Five memorials in Europe recognize Newfoundlanders who served in WWI – this is the largest. At its heart stands a bronze caribou – the emblem of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. It watches over where many have fallen and there is no known resting place for their soldiers.
There are 6 of these bronze statues – 1 for each European site and the last one in St. Johns Newfoundland. The rocks and shrubs that surround the mound are native to Newfoundland. Information can be found to visit all of the European sites which is called the Trail of The Caribou.
There was an informative visitor center and I’m including the two photos below. It really shows all the damage with the artillery bombardment and war. When the war was over, people were coming back to this.
After leaving the visitor center to walk around the property, this is one of the first plaques that I came across, even before the bronze caribou. The day we visited it was peaceful and the only sounds were the birds singing. The memorial is situated in the countryside. It’s not something you will just drive past unless that is your intent.
This was one of the first WWI memorials we visited and I learned more about trench warfare – it was brutal. Yes, had read about it in history books, but this brought everything to life. The land was still pock-marked with craters and trenches and 100+ years have passed.
At the time of WWI, Newfoundland was part of the British Empire and not Canadien. Yet, they still maintained their own unit. When this part of the action was activated, unfortunately it lacked the element of surprise. They suffered the highest casualty rate for a battalion that day with 700+ killed, wounded or missing – 86% casualty rate.
There were four separate cemeteries on site, the largest being the Y Ravine cemetery.
This was the first place I’ve seen this on headstones with many being double graves. Also their coat of arms were intriguing to me. Identification was helped with the gear and clothing they wore if names were unknown.
Then I ran across these stones. It really put death and burials into perspective. Notice the one in the middle – a member of the navy.
Walking towards the back of the site, we came across three other burial sites, the first being Scottish.
Two other cemeteries were nearby, each having their own cross and walled boundary.
There was one other sound we heard that morning – the sound of sheep. I assumed they were helping to keep the grass under control – a natural way to preserve the serenity of the site.
In keeping with true form, when I tried to get a closer shot of the sheep, this was all I got.
While this was a moment of levity during our visit, this quote below found in the visitor center remained with me.
If you’re interested in WWI or traveling in the northern part of France, this should be a place on your list to visit.