Tag Archives: First World War

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.

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: Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War, this exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the province’s soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. This on line exhibit focuses on the World War I service records of the Regiment, available at the ARCHIVES on microfilm. http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp

 

A Call to Arms: Commemoration of the outbreak of the First World War

Archival Moment

August 4, 1914 – August 4, 2014

War has broken out with Germany

War has broken out with Germany

At exactly 9:25 p.m., August 4, 1914, Newfoundland Time, a telegram was received by Governor Davidson at Government House in St. John’s, advising him that Great Britain had declared war on Germany, and that Newfoundland was thus at war.

Governor Davidson immediately issued a “Call to Arms” and subsequently many Newfoundland men answered the call to serve in the Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the Merchant Marine, the Newfoundland Forestry Service, the Royal Flying Corps, the Canadian Army, the Volunteer Aid Detachments, and other units of the allied services.

Many Newfoundland women volunteered for service as nurses and ambulance drivers. The women of Newfoundland formed 250 branches of the Women’s Patriotic Association, a response and involvement without parallel in the British Empire.

On Monday evening, August 4, 2014, the Basilica of St. John the Baptist and St. Bonaventure’s College will host an ecumenical service of remembrance to mark the exact moment when Governor Davidson received the telegram.

The community, young and old and of all faith backgrounds are invited to gather for a unique celebration of remembrance and a re-commitment to peace in our time.

In First World War song, poetry, band music, story and prayer, travel back in time and stand in solidarity with the leaders, the youth and the families who gave of themselves so generously, and have continued to do so in the conflicts that have continued to plague our human family.

All are invited to join in this unique commemoration to mark the 100th anniversary of “The War to End All Wars.”

EVENT: Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Outbreak of World War I

DATE: AUGUST 4, 2014

TIME: 8:15 – 9:30 p.m.

SITE: Basilica-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

For more information on the event contact: Gary Browne: gary.browne@nf.sympatico.ca   or the Basilica Cathedral Parish 754-2170.

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. The World War I service records of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment are available at the archives on microfilm. 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.

RecruitingCOLLECTING 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

More than a pair of socks

Archival Moment

July 9, 1918

More than a pair of socks, knitting for their soldier boys.

More than a pair of socks, knitting for their soldier boys.

On July 9, 1918 the local paper, The Twillingate Sun, published a letter under the caption “Thanks for the Socks”. The letter was one of hundreds that would have been printed in local Newfoundland newspapers, it was a thank you letter from a young soldier (Edward G. Noftall) “Somewhere in France” thanking a young woman (Miss Clarke of Twillingate) for a pair of socks that she knit for him.

The letter gives considerable insight into a ‘home front’ war time activity.

In the early days of the First World War, the Patriotic Association of the Women of Newfoundland (W.P.A.) was formed with a mandate “to assist in aiding the British Empire in the present crisis by providing the necessities needed by our soldiers at the front.” The necessities that were identified were knitted socks, helmet liners, scarves, mittens and waistcoats for the men overseas. In every corner of Newfoundland and Labrador women were knitting for their ‘soldier boys.’

Many of these women decided to add a personal touch to the product that they had knitted inserting into the sock or mitten a note wishing the soldier well with their name and home address. Typically the sentiment of the note was “Into this sock I weave a prayer, That God keep you in His love and care.”

In May 1918, Edward Noftall, age 19, originally from Rocky Lane, St. John’s, Regimental #83 (one of the First 500) received a pair of socks from a Miss Clarke of Twillingate. Upon receiving the socks he felt compelled to write a note of thanks. He wrote:

Dear Miss CLARKE: – Just a note thanking you for the socks which were very nice indeed and in such a place as France. I know the people in Twillingate must work hard working for the soldiers of Nfld. I don’t know if I know any of your friends out here, but I can tell you that all the boys that are here at present are feeling well. My address is 83 E.G. NOFTALL, 1st Royal Nfld. Regt. B.E.F., France.

Your friend, Ted.

Some young soldiers upon receiving their knitted socks with notes inserted while they were in the trenches in France were not content with sending a note of thanks, some resolved when they returned to Newfoundland that they would visit the young woman who had knit their socks. Several cases have been documented anecdotally of young soldier boys returning, seeking out their knitter and in some cases, they developed romantic relationships and they married. (If you are aware of such a case please let me know. I would like to document as many cases as possible.)

Edward (Ted) Noftall was never to meet his Miss Clarke in person. This young man who had marched with the First 500 from Pleasantville to The Florizel, had seen action at Gallipoli in 1915 had been hospitalized several times for injuries in the trenches died of appendicitis at the 3rd Casualty Hospital, Belgium a few short months after he wrote his letter of thanks.

Miss Clarke and the thousands of other women knit many socks and wrote many comforting notes that they inserted in the heels. It is estimated that between 1914 and 1916, the women produced 62,685 pairs of socks, 8,984 pairs of cuffs (mittens with a trigger finger), and 22,422 mufflers.

For some they were simply a pair of grey socks, for the young soldiers in the cold trenches, the socks were a connection with home, the socks reminded the soldiers that at home in Newfoundland they were loved and remembered.

 A Pair of Grey Socks

A woman is knitting most all the day

A sock that shapes from a ball of grey,

Her fingers fly, and the needles click,

Fast grows the sock so soft and thick.

“Why do you knit at such a pace,

Dear woman, with patient face?

Is it for tireless little feet,

Or covering warm for the huntsman fleet?

“Or maybe for fisherman strong and bold,

Who fights the sea when the winds blow cold.

Or perhaps for the strong brave pioneer,

Who faces new worlds with dauntless air?”

“No, no, my child, ’tis for none of those

That I patiently knit in endless rows;

’Tis for nearer and dearer” — then a broken pause,

“For those who are fighting their country’s cause.

“For those who sailed on the ocean wide,

To do their bit ’gainst a lawless tribe.

Thus, I do for my country a woman’s part,

Who give the pride of their mother’s heart.”

“But what means the white row I see right here,

Is it a sign to make the pair?”

“No, that marks the socks for the slender youth,

Who does his part for the cause of truth.

“The red is the sign for the hardy man,

At the height of his strength in life’s short span;

But young and old alike do the same,

For life or death, for honour or fame.

“Blue in the sock is the medium size,

The colour dear to the sailors’ wives,

So in the grey socks, red, white and blue

Form our colours so bright and true.

“And that is why all the livelong day,

I sit and knit in the same old way;

And into each sock I weave a prayer

That God keep our boys in His love and care.”

Recommended Reading: “A Pair of Grey Socks. Facts and Fancies. Lovingly dedicated to the boys of the Newfoundland Regiment. And to every woman who has knitted a pair of grey socks. By Tryphena Duley. Verses by Margaret Duley.”

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. This on line exhibit focuses on the World War I service records of the Regiment, available at the ARCHIVES on microfilm. Some of the service records 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.

Knitting Socks: Demonstration: Sock Knitting: In just two years, the women of Newfoundland and Labrador knit 62,685 pairs of socks for the troops in the First World War. Come to the Collecting the Great War: Enlisting Your Help exhibition to watch a pair of grey socks being made, using the original pattern, and try your hand at knitting. Demonstrations are ongoing every Thursday from 2 – 4pm on Level 2 at The Rooms.

“White feathers for the slackers… ”

Archival Moment

July 1916

For King and Country, I Offered.

For King and Country, I Offered.

In the early days of the First World War a new word began to slip into the everyday language of Newfoundlanders especially in our poetry and song. The word was “slackers” commonly used to describe someone who was not participating in the war effort, especially someone who avoided military service.

Corporal Vincent S. Walsh of St. Mary’s, St. Mary’s Bay, Newfoundland, Regimental # 1958 in a poem that he penned while on furlough in Weybridge, Surrey, England in 1916 was among those to use the term. He wrote: “Now I pity the poor slackers. When they are forced to go … “

Walsh’s poem was typical of the day, full of patriotic fervor, written with the intention of encouraging (some would say) shaming the young men who had not signed up, to sign up to fight for ‘King and Country.’

The pressure to sign up would have been considerable. One author went so far as to write “There are three things in this world that Tommy hates: a slacker, a German; and a trench-rat; it’s hard to tell which he hates worst.”

In Newfoundland, the determination to identify “slackers’ took the form of shaming the young men. Women  would hand out  or mail “white feathers” the symbol of cowardice, to men not in uniform. The purpose of this gesture was to shame “every young ‘slacker.’

The practice became so so common that the Editor of the St. John’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram, on  29 November 1916  pleded with the “young women and others”  to carefully consider what they were doing.

The young ladies or others who are sending through the mails, white feathers to the young men who they believe are “slackers” should be very careful that the young men in question are justly entitled to receive them , as we know of a number of cases where quite an injustice has been done,. The victims in some cases are so deformed that it is apparent to the average person that they would not be permitted an examination let alone the privilege of wearing a “rejected” badge.

In Newfoundland and other countries in order not to be “called out as a slacker”special lapel pin were  created that read “For King and Country, I Have Offered” or “I Have Volunteered”  or “Rejected”  Upon seeing the lapel pin on the young men the general public knew that this man was not a slacker but had been refused service because of some medical condition.

The enthusiasm for war was so great that even the women in Newfoundland were determined that they would do their bit for fear of being called ‘slackers’. Women in every corner of the province joined knitting and sewing circles or volunteered with various groups involved in patriotic endeavors.

Sybil Johnson of St. John’s wrote in her diary “that she could not bear to be a slacker”   so in December 1916 left St. John’s for England where she joined the Volunteer Aid Detachment (VAD’s). She was one of the many young Newfoundland women who received a few weeks of nurse’s training and were then assigned to the casualty and battlefield hospitals in England and on the continent.

The enthusiasm of the war and determination to sign up was the theme of much of our poetry and songs of the First World War such as the poem written by Vincent S. Walsh were typical of the day. He wrote:

A Soldier’s Song

Once I was a policeman

With a billy in my hand,

And little were my thoughts then

of leaving Newfoundland.

Then my King and Country called me,

So I said that I should go

And learn how to use a rifle

To fight the German foe.

Ten thousand have responded,

Their country for to save,

They are the kind of men we want

For there are none so brave.

Now I pity the poor slackers

When they are forced to go,

To cross the foaming ocean,

To fight the German foe.

Now I hope they will take warning

By what I am going to say,

Don’t put of enlisting for another day,

Go over to your J.P. and have

You name put down,

The get aboard the Portia bound

for St. John’s town.

They will be there to meet you

If you have pluck enough to go,

They will bring you up and train you

How to fight the German foe.

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 World War I service records of the Regiment are available at the archives on microfilm. Many of the service records are available on line: 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.

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