Tag Archives: First World War

He asked the Queen to help him when he was 11

Donald Hawse  of St. Lawrence wrote Queen Elizabeth II when he was 11 years old. He wanted the Queen to know that his father was a First World War veteran but he had no records to prove this. He came to The Rooms sixty years after he wrote that letter. He was determined.

Take some time to watch this story:  (follows two short advertisements)  http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1093257283945

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 at The Rooms  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.

I will sing you home: Youtube video:  ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JeuCgA0rFIAn initiative of The Rooms in partnership with The Ennis Sisters, Shallaway Youth Choir and CBC.

The Rooms Will Be Closed On Saturday November 11 In Observance Of Remembrance Day.

 

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

 

Newfoundland Nurse: Letter from the trenches

Archival Moments

June 13, 1915

Newfoundland Nurse: Letter from the trenches

nurseOn June 13, 1915 Maysie Parsons, 26 years old, originally from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland wrote to her father Edward Parsons from L’Hopital de L’Ocean, a field hospital in La Panne, Belgium. In her letter she wrote frankly about war and what she was witnessing. She wrote:

“My Dear Father

Although we are only six miles from the trenches, we never hear any war news. The only thing we do know is when there is a battle on this end. We can hear the guns and see the flashes and lightening, and tonight, oh, it is simply terrible. It is just the same as thunder and lightning and to think that every flash means so many deaths!

It is horrible. We do get terrible cases in. I know if you saw the poor patients, you would wonder how they could possibly live. It is impossible to sleep lots of nights.

War certainly is HELL

Tonight I am writing by the light of candle. We can’t get any sleep. And have been watching the flashes off the guns, etc., all along the lines for hours. It really seems that the fighting is all around us. I am glad I came but it certainly seems strange.

Wherever we go we very seldom meet anybody that can speak a word of English, and then if we go for a walk about every few yards we are held up by a sentry and have to produce our passports.”

Maysie was frustrated that she could not speak the language of the soldier boys that she was treating. When war broke out, Belgium did not have enough nurses so were dependent on nurses sent from British Commonwealth countries including Canada and Newfoundland. Masie signed up with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. She wrote:

We get a lot of cases in here that only live a few hours. It seems terrible, they have not a person belonging to them, and I wish I could speak French. It is certainly hard to nurse every sick patient when you have to guess at what they want, and then not to be able to speak to them. Kindly and sympathize with them. I think a kind word often means a lot.

Maysie was also conscious that all of her letters would be read by censors and was careful not to disclose details that would result in her letter being delayed and or not delivered.

Yesterday we had quite a lot of patients come in, 61. I could write for hours about how thy have been treated, but you see, our letters are censored, and there are lots of interesting things we cannot tell.

Like other letters that were sent by sons and daughters from the trenches of Europe to parents back home in Newfoundland the letters would always make reference to other Newfoundlanders that they had encountered, their Newfoundland patriotic fervor was always evident.

The other day a man came and asked me what part of Canada I as from, so I told him not Canada, but Newfoundland, he told me he knew Sir Edward P. Morris quite well, and how he had to study up about the fisheries, for the Convention of the Hague. He was asking me about Newfoundland, and afterwards I found out he was the Editor of the London Times.

We found an English newspaper today, and you should see the bunch get around it, it was about a month old, but we read everything in it, even the advertisements. It was good to see something in English.

I sent some cards home, hope they get them.

Love too all,

From your Loving daughter

Maysie

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Type  Great War Photograph  Collection  in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Exhibit: BEAUMONT-HAMEL AND THE TRAIL OF THE CARIBOU

Where: Level 2  The Rooms: 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.

 

“The first Newfoundlander, to die as a soldier in the service of this country…”

Archival Moment

January 2, 1915

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: C 5-97; John Fielding Chaplin

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: C 5-97; John Fielding Chaplin

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.

“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

 

 

 

Our war story in poetry

Archival Moment

July 1, 1916

“Advance of the Newfoundlanders”

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives Division A 58-152, For Victory

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives Division A 58-152, For Victory

Young soldiers who witnessed the devastation of trench warfare found ways to cope with what they had seen. Willam Coysh, 20 years old, Regimental #2018 from the Battery Road in St. John’s tried to cope by writing poetry.  On October 12, 1916 while recovering from “shell shock and shrapnel wounds to the back and right arm” at the 4th London General Hospital, London, England he wrote “Advance of the Newfoundlanders” a poem about the Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916.

Onward they swept in the flower of

their manhood,

Our lads from Newfoundland,

far from the sea.

Onward thy swept until the last man

had fallen

Had fallen for Britain, the land of

the free.

With guns in front and rear,

With death and danger near,

To them unknown was fear,

Gallant five hundred.

Oh, well we might love the fair land

that bore us,

That can boast of sons so

loyal and true,

Who gave us their all to keep the flag

flying,

The flag of our Empire,

the red, white and blue.

For no braver deed hath e’er been recorded

Then their steady advance o’er the shell riv’en soil,

The scene of long months of

horror and anguish

Amid death and danger, privation and toil

On swept the gallant band,

Falling on every hand

O’er that dread No Man’s Land

Went that five hundred!

Upon returning to Newfoundland in 1917 described as ‘medically unfit” Coysh was assigned special duty as a quartermaster sergeant a warrant officer responsible for supplies.

Following the war William Coysh moved to Highland Park, Detroit, U.S.A. He died at the Maddison Community Hospital on 4 November 1977.

Commemoration of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel: On the 100th anniversary of the battle at Beaumont-Hamel, The Rooms will open this new permanent exhibition. Journey from trench to home front, from recruitment and training through service overseas as you experience stories of the Great War and its lasting impact on the people and the identity of Newfoundland and Labrador. A full day of commemorative activities is planned for July 1, 2016 to honour those from Newfoundland and Labrador who served in the First World War.

Due to the level of interest and anticipated large numbers in attendance  for the tribute event, The Royal Newfoundland Regiment Gallery will not open to the public until Saturday, July 2.  The Rooms is pleased to offer FREE admission to this exhibition on July 2 and 3.

 

Newfoundland advertisers enter the Great War

Archival Moment

February 1916  

War and Advertising

Evening Telegram February 1916

Evening Telegram
February 1916 (Click to enlarge)

In February 1916 the local St. John’s business T. J. Eden’s, the official agent in Newfoundland for “Bovril” announced with great fanfare that “fresh supplies were just received”. The news was delivered in the form of a large advertisement in the local newspapers. It was one of the first times that an advertisement featured a large drawing, containing a sketch showing the trenches of France.

Bovril is blended meat extract, originally created in 1870–1871. From the start, the product creator Johnston sought to associate Bovril with ‘strength’ or what he called the ‘vital principle of prime ox beef.’ In the early days of the First World War, Bovril positioned its product as meat extract used to make gravy and drunk as a warming and strengthening beverage.

The advertisement was quick to catch the imagination of newspaper readers. Newfoundlanders were starving for news of the war and this advertisement brought the war home to them in an illustration. The caption on the advertisement read:

“Bovril at the Front”

Not only were readers drawn to the advertisement because it captured in an illustration a realistic war scene, the advertisement also included a testimonial “from a letter at the Front.” The testimonial read:

“But for a plentiful supply of Bovril Idon’t know what we should have done. During “Neuve Chapelle” and other engagements we had big caldrons going over log fires, and we collected and brought in the wounded we gave each man a good drink of hot Bovril and I cannot tell you how grateful they were.”

Bringing attention to the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle was no accident. The first time that the Canadian Expeditionary Force had been fully involved in action with the enemy was at Neuve-Chapelle. The same Canadian troops trained with the men of the Newfoundland Regiment at Salisbury Plain, England.  Many Newfoundlanders knew from letters from their sons about these young Canadian’s.

These were the days before ‘advertising standards ‘were established and advertisers often laid claim to improbable cures. The Bovril advertisement uses the horror of war to stress the benefits that a hot, comforting drink can bring.

Bovril, was appealing to soldiers and their families as an aid to staying healthy, these soldier boys would be fit and warm when on duty.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: B 14-39; T.J. Eden's Store, 112 Military Road, St. John's

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: B 14-39; T.J. Eden’s Store, 112 Military Road, St. John’s

What Newfoundland mother, with a son in the trenches with the Newfoundland Regiment or on the seas with the Royal Navy would resist going down to T.J. Eden’s and getting a supply for her son?

Advertisers had entered the war.

 

 

Recommended Archival Collection:   From your home visit the website, The Great War: http://www.rnr.therooms.ca/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp This site contains the military files of over 2200 soldiers ( we have another 4000 on microfilm) from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment who served in the First World War. These files are searchable by name or by community and will therefore provide invaluable information for all viewers, but will be of particular interest to those who are conducting either family or community research.

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium. 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.