January 2, 1915
A dark pall of sadness hovered over St. John’s on January 2, 1915 with news that “the first name was recorded in the Immortal Honor Roll of the Newfoundland Regiment.” The name of the first Newfoundlander, to die as a soldier in the service of this country, one of the First 500 was Private 584, John Fielding Chaplin.
The Governor of Newfoundland, Walter Davidson wrote in his diary on January 2, 1915:
“I learn by telegraph that Private 584, John Fielding Chaplin, of St. John’s, died at Fort George (Scotland) on December 31st.”
Chaplin had arrived at Fort George, Scotland with the Newfoundland Regiment on December 8, 1914.
On January 2, 1915, that Governor Davidson spoke “with his father and mother and succeeded in checking a proposal for the transport home of the lad’s remains.”
Governor Davison wrote that “He (John Chaplin) was quite young, only 18, and the Doctors hesitated to let him go because of his youth: but his father supported the lad’s entreaties. He was a bright smart young soldier and universally liked.”
John Fielding Chaplin was from Circular Road, St. John’s the son of Mark Chaplin a leading tailor, who operated a successful business from 175 A Water Street. Chaplin “did not die at the firing line” his Regimental Record reads that he died at St. George, Scotland of “abdominal disease.”
The Governor having made the promise to the parents that their son could be transported back to Newfoundland for burial was disappointed to have to return to them to inform them that “it would not be feasible to send home the body of Private Jack Chaplin for internment, the funeral takes place at Fort George.”
The Evening Telegram reported:
“His is the first name to be recorded in the Immortal Honor Roll of the Newfoundland Regiment and on this account Newfoundlanders, while expressing deep sympathy to the grief stricken parents, will remember with pride the young volunteer, who though not at the firing line, died as a soldier in the service of this country.”
On January 5, 1915 Private 584, John Fielding Chaplin was buried in Ardersier Parish Churchyard. The Telegram reported:
“Newfoundland’s young soldier will be resting among the heroes who have trod the immortal path of duty and devotion to this country. Thought separated from those that he loved in life; the memory of his immortal sacrifice will console them until they are united forever with him in the land of peace.”
Note: John Chaplin’s official Regimental Record states that he died on January 1, 1915. Governor Davision writes December 31, 1914.
Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives. Governor Davidson’s Private Diary, MG 136.5
Recommended Exhibit: 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.HNEnynnP.dpuf
Recommended Reading: Christopher Morry’s : When the Great Red Dawn is Shining: Howard Morry’s Memoirs of Life in the Newfoundland Regiment — 11 Platoon, C Company, RNR. Breakwater Books, St. John’s, 2014.