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Sixty years after the end of the Second World War, Newfoundland sailors who made the supreme sacrifice were honoured Thursday with a new memorial.
Veterans and current serving members of the Canadian Navy stood side by side to unveil the plaques, bearing the names of 373 Newfoundland and Labrador sailors who died while serving in the Royal Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the United States Navy. The memorial, located on the Marine Institute campus, joins the Merchant Navy Veterans Memorial placed on site nine years ago.
The memorial’s dedication was part of the activities surrounding the Marine Institute’s annual Remembrance Day ceremony.
Deputy Premier Tom Rideout, Mayor Andy Wells, Memorial University’s Vice-President (finance and administration) Kent Decker and Marine Institute Executive Director Glenn Blackwood laid wreathes at the memorials in tribute to fallen soldiers. Joining this year’s ceremony were 26 veterans who served on HMS Newfoundland. The contingent is visiting St. John’s to take part in a number of Remembrance Day events this week. The HMS Newfoundland served in the Royal Navy from 1942 to 1959 and was the only Royal Navy vessel to bear the name of Newfoundland.
Students, faculty, staff and alumni also took part in commemorating the armed and merchant navy forces that served in the world wars. Naval cadets and officers with the Canadian Forces Naval Engineering School (St. John’s) also participated in the ceremony.
At the outbreak of war, Winston Churchill ordered the Royal Navy to "send for the Newfoundlanders". It is said he praised Newfoundland sailors as "the finest small-boatmen in the world". Patriotic Newfoundlanders responded in their thousands. Within a few months after war was declared, the first contingent of naval volunteers from this province arrived in Britain.
Newfoundland sailors served in the evacuation of Dunkirk, the Battle of the Atlantic, the Murmansk Run, the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and France, as well as in the South Atlantic, Mediterranean, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.
In the late 1990s, the Merchant Navy Association, spearheaded by veterans Fred Adams, Cyril Foster, and Capt. Joe Prim approached the Johnson Family Foundation to assist with their plan for a memorial to the Merchant Navy who lost their lives during World War I. The Foundation partnered with the Government of Canada, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, City of St. John’s, and the Marine Institute to have the Memorial created.
A home was chosen at the Marine Institute campus on Ridge Road. The Grand Concourse Authority created the site design and landscaping and acted as Project Managers for both Memorials. A highlight of the design is the granite compass rose with bronze points, bordered by the eight panels in a semi-circle around the compass. From the Marine Institute’s campus, The Narrows can be seen – a fitting home, as it was from St. John’s harbour that all ships crossing the Atlantic left.
In 2003, the Naval Association of Newfoundland (Eastern Division), spearheaded by veterans Jim Shields, Sam Johnson and Bob LeMessurier, approached the Johnson Family Foundation with the idea to honour the 373 Newfoundland naval casualties who served in the Royal Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the US Navy during the Second World War.
The Canadian Merchant Navy Veterans Association invited the Naval Association to share the existing site at the Marine Institute. The Foundation partnered with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, City of St. John’s, and the Marine Institute to have the Navy Memorial created.
The dedication and unveiling of the Royal Navy Memorial completes the circle to honour those who gave the supreme sacrifice in both World Wars.
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