Retired Newfoundland Major to Commemorate Fallen WW1 Soldiers in Highland

Retired Major Michael Pretty of The Royal Newfoundland Regiment is due to visit the Highlands to pay tribute to fellow soldiers of Newfoundland who fell during World War One. Major Pretty is leading the research group named The Trail of the Caribou to discover and commemorate Newfoundland and Labrador contributions to foreign wars.

Having travelled to the UK this month, Major Pretty is now tracing where the Newfoundland soldiers trained and lived before joining the 29th Division in Gallipoli in September 1915. A visit to the Inverness Town House on the 19th of May is where the Major will officially be welcomed to the Highlands and from there he will go on to Ardersier, where a fallen soldier lies.

The history of the Newfoundlanders’ presence in the Highlands includes when soldiers spent 10 weeks over the Christmas period in 1914 at Fort George. Many of the soldiers were taken in and offered festive hospitality by local families from Nairn, Inverness and Ardersier. The soldiers then travelled South to Edinburgh to guard the castle.

When visiting graves and memorials, the group say a prayer for the fallen soldier/s and leave a small beach rock from Newfoundland, so that a piece of their home land can lie with them.

Provost of Inverness, Cllr Alex Graham, said: “I was deeply honoured to have been approached by Major Michael Pretty to help in the commemoration and celebration of these brave young men from Newfoundland who felt so welcome here in the Highlands. It is touching to be reminded that although these men were in the midst of such a large conflict, there was still time for bonds of friendship and comradery to be made. I offer that same friendship to Major Pretty and hope that he can return home with his own fond memories of Scotland.”

Armed Forces and Veterans’ Champion, Cllr Allan Duffy, added: “The contribution that both Canada and Newfoundland made to the war effort in World War One is immense and I think that it is so important that we continue to honour those who fell. I am glad that Major Pretty has made this trip, as I think that it will bring a reminder of how important our international friends are, and I am glad that these men will be reunited with a little piece of home.”

Retired Major Michael Pretty said: “The Trail Of The Caribou Research Group exists to remember what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians accomplished in foreign wars. As a regular army officer in Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, I was privileged enough to be able to serve with The Royal Newfoundland Regiment and got to know the deeds they accomplished during the Great War.

“Some 12,000 people volunteered with 6,400 serving, and sadly 1,305 paid the supreme sacrifice.  As I researched more and got to know local Newfoundland and Labrador historians, I quickly learned of another 7,500 who served in the UK and Canadian Army Navy and Air Forces, as well as the Armies of the USA, Australia and South Africa.  Some 1,900 of the 14,000 gave their lives - which is pretty significant coming from a population of about 20,000 eligible men! We also had about 100 Nurses and VADs. 

“There are 1,990 of our soldiers buried in 19 countries in almost 300 cemeteries or commemorated in memorials.  We have spent 12 years on the Great War and have discovered almost all who were killed in action or missing in action, as well as tracking over 7,000 who returned.

“The war diaries and letters home comment on how friendly the local people were in the Highlands and how during their first Christmas away from home so many were invited into local homes.”

He added: “The first causality we suffered is buried in Ardersier Parrish Churchyard.  Private John (Jack) Chaplin from St John’s was only 18 years old when he died on 1st January 1915. 

“Our Group have been so very impressed with the level of interest and support in our research. We will be laying a wreath on Jack’s grave at 11:30 on the 20th of May in Ardersier. If anyone wants to join us then they will be welcome.”

18 May 2015
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