Biography of Thomas Nangle

Thomas Matthew Mary Nangle was born in St Johnís, Newfoundland, in 1889 and educated at St. Bonaventure College. He attended the seminary in Ireland, All Hallows, Dublin, and St. Patrickís College in Carlow, and was ordained a priest at the Roman Catholic Basilica of St. Johnís the Baptist in St. Johnís in 1913.

After his ordination, Revered Father Nangle took up his priestly ministry in St. Thomas of Villa Nova parish, Topsail. From there he served at the Cathedral of St. Johnís the Baptist parish in St. Johnís, and at St. Michaelís parish on Bell Island. After leaving Bell Island, Father Nangle served from 1914-1916 at St. Patrickís Parish, in Riverhead, St. Johnís. This was to be his last parish before the drums of war called him overseas to the Newfoundland Regiment.

In July 1916, he enlisted in the Newfoundland Regiment and went overseas where he became part of the Royal Army Chaplainís Department. He was subsequently attached to the 88th Brigade Field Ambulance, British Expeditionary Force and in October of 1916 was appointed chaplain to the First Battalion, Newfoundland Regiment.

As chaplain of the Regiment in the Great War, he played a major role working in the trenches, burying the dead, consoling the wounded, comforting families and motivating the troops. Padre Nangle received a wound to his shoulder on April 24, 1917.

After the cessation of hostilities, Padre Nangle was appointed Director of War Graves, Registration, Enquiries and Memorials, and was further appointed by Newfoundland Prime Minister Sir Richard Squires as Newfoundlandís Representative to the Imperial War Graves Commission of Britain.

As Director of War Graves, he personally supervised the exhumation of known graves, the construction of Newfoundlandís 15 war graveyards in Europe and Gallipoli, the building of five caribou memorials ( 4 in France, 1 in Belgium) and the construction and unveiling of the National War Memorial in St. Johnís at Kingís Beach.

In 1926, after reaching all of his personal goals in relation to the Newfoundland graveyards and memorials, and after leaving the priesthood, he emigrated to Rhodesia, South Africa, where be became a farmer, entered politics and married Thelma Watkinson. The couple had four children: Timothy, Hugh, Rory and Mavourneen. 

Thomas Nangle died in Rhodesia ( now Zimbabwe ) on January 4, 1972, at age 83. Known as Tim to Family and friends, he was predeceased by his wife, Thelma, and survived by his children: Timothy, Hugh, Rory, and Mavourneen. Today, in St. Johnís, Newfoundland, where he was born and raised, thereís a street named in his honour- Padre Nangle Place. Many people, however, may not be aware that the man the street is named after, the man buried next to his wife in a foreign country thousands of miles from his native land was the beloved Roman Catholic chaplain of the Newfoundland Regiment during the First World War.

Source: Browne, Gary and McGrath, Darrin. Soldier Priest: In the Killing Fields of Europe. Padre Thomas Nangle: Chaplain to the Newfoundland Regiment WWI. DRC Publishing, St. John's, 2006.



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