his request to enlist was denied. However, shortly after the devastating battle at Beaumont Hamel in 1916 he was authorized to join the British Army's chaplaincy to attend to the spiritual needs of the many sick, wounded and dying soldiers.

Father Nangle joined troops at the front lines, where he engaged in the gruesome work of locating the fallen, men he knew personally from school and sports competitions in St. John's.

He was very popular among the regiment, regardless of a soldier's denomination, and quickly became united with those whom he affectionately referred to as "Our Boys," even amongst the horrific living conditions, violence and devastation of World War I.

After the war, Father Nangle was appointed as Newfoundland's representative on the Directorate of War Graves and Enquiries and the Imperial War Graves Commission. He returned to Europe in 1919 to mark and document the gravesites where Newfoundlanders were buried, with a decision to erect a sculpture of a caribou at each of the five main battlefields where Newfoundlanders fought and lost their lives.

Father Nangle received funds from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to pursue this project and negotiated with over 250 landowners to acquire the property where the monuments would stand. He also visited the families of the fallen to raise money for the memorials, later to be recognized as the "Trail of the Caribou." Community members of all ages and stripes were eager to help Father Nangle in his commemorative strategy, including six-year-old Harvey White of Twillingate, who wrote to the Father in 1922, and this is what he said:

. . . I had one Dollar gave me four keeping hed of the Class so I ham sending it to you four Bhaumont hamel memorial

that is the spot ware my Fathere was killed July the First 1916.

I ham in closing one Dollar. . . .

Father Nangle also worked to have Newfoundland's National War Memorial erected in St. John's in 1924 so that Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans could pay their respects to the fallen at home. There are two national cenotaphs in Canada to commemorate our brave men and women; the one erected with the help of Father Nangle in St. John's and the one here in Ottawa. Father Nangle left the priesthood in the 1920s, once he completed his work for the war graves commission, and moved to Rhodesia, where he married and had four children. He never returned to his home in Newfoundland and passed away in January 1972, at the age of 83, in Rhodesia.

It is said that the battlefield memorial of Beaumont-Hamel exists today solely due to the work of Thomas Nangle, and what we know of Thomas Nangle can be partly attributed to the research and work of two authors, Mr. Gary Browne and Mr. Darrin McGrath. Mr. McGrath and Mr. Browne co-authored the book, entitled Soldier Priest: In the Killing Fields of Europe Padre Thomas Nangle Chaplain to the Newfoundland Regiment WWI.

Honourable senators, please join me in recognizing Lieutenant Colonel Father Thomas Nangle as a person having national significance in Canada's history.

Back to: Statements