“The soldiers paired off and waltzed around the field …”

Archival Moment

September 21, 1914

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-69; Payday 1st N.F.L.D. Reg. [Regiment][Pleasantville] Note the Greatcoats.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-69; Payday 1st N.F.L.D. Reg. [Regiment][Pleasantville]
Note the Greatcoats.

There was quite the party at Pleasantville, St. John’s on September 20, 1914  the local papers reported  that:

“A large number of citizens visited Pleasantville where an enjoyable concert was given by the Catholic Cadet Corps (C.C.C. ) Band. The programme was an excellent one, and as the band played the “Pink Lady” waltz, several of the soldiers paired off and waltzed around the field. They wore their military great coats and as they moved to the strains of the waltz, the sight was a novel and attractive one.”

The men were no doubt proud of their new greatcoats that had just arrived from Halifax. Why not show the off! A greatcoat, also known as a watchcoat, is a large overcoat typically made of wool designed for warmth and protection against the weather. Its collar and cuffs can be turned out to protect the face and hands from cold and rain, and the short cape around the shoulders provides extra warmth.

It was also recounted that a young boy from the city wanted to entertain the soldiers. The newspapers reported:


“During the intervals the small boy with the mouth organ entertained a number of lads and lasses to a programme of quadrilles, which were danced in fine style on the bridge.”


This was one of the last concert events at Pleasantville that was scheduled before the Newfoundland Regiment departed Newfoundland to fight for King and Country, on October 4, 1914.

The St. John’s Evening Telegram reported that many of the young soldiers were very conscious of their responsibilities.

“The scene at the camp was military in every particular, and amid the joviality that prevailed, the guards slowly paced their grounds apparently unconscious of aught but duty. Patriotism was everywhere resplendent amongst those that visited the scene and the beautiful blending of duty and pleasure in the soldier’s life was manifested in a marked degree.”

One of the privileges that a soldier of the Great War was entitled to upon his return home was the “privilege of retaining his uniform including great coat”  (Department of Militia, The Sailor and Soldiers Handbook Published by the Civil Re-Establishment Committee, January, 1919).

Recommended Archival Collection: Great War service records of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment are available on line, those not on line are available at the The Rooms Provincial Archives on microfilm.  Search the Archives: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Exhibit: The First World War had a profound impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. It involved thousands of our people in world-changing events overseas and dramatically altered life at home. Our “Great War” happened in the trenches and on the ocean, in the legislature and in the shops, by firesides and bedsides. This exhibition shares the thoughts, hopes, fears, and sacrifices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who experienced those tumultuous years – through their treasured mementoes, their writings and their memories. – See more at: https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/always/beaumont-hamel-and-the-trail-of-the-caribou#sthash.lv9JmCbn.dpuf

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium   Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.