Unknown soldier returns to the Netherlands on Saturday evening


The remains of a soldier killed on the battlefields of France during World War I will be returned home today in a series of ceremonies that are very meaningful and emotional for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Battle of Beaumont-Hamel is perhaps the most well-known of all, as it saw wave after wave of young Newfoundlanders running through no man's land with their chins bowed, only to be mowed down by a hail of German bullets.

Of the hundreds who took part in the battle, only a handful of soldiers reported for roll call on July 2, 1916.

While their sacrifices are commemorated at the National War Memorial in St. John's and at monuments and cenotaphs throughout the province, there has been no Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The grave will contain the remains of a soldier who represents all the lives lost in the war and those who never came home.

The soldier's remains are expected to arrive in St. John's on a charter flight from France at 7:10 p.m. tonight. Following a ceremony at St. John's airport, the remains will be carried in procession through the streets of St. John's beginning at 8:10 p.m.

Prime Minister Andrew Furey and his family spent a few minutes with the remains before the official ceremony in France. He described it as a spiritual experience.

“It's overwhelming and I think everyone back home is aware of the impact that World War I and Beaumont Hamel had on us as a people, on us as a society, on us as an economy and on us as a country, and that ultimately led to us joining Canada.”

Newfoundland MP Seamus O'Regan, who is part of the Dutch delegation accompanying the remains on their return to the province, describes the stay in Beaumont Hamel as a moving experience.

The procession takes place through the following streets:

– Right onto Torbay Road;

– Left onto Newfoundland Drive;

– Right onto East White Hills Road;

– Right onto the Boulevard, past Camp Pleasantville, the old training ground for members of the Newfoundland Regiment;

– Up King's Bridge Road to Ordinance Street;

– Right into Duckworth Street;

– Left down Cochrane Street;

– Slow passage in front of the National War Memorial on Water Street;

– Turn right onto Prescott Street;

– Turn left into Duckworth Street;

– Up Church Hill, past the Sergeant's Memorial;

– Turn right onto Queen's Road and go through Rawlin's Cross;

– Turn left onto Military Road;

– Continue straight onto Harvey Road, past the CLB Armoury;

– Right onto Parade Street, past the RNC headquarters.