Newfoundland and Labrador: a Contribution Remembered (part 15)

Padre Thomas Nangle

^^^ Pictured above by @NLHistory Padre Thomas Nangle was the heart and soul of the regiment. He referred to the men as “ours.”


Thomas Nangle was born in St. John's, Newfoundland, on January 4th, 1889. His father died shortly thereafter, and he was placed in a Roman Catholic Orphanage.

After attending Seminary in Ireland, he was ordained a Roman Catholic Priest in 1913 and enlisted in the Newfoundland Regiment in July 1916 as a Chaplain.

As a beloved Padre to the Regiment, he was often known for risking his life to tend to the men, regardless of their religious affiliation.

He became affectionately known as the “heart and soul” of the regiment. He referred to the men as “ours.”

He was wounded in the arm and suffered from trench foot for the rest of his life.

After the war, he was tasked with identifying and marking the graves of as many Newfoundlanders as he could locate on the former battlefields of Gallipoli, France, and Belgium. He also was responsible for exhuming and re-interring the remains of soldiers into officially designated Allied war cemeteries.

He often spoke about the emotional strain of this task, for many of these broken bodies were his friends. (Many were orphans like himself, and he had lived with some of them in the Orphanage - these men were his family)

He would then write letters to their Next of Kin providing them with as much detail as he felt was appropriate.

Of course, many bodies were never found, and he made sure their names would be

recorded on the various Monuments to the Missing.

From 1919 to 1925, Captain Nangle, subsequently promoted to major and then to lieutenant-colonel, served as the Dominion of Newfoundland’s Director of War Graves. He also represented Newfoundland on the Imperial War Graves Commission in England.

In London, for a short period, he also acted as the High Commissioner of Newfoundland to the United Kingdom.

In addition to these roles, he also agitated (successfully) for the NFLD Government to establish Memorials to the Fallen, as he observed other Nations doing. It was during this period that he formulated his vision for the six caribou statues in Gallipoli, France and Belgium known as the “Trail of the Caribou.”

With government authorization, he negotiated with local farm owners around Beaumont Hamel and purchased the land that would become Newfoundland Park. He subsequently supervised the construction of the memorials at Monchy le Preux, Masnieres, and Guedecourt in France and Kieberg Ridge in Belgium.

His dream would not be completely fulfilled until 2021 when the final monument

would be established at Caribou Hill in Gallipoli, Turkey.

He also assisted in the fundraisingdesigning and completion of Newfoundland’s National War Memorial in St. John’s. It was unveiled by Field Marshal Earl Douglas Haig on July 1, 1924, on the eighth anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel.

In addition to working tirelessly behind the scenes, Padre Nangle served as his Aide-de-camp for the ceremony.

In 1925, Nangle shocked the world by resigning from the Priesthood. He moved to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and became a farm owner and Politician. He was subsequently married, had three children, and never returned to his native Newfoundland.

He died in Rhodesia in 1972 at the age of 83 and is buried there.

A street in St. John's is named “Padre Nangle Place” in his honour, and in 2016, he was named a Canadian National Historic Person.


In June 2022, we look forward to having Gerry back on the battlefields with us, escorting us on a special pilgrimage to Gallipoli Turkey, to see for the first time, the last of the six Caribou along the Newfoundland Caribou Trail in Europe. Check out the tour June 2022 >


Our Guest Author Gerry Peddle