Tag Archives: First World War

His broken-hearted mother …”

Archival Moment

July 1, 1916

Greene FWW CollectionIn the wake of the death and carnage of Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916 many mothers in Newfoundland and Labrador clung to the hope that their sons did not die but had been taken as Prisoners of War (POW). They were desperate to have any shred of evidence. Mothers, like Catherine Andrews of 249 Water Street, St. John’s wrote letters to government officials urging them to do all that they could to find their sons.  She had three sons that signed up to fight for ‘King and Country’.  The government typically responded:

Dear Madam,

For some time past the Imperial Government have been making enquiries in relation to those men of the First Newfoundland Regiment who have been reported missing since the action of the 1st July. I very much regret to state, however, that from the correspondence which has taken place …. it is evident that none of them are Prisoners of War in Germany, and the authorities are, therefore, reluctantly forced to the conclusion that all these gallant men [including] one of whom was very dear to you, were killed in that fateful action on the 1st of July.

I desire to express to you on behalf of the Government, as well as for myself, the sincerest sympathy in this time of sorrow. We feel the loss of our loved ones, but it will, no doubt, be some consolation to you to think that he – for whom you now mourn- willingly answered the call of King and Country, did his part nobly, and fell, facing the foe, in defence of the principles of Righteousness, Truth and Liberty. Though he has laid down the earthly weapons of warfare, he now wears the Soldier’s Crown of Victory and his name will be inscribed upon the Glorious Roll of Honor, and be held in fragrant memory by all his fellow countrymen.

When the victory is won, and Peace again reigns upon the earth, it will be a comforting thought to you that in this glorious achievement he bore no small part.

Like many in Newfoundland, this determined mother, Catherine Andrews, could not comprehend the staggering toll of Beaumont Hamel. Almost a year later, she contacted government officials, requesting that they publish a photograph of her son, in hopes that someone might recognize him:

 The letter, dated 21 May 1917, was addressed:

 “ To whom it may concern.   [I] don’t know if this is the correct address…. I am sending my darling son’s photo to you to see if it will be of any use to you as there are now hopes of being able to trace our missing men. You will see by the photo that he was posted as missing on July 1st 1916 and later I was sent official notice that he was believed killed in action, but there are many of us who believe they are alive. If you have any proof of my son’s death will you kindly send such to me, his broken-hearted mother.

 I have received some letters we sent him stamped with the two words: “Casualty verified”. Please explain how that can be possible and, if true, do please send me anything you may have in personal property or belongings of his… I shall be very thankful for any news of him or his affairs. I have one [soldier] son now at Wandsworth [Hospital] and another still in France with the Canadian Royal Engineers.

 Very respectfully,

Mrs. Catherine Andrews

When informed that no information was available about her son’s death, Mrs. Andrews wrote the governor:

To His Excellency Governor Davidson

Sir,

 As the mother of one of our fallen heroes I wish to see you on a very important matter. Will you kindly arrange for me to see you at the very earliest possible date and if that is not possible may I see Lady Davidson instead.

 The private secretary to the Governor contacted the Regimental Record Office; unfortunately, Joe Andrews, like so many other Newfoundland soldiers was missing, leaving no personal effects, no identification discs, no grave, no memory of his last words. Sometimes the families found out the circumstances of their son’s death several years later.

(This narrative originally appeared as part of a dramatic reading ‘Soldiers’ Stories’ written and researched by Jessie Chisholm using archival material from the Rooms Provincial Archives.)

On July 1 take some time to visit our National War Memorial, St. John’s or the War Memorial in your home town. Remember, Catherine Andrews and the many other mothers who lost their sons.

Recommended Archival Collection: Search individual soldier’s files here:  https://www.therooms.ca/thegreatwar/in-depth/military-service-files/introduction

“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.”

Search Individual Soldiers Files here:  https://www.therooms.ca/thegreatwar/in-depth/military-service-files/database

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

 

 

 

On the brutal front lines of war

Fallen Soldier’s Death Penny

Sacrifice: Young Canadians and Newfoundlanders on the brutal front lines of war

From the fields of Flanders to the shores of Gallipoli, more than 640,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders served in the First World War. Here, from diaries, military records and letters sent home, Tu Thanh Ha retraces the wartime journeys of some of these men and women

By TU THANH HA,
Globe and Mail
NOVEMBER 9, 2018

JAMES MOORE
When the war began, Newfoundland was still 35 years from joining Canada. A British dominion, it raised its own regiment. In St. John’s, James Moore, a 22-year-old longshoreman with a heart tattooed on his right arm, was among those who would be known as “The First Five Hundred”
Original documents:  See the personnel file for James Moore at The Rooms

Recommended Archival Collection: Search individual soldier’s files here: https://www.therooms.ca/thegreatwar/in-depth/military-service-files/introduction

 

GEORGE GOUDIE
A paper-mill timekeeper in the company town of Grand Falls, George Goudie was 18 when he headed to St. John’s to enlist in the Newfoundland Regiment in March, 1916. By the following spring, just a few kilometres south of the fighting at Vimy Ridge, Corporal Goudie’s unit attacked the German lines in the Battle of Arras – and were met by a brutal counterattack. The regiment had gone to battle with 521 men; it suffered 487 casualties. Cpl. Goudie was reported missing.
Original documents: See the personnel file for James Moore at The Rooms

Recommended Archival Collection: Search individual soldier’s files here:https://www.therooms.ca/thegreatwar/in-depth/military-service-files/introduction

 

Read the full article here:  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-portraits-of-sacrifice-young-canadians-on-the-brutal-front-lines-of/

The stories of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians during the First World War

Photo Credit: CIBC senior vice-president and Eastern Canada region head Sylvain Vinet (left) and The Rooms director Anne Chafe  at the launch of the companion catalogue for the exhibition of the same name, “Beaumont-Hamel and the Trail of the Caribou.” – Juanita Mercer

The stories of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians during the First World War at The Rooms’  are now available in print.

The award-winning exhibition, and now this publication, both document the effects of the First World War on the province — on those who fought, on the families and communities left behind, and on the politics, economy and future of the province.

Read More: http://www.thetelegram.com/news/local/the-rooms-launches-exhibition-catalogue-208277/

 

 

 

 

NEW Royal Newfoundland Regiment postcard and photograph album now online

Royal Newfoundland Regiment postcard and photograph album now online

Eric Ellis Collection

Photo Credit: Eric Ellis: A 8-34; H Company, Newfoundland Regiment (detail)

The Rooms has in recent year made it a priority to scan and make available online material related to the First World War (1914 – 1918) and the most recent online offering is the Eric Ellis album of photographs and postcard.  (VA 77).  The 150 photographs and postcards were collected by Ellis, a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

Eric Ellis was educated in St. John’s. He enlisted in the First Newfoundland Regiment (later the Royal Newfoundland Regiment) on 9 October 1915, he was 20 years old. He served in the army until the end of World War I and was promoted three times: Corporal (27 October 1915), Acting Sergeant (11 August 1916) and Second Lieutenant (18 May 1917). During his service he earned a certificate from the Scottish Command School of Musketry which qualified him in small arms instruction. Following active duty in France, Belgium and Germany (1918), he was discharged on 15 February 1919 and was placed on reserve. After the war he married Elsie H. Churchill (1892-1975) in 1923; they had one daughter, Elsie C..

By 1935, Ellis was an assistant supervisor in the Butterine Factory in St. John’s. The following year, he was employed as assistant supervisor at the Browning Harvey beverage bottling plant. He worked there for many years and attained the position of plant manager of the company’s St. John’s Ropewalk Lane plant.

Ellis died in 1982 and was interred in the Topsail Road Anglican Cemetery, St. John’s.

The photographs and postcards depict members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and activities, scenes of war damage [1914-1919] and scenes throughout Europe including Belgium, France, Germany and Russia.

To view the collection:  http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/therooms_permalink.html?key=47963

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