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Acts of remembrance

Memorial Day: a day of significance at Memorial University

Campus and Community

By Sandy Woolfrey-Fahey

Memorial University and its representatives were honoured to participate in events marking the 100th anniversary of the unveiling and dedication of the Newfoundland National War Memorial.

The July 1 ceremony included a military funeral for the unknown soldier, whose journey home began in late May.

Earl Ludlow, chancellor of Memorial University, accepted an invitation from Veterans Affairs Canada to attend as part of the Canadian delegation for the unknown soldier’s repatriation from northern France.  

Chancellor Ludlow stands beside a large stone cross
Chancellor Ludlow speaks at the repatriation ceremony in France in May 2024.
Photo: Veteran Affairs Canada

The weekend leading up to Memorial Day was marked with many acts of remembrance by Memorial representatives, including special guests and thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

These included lowering Memorial University flags to half-mast on all campuses to commemorate the lying in state of the unknown soldier from sunrise on June 28 to noon on July 1 and flying the Union Jack on July 1 to mark Memorial Day. 

The university participated and co-sponsored an event with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment at The Rooms on June 29, to remember the unknown soldier and other soldiers who went to war and never came home.

The Rooms houses exhibits dedicated to Beaumont-Hamel and the Trail of the Caribou. Chancellor Ludlow, who was master of ceremonies for the event, was joined by other members of the university’s Board of Regents and senior leadership team. 

On June 30 Chancellor Ludlow, President Neil Bose and Glenn Barnes, chair of the Board of Regents, attended an annual commemorative dinner where guests reflect on the fighting and loss at Beaumont-Hamel during the First World War.

Memorial youth

Three Memorial youth participated in the events around the July 1 ceremony.

Mackenzie Luff and Mckenzie Hutchings were invited by Veterans Affairs Canada to attend the weekend’s reception and commemorative dinner.

They also participated in the July 1 ceremony as youth representatives for the Government of Canada delegation.  

Benjamin Roberts holding casket of unknowknown soldier
Benjamin Roberts, far right, and the bearer party lower the casket of the unknown Newfoundland soldier on top of the tomb during the funeral as part of Operation Distinction.
Photo: Canadian Armed Forces

Benjamin Roberts is a bachelor of commerce (co-operative) student at Memorial, a corporal in the Canadian Armed Forces and part of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

He had the honour of serving as a member of the bearer party for the unknown solider during the repatriation ceremonies in France in May and in St. John’s on July 1.   

He calls the entire experience “remarkable,” but shares one particular memory that will always stay with him. 

“One experience topped it all for me,” Mr. Roberts said. “On July 1, lining the base of the National War Memorial were dozens of veterans, men we owe our lives and freedoms to. At the end of the ceremony, our bearer party marched past these hardened men. I felt such pride as they broke into applause and cheers, shouting thanks and praise to us for bringing the unknown soldier home. I will never forget this experience and I will be forever grateful to be given the honour of carrying our boy home.” 

Placing Memorial’s wreath

Chancellor Ludlow joined dignitaries on the cenotaph during the July 1 ceremony.

Later that evening, when the cenotaph reopened to the public, Memorial’s wreath was respectfully placed with others.

memorial university wreath
Memorial University’s wreath sits at the cenotaph in downtown St. John’s, N.L.
Photo: Memorial University

See more about the significance of July 1 for Memorial University in stories in the Gazette and on social media including the Forget me not story and a message from President Neil Bose. 

The Book of Remembrance, a replica of the Newfoundland Book of Remembrance, commemorates the lives of those who died serving their country.

It is available to view in the  Centre for Newfoundland Studies and the Digital Archive Initiative. 

Memorial University continues to stand as a living Memorial to embody the aspirations of those who have served.

We will not forget. 

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