Trail of the Caribou finished with last piece placed on Gallipoli Peninsula

·3 min read
The Trail of the Caribou is now completed with the final instalment being placed in Gallipoli, Turkey.  (InnovativeNl Engineering/Submitted - image credit)
The Trail of the Caribou is now completed with the final instalment being placed in Gallipoli, Turkey. (InnovativeNl Engineering/Submitted - image credit)
The Trail of the Caribou is now completed with the final instalment being placed in Gallipoli, Turkey.
The Trail of the Caribou is now completed with the final instalment being placed in Gallipoli, Turkey. (InnovativeNl Engineering/Submitted)

After nearly a decade, the Trail of the Caribou is now completed.

A 1,500-pound, eight-foot-tall bronze caribou monument has been installed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey — the final placement of six monuments across France: in Beaumont-Hamel, Masnières, Gueudecourt, Monchy-le-Preux and Kortrijk in Belgium marking where the Royal Newfoundland Regiment fought during the First World War.

The Gallipoli monument honours the regiment's involvement in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915-16, the only one from North America to be involved.

"It's just such a wonderful moment, and a proud day for the regiment," Ron Penney, past chair of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Advisory Council, told CBC News on Tuesday.

"The Royal Newfoundland Regiment plays such an important part in the history of the province."

Penney has been part of the project for the better part of 10 years. His great-uncle, Josiah Penney, fought in Gallipoli and later died at Beaumont-Hamel.

The biggest hurdle to completing the project was a Turkish government policy that discouraged monuments being added to the Gallipoli Peninsula, particularly ones that represented the Allied invading force, including the nearly 1,100 Newfoundlanders.

Ron Penney, past chair of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Advisory Council, has been part of the Trail of the Caribou project for 10 years.
Ron Penney, past chair of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Advisory Council, has been part of the Trail of the Caribou project for 10 years. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

That changed in 2018 after years of discussion among then House of Assembly Speaker Perry Trimper, the Newfoundland and Labrador government, the Canadian government, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Advisory Council and Turkish officials.

Eight Newfoundlanders are buried at the Hill 10 Cemetery in Gallipoli. The caribou now stands nearby. Among the buried is Hugh McWhirter, the first Newfoundland soldier to be killed in active service in over 100 years.

A deal was struck

Key to installing the final piece of the Trail of the Caribou came in the form of an exchange between Canada and Turkey.

"Part of the deal, or the agreement, was reciprocity with the government of Turkey. They wanted to place a sculpture in St. John's. I asked the City of St. John's to provide a space, which they did at the Boulevard in the Trail of the Caribou Park," said Penney.

"I think that sculpture has been done, but it has not yet been created. But there is a plaque at the place where the city of St. John's have agreed to place the sculpture."

This caribou was installed near the Hill 10 Cemetery on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. It completes the Trail of the Caribou project which includes six monuments across France, Belgium and now Turkey.
This caribou was installed near the Hill 10 Cemetery on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. It completes the Trail of the Caribou project which includes six monuments across France, Belgium and now Turkey.(InnovativeNl Engineering/Submitted)

When the COVID-19 pandemic ends, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador plans to hold an official commemoration ceremony.

"This project has been near and dear to my heart as a Royal Newfoundland Regiment historian and enthusiast," said project manager Frank Gogos in a media release Tuesday.

"It's been a tremendous honour to lead the team responsible for replicating and installing the caribou, and finally being able to properly pay tribute to the regiment's time on the Gallipoli Peninsula."

Penney first visited Turkey in 2012 with Gogos to meet officials and scout possible monument locations. He plans to return when international travelling is safer.

"To finally go back and see the culmination of a project that I and others worked so hard on for the last 10 years will be absolutely amazing," said Penney.

"I'm really looking forward to it."

The total cost of the project was $245,000, according to the provincial government.

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