Tag Archives: First 500

The phrase, “The First 500”  was born.

Archival Moment

August 12, 1914

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The origin of the phrase  “The First 500”  can likley be traced to the Church Lads Brigade Armoury, St. John’s on August 12, 1914.

On August 13, 1914 the local St. John’s newspaper reported:

“The public meeting at the C.L.B .Armoury last night (August 12, 1914) to consider the question of enlisting volunteers for land service abroad and home defense during the war, was very largely attended. All classes were represented and the greatest enthusiasm prevailed. “

The meeting was called by His Excellency Sir Water E. Davidson, the Governor of Newfoundland, and the official representative of the British crown. The Governor arrived at the Armoury “and was greeted by an outburst of cheering while the C.L.B. Armoury played the national Anthem.”

In addressing the crowd, the Governor said:

 “It behooves every British subject to aid the mother country, to finish the fight, as speedily as possible. Newfoundland must do her part laying claim as we do to being the oldest and the most loyal colony. In my telegram to the home Government, I stated we were poor in money and rich in men who are accustomed to meet all difficulties without wavering.”

The Governor continued:

I pleaded myself that Newfoundland would furnish 500 men, but I hope the number will be 5,000. “

The meeting at the Armoury concluded with a resolution that “a Committee of twenty five citizens be appointed to take such steps as may be deemed necessary for enlisting and equipping these men …”

On August 22, 1914, a call for volunteers was issued and within days 335 had signed up; two thirds from St. John’s cadet brigades. By September 26, nearly 1000 volunteers had been recruited and went to the Church Lads Brigade building on Military Road in St. John’s to enlist. Roughly half passed the required medical exams and moved to tent lines established at nearby Pleasantville.

The iconic phrase, ‘The First 500”  was born.

Recommended Exhibit: BEAUMONT-HAMEL AND THE TRAIL OF THE CARIBOU 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. https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/always/beaumont-hamel-and-the-trail-of-the-caribou

The Newfoundland Regiment and The Great War: The First World War had an immense impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. This interactive site offers comprehensive information on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, including over 3,000 individual soldier files, interactive maps, in-depth battle explanations, and hundreds of images of artifacts, many in 3-D.  https://www.therooms.ca/thegreatwar/the-beginning/entering-the-great-war

 

“Moisture might be noticed in many an eye … “

Archival Moment

October 4, 1914

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 8-28; Soldiers of the First Newfoundland Regiment marching at Pleasantville, St. John’s.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 8-28; Soldiers of the First Newfoundland Regiment marching at Pleasantville, St. John’s.

October 4, 1914, is a significant date on the Newfoundland and Labrador  calendar, it was on this date that the Newfoundland Regiment set sail on the transport vessel the SS Florizel to fight for Country and King. This was the first of some 27 groups to embark from Newfoundland’s shores during the course of the First World War.

These men that marched from the camps in Pleasantville on Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s to the Florizel are the men that are celebrated in our history as the First Five Hundred, or by their other popular designation “The Blue Puttees.”

These were the men that faced near annihilation at Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916, and costly major engagements in October at Gueudecourt and at Monchy-le-Preux. On the battle field these proud soldiers solidified their place in history. The Regiment earned no less than 280 separate decorations, 77 of which were awarded to original members of the “first 500” of which 170 were killed in action.

On October 3, 1914  as they marched through the streets of St. John’s to their transport they were not thinking of death, this was an “adventure” for them.  For many it would be the first time away from home.

The day following their departure from St. John’s, a reporter for the St. John’s newspaper The Daily News, wrote on October 5, 1914:

“The 1st Newfoundland Regiment actually started for the front when they left Pleasantville at 4:30 Saturday afternoon.  (October 3, 1914) Under the command of Captain Franklin the volunteers headed by the Catholic Cadet Corps (C.C.C.)  Band proceeded by King’s Bridge, Circular, Military Roads, Prescott  and Water Street to the Furness Withy Company’s pier where the transport Florizel lay to take them away.

Thousands accompanied them on the march from the camp and crowds gathered along the route to bid them God’s speed. The principal buildings, stores and many private residences were gaily decked with flags as was also all the shipping in the harbour.

The crush, all the business have been suspended, near the embarking point was indeed a sight, the gathering being undoubtedly the largest ever seen in the city. Every vantage point was seized to see the men go by only with the greatest difficulty did the police and the men of the H.M.S. Calypso keep the crowds from pressing on to the pier.

The volunteers are indeed a body the Colony may be proud of and as they swung along, they warmly answered the wishes of their good friends. All were in high spirits and showed plainly their eagerness to be off, evidencing the true spirit of patriotism.

At the pier His Excellency the Governor, Lady Davidson and children and Premier, members of both branches of the legislature, clergymen of all denominations and citizens prominent in every walk of life, had assembled.  Arriving at the pier, each company was drawn up inside the entrance and marched on board the ship, between lines of people whose enthusiasm knew no bounds, the (Catholic Cadet Corps)  C.C.C., (Church Lads Brigade); C.L.B, , Methodist Guards and Salvation Army bands meanwhile rendering spirited airs,  also the hymn  “God be with you till we meet again.”

Some little delay was caused in the embarking, the men being delayed by friends who would not be denied the saying of the last farewell. As the men ringed along the ships rail a continuous outburst of cheering was kept up.

Many pathetic scenes were witnessed and suspicious moisture might be noticed in many an eye while those who had immediate relatives in the ranks wept bitterly.

 

Photo Credit: At the Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-68; 1st Newfoundland Regiment along the Florizel’s rail ready to depart St. John's October 4, 1914.

Photo Credit: At the Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-68; 1st Newfoundland Regiment along the Florizel’s rail ready to depart St. John’s October 4, 1914.

At last all the men, their kit and supplies were on board  and at 6 p.m. the transport hauled of to the stream. Whistles sounded, guns blazed forth, the C.C.C. on board the tug John Green played, the British marching song “It’s a long way to Tipperary”  the members of the contingent and thousands  assembled joining in the chorus. Surrounded by a flotilla of tugs, motor and row boats the Florizel came to anchor in the stream.

All night and yesterday the boats remained near the ship, while the waterside premises particularly the King’s wharf were lined with people anxious to see a relative or friend who might come on shore. … she (Florizel) got underway and steamed grandly through the Narrows, those on shore cheered wildly. Many of the boats and launches accompanied the ship outside the heads.  … Those who had enlisted but were not among the 525 selected bitterly expressed their disappointment.”

Recommended Archival Collection: 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 Reading: Out of a Clear Sky: The Mobilization of the Newfoundland Regiment, 1914-1915 by Mike O’Brien, Newfoundland and Labrador Studies.  Volume 22, Number 2 (2007)    Memorial University of Newfoundland.  Article on line. http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/nflds/article/view/10117/10390

 

 

 

Ice Caps Answer the ‘Hockey’ Call

“Some of our best puck chasers are in khaki …”

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: 1.26.01.074; Royal Newfoundland Regiment Hockey Team (Click on the photo to enlarge)

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: 1.26.01.074; Royal Newfoundland Regiment Hockey Team (Click on the photo to enlarge)

The First World War (1914- 1918) took a terrible toll, claiming the lives of hundreds of young Newfoundlanders, including many athletes. Among these sportsmen were some of the best hockey players in Newfoundland. The newspapers of the day reported “at present some of our best puck chasers are in khaki.”

With the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 some of the first men to ‘sign up‘ were the young men from the hockey teams in St. John’s. The powerhouse team in St. John’s at the time was the team known as the Crescents, these young men signed up, almost to a man. Len Stick a member of the team was the first and holds the distinction of holding the title ‘Regimental #1.’

The Newfoundland Regiment also known as the ‘First 500’ or ‘Blue Puttees’ following a short period of military training in St. John’s at Pleasantville departed St. John’s on the SS Florizel for England on October 4, 1914. After a short stint of military training at Salisbury Plain, England they were transferred to Fort George, Inverness, Scotland arriving on December 7, 1914.The young Newfoundland hockey players were passionate about their sport and were determined to play in their adopted country. Northern Scotland’s climate was very like Newfoundland’s allowing for the same opportunities for outdoor skating. Less than three weeks after their arrival in Scotland the local St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported on January 18, 1915:

The St. John's Ice Caps will be wearing a special jersey to remember the Newfoundland Regiment on February 5th and 6th.

The St. John’s Ice Caps will be wearing a special jersey to remember the Newfoundland Regiment on February 5th and 6th.

“The Newfoundland Hockey League have cabled Lieutenant Tait at Fort George (Scotland) to get a set of hockey uniforms at the expense of the league. It looks as if there is some chance of ice hockey in Northern Scotland.”

A few short weeks later the Telegram reported that the Newfoundlanders were playing at the Haymarket Rink, Edinburgh. The report read:

“the ice hockey match between two teams from the Newfoundland Regiment …. the exhibition must have been a good one the result was a draw, both sides scoring one goal.”

Hockey was one of the few leisure activities for the young men while preparing for war, they had played hockey with all of their passion as young men with great Newfoundland hockey teams like the Crescent’s, the Feildians, the Terra Novans. They were now playing with the same passion on the ice in Scotland for recreation with their friends. These same young men were to soon find themselves in the trenches of Turkey and later France. Many dying for their country.

IMG_00002047Almost 101 years to the day (January 14, 2016) Danny Williams, President and Chief Executive Director of the St. John’s Ice Caps has announced the launch of another Regimental hockey uniform.   The St. John’s Ice Caps on February 5 and 6 at Mile One Stadium will wear a jersey designed to recall the history of the Newfoundland Regiment, celebrating Newfoundland’s hockey history.

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives – Sports Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador photograph collection. Hockey Royal Newfoundland Regiment Hockey Team 1.26.01.074

Recommended Link: Library and ARCHIVES Canada. Hockey and the First World War: http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/news/videos/Pages/hockey-first-world-war-exhibition.aspx

Recommended Reading: ICING THE PUCK: THE ORIGINS, RISE, AND DECLINE OF NEWFOUNDLAND SENIOR HOCKEY, 1896-1996 by Gregory B. White. A thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Sociology\Faculty of Arts\Memorial University April, 1997 St. John’s Newfoundland.

 

 

 

The first of the volunteers to be married

Archival Moment

28 September 1914

Caught at the OutpostWith the declaration of war in August 1914 many young men and women in Newfoundland and Labrador began to reexamine their relationships. Maud Hollett of Spencer’s Cove, Placentia Bay and William Manston of Manchester, England decided it was time to marry.

William had originally come to Newfoundland two years previous “in the employ of Mr. Reid as chauffeur.” With the declaration of war he was determined to return to his home country to fight for King and Empire.   On September 9, 1914 he left the Reid property to sign up.   Within days he was living in the training camp at Pleasantville with all of the other recruits.

Rumors in camp were that the newly formed Newfoundland Regiment would be departing at any time for the trenches of Europe; many of the young men in the camp were looking forward to getting a taste of battle. William realized that his time was short; if he was to marry he would have to do it quickly. On September 28 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Mary’s Church, South Side, St. John’s he waited for his bride. It was “the scene of a quiet wedding.”

The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Henry Uphill, Rector of the parish. The bride was given away by her cousin Charles Rodway and was attended by Miss Brace and Mr. PaveI. Immediately following the ceremony the young couple were  received by Mr. and Mrs. R.G. Reid. Mr. Reid kindly placed his automobile at the service of the wedding party. A considerable gesture in the day given that this particular motor vehicle was one of the few in the country.
The local newspaper, The Evening Telegram reported “He is the first of the volunteers to be married and we trust that he will return from the front in good time and that in his domestic life he will find that happiness which he deserves.”

It was not a long honeymoon. Just five days later (October 3, 1914) the newly married Lance Corporal William Manston marched with the Newfoundland Regiment (the First 500) to the S.S. Florizel that had been converted into a troopship and would take him home.

Maud packed her bags to return home to Spencers Cove to await the outcome of the war.

Recommended Archival Collection: “Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War”, this on line exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the province’s soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. The service records of the First 500 and others are available at the Provincial Archives at The Rooms. Many of the service records (but not all ) are on line at http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.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.