August 27, 1914
With the declaration of war on August 4, 1914, the task of turning civilian volunteers in Newfoundland into something resembling a military force fell to the Musketry Committee.
On August 27, 1914 a meeting of the Musketry Committee was held at the Catholic Cadet Corps (C.C.C.) Armoury. Sergeant Instructor Joseph Moore, a former professional soldier with 21 years’ service in the British Army, outlined the plan of training the recruits.
The Committee told those gathered that the work would begin at the different brigade headquarters as soon as the work of enlisting was completed. The first of the men to sign up for the Newfoundland Regiment were coming from the established paramilitary brigade headquarters of the Church Lads’ Brigade, the Catholic Cadet Corps, the Methodist Guards, the Newfoundland Highlanders, and the Legion of Frontiersman.
Instructor Moore explained that the preliminary training would consist of shooting, and the cleaning and proper care of rifles. A decision had been made that squads of 50 men under the command Instructor Moore would be given three days practice at the Southside Range after which they will continue their training at Pleasantville.
Pleasantville, at Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s with the declaration of war, 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.
Reports indicate that “quite a number of gentlemen had volunteered as instructors, and all arrangements for efficient training of the recruits had practically been finalized.”
This Committee were working with the Equipment Committee with regard to the procuring of rifles, but no decision had yet been reached as to which rifle would be adopted.
Those living near the Southside Rifle Range were not amused. Within days notices were posted in the local newspapers and about the Southside warning residents to stay away from the rifle range. The area was home to their traditional berry picking patches.
Some it is reported were to chance a stray bullet from the Rifle Range in order to get their bucket of beloved blue berries!
Recommended Archival Collection: “Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War”. This online exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the province’s soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. Selected, 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. http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part3_database.asp
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.
COLLECTING THE GREAT WAR ENLISTING YOUR HELP: The Rooms needs your help to tell the stories of the men and women who served overseas and at home during the First World War and the impact that the war had here. The Rooms staff will be available to collect stories and document photographs and artifacts. Help us preserve stories of the First World War before they are lost. The information gathered will be used to develop a new permanent exhibition on The Great War to open in 2016. More Information: http://www.therooms.ca/firstworldwar/default.asp