Tag Archives: Florizel

Father and son embrace.

Archival Moment

March 31, 1914

Sealing DIn 1911, Reuben Crewe was one of a handful of sealers who swam to safety when their vessel sank in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Afterwards Reuben’s wife, Mary, insisted that he give up sealing. She could no longer bear the sleepless nights of worry for his safety.

It was a rite of passage for the young men of Newfoundland to try and find a berth on one of the sealing vessels going to the ice to prosecute the seal fishery.  In March 1914, Albert John Crewe  had just turned 16 and he was determined that he was going to go.

His mother refused to listen to her young son. The boy insisted, he was determined go.  Finally she relented but she insisted he would only go if his father took him under his wing.

Ruben Crewe agreed. He and his son signed up on the S.S. Newfoundland with a group of other men from Elliston on March 4, 1914.

On March 30th, 1914,   Ruben and his son John Albert with another 164 men left the SS Newfoundland and headed towards the SS Stephano seven miles away. For the next two days they were lost in a vicious blizzard; the captain of each ship assuming the men had found refuge on the other.  78 men were to freeze to death, including Ruben and Albert.

Cassie Brown in her book ‘Death on The Ice’ wrote about the father and son.  They had struggled for hours to stay alive, the father encouraging his son to walk to move.

“But now, father and son were unable to encourage each other any further. Albert lay on the ice to die, and his father lay beside him, drawing his son’s head up under his fishermen’s guernsey in a last gesture of protection.  They clasped in each other arms, they died together.”

Rescuers from the S.S. Bellaventure found Reuben and Albert John frozen in an embrace, the father attempting to shield his teenage son from the elements.

Mary, the wife and mother, recounted later that she was awakened the night of the disaster to see Reuben and Albert John kneeling at her bed and that she was struck by the look of peace on their faces.

The embrace of father and son has been immortalized in a statue that was created by renowned bronze sculptor and visual artist Morgan MacDonald. The statue was erected in Elliston, Newfoundland commemorating those lost in the tragedy.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives see GN 121 this collection consists of the evidence taken before the Commission of Enquiry regarding the S.S. Newfoundland. The collection includes the Sealers Crew Agreement and the evidence given by the surviving members of the crew. Evidence entered concerning the loss of the SS Southern Cross is also included on this collection.

Recommended Film:   The National Film Board’s documentary 54 Hours written by Michael Crummey, uses animation, survivor testimony and archival footage to create the story of the Newfoundland Sealing Disaster.  View this  short film from your own home at https://www.nfb.ca/film/54_hours

Crew List: In the days and months following the loss of the S.S. Southern Cross and the tragedy of the loss of the men of the S.S. Newfoundland there was much confusion about the names and the number of men that did die. You will find the definitive list of all those that did die as well as the survivors at http://www.homefromthesea.ca/

Recommended Reading:  PERISHED by Jenny Higgins (2014) offers a unique, illustrative look at the 1914 sealing disaster through pull-out facsimile archival documents.


“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




Last Body from the Titanic Recovered

June 6, 1912

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives Division, A 9-42, SS Algerine

On June 6, 1912, the last body of those that had died on the Titanic was delivered to Halifax, Nova Scotia for burial.  The body had been recovered by the steamer Algerine, out of St. John’s, Newfoundland, the last of four ships chartered by the White Star Line to search for bodies in the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic.

The Algerine was a cargo and passenger ship (and part-time sealer) owned by Bowring Brothers Limited ofSt. John’s. She sailed under the command of Captain John Jackman. Also aboard were chief officer Richard B. Giles and undertakers Andrew Carnell from Carnell’s Funeral Home and a Mr. Lawrence the undertaker with Lawrence Brothers.

The White Star Line owners were receiving constant criticism  from families wanting to  bury and mourn their loved one’s.  To show that they were attempting to recover the bodies and  that these bodies were being treated with respect and dignity the chartered ships each had an undertaker.

The Algerine left St. John’s on Thursday, 16 May 1912 loaded with ice and salt for the preservation of the bodies and  coffins.  While her search persisted for three weeks, she recovered only one body, that of Saloon Steward James McGrady (Body number 330). His remains were brought back to Halifax on 6 June and trans-shipped to Halifax aboard the steamer Florizel.  He was buried in Halifax on June 12, 1912, the last victim of the Titanic disaster to be buried.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives Division or  the virtual exhibit:  One Hundred Year Later: Titanic in the Archives: http://www.exhibits.therooms.ca/titanic/default.asp

Recommended Museum Exhibit:    Here, We Made A Home
Where:  Level 4, The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery is home to a number of artifacts linked to the Titanic including  the Titanic Life jacket.





Spanish Naval officers remember countrymen who died in Newfoundland waters


October 12, 2013

Florizel Memorial with the names of the Spanish seamen who perished at Mount Carmel Cemetery, St. John’s.

Spanish naval officers in St. John’s will be observing ‘Hispanic Day’ on Saturday, October 12 with a memorial service at Mount Carmel Cemetery.  The members of the Spanish navy will be remembering 15 Spanish sailors who died in the sinking of the Florizel of Cappahayden, NL in 1918.

October 12 in Spain is known as Día de la Raza or National Day of Spain. This day unites all Spanish speaking nations and cultures in celebration with memorials, parades, dances and food. October 12, 1492, is also the day that Christopher Columbus stepped foot on the new world marking the moment of the first encounter between Europeans and America.

The memorial service for the 15 Spanish victims of the Florizel will be the second at the memorial grave site by Spanish government officials. Approximately 20 Spanish naval officers and friends will parade to the grave site and raise the national flag of Spain to remember their countrymen.

The Florizel left St. John’s on 23 February 1918, for Halifax and then on to New York, . among the passengers were many prominent St. John’s businessmen. Shortly after the vessel left port the weather turned nasty and after nine hours of steaming southward the Florizel crashed full speed into the rocks off Cappahayden on the Southern Shore.  Ninety-three  (93) crew and passengers perished, while 44 were miraculously rescued after 27 hours spent braving punishing seas and bitter cold. One of the passengers on this ship was a three year old little girl named Betty Munn who was sailing with her father; she was torn from his arms in this disaster. In memory of her death there is a statue of Peter Pan (the fairy tale she loved most) in BowringPark.


Most of the Spanish sailors working on the Florizel worked as firemen. The Spaniard’s were the men responsible for keeping the coal feed to the engine furnace of the Florizel.  ‘Stoker’ and ‘fireman’ are two different titles for the same job, but the term ‘fireman’ is almost exclusively used on ships.

Given their place on the Florizel at the time of impact they would have been among the first to die. They were:

RAMON REZ- Messroom Stewart,Spain.

ORESCARIE- Fireman,Spain


JOSE MENDEZ- Fireman,Spain

TOMAS GARCIA- Fireman,Spain


MANUEL TAVER- Fireman,Spain.





JOSE VILA- Fireman,Spain.

F. BEQUIRA- Fireman,Spain

E. RODRIQUES- Fireman,Spain.

FRANCISCO FORNAS, fireman,Spain. (Body not recovered)

The service will begin at 11:00 a.m. at Mount Carmel Cemetery located at Kennas Hill and Logy Bay Road.  All are welcome.

(Please forward this notice to friends and family who may have  some connection to the Florizel Disaster. The full list of the  passengers and crew of the ill-fated Florizel are: http://www.newfoundlandshipwrecks.com/Florizel/Documents/list_lost_and_saved_crew.htm

Recommended Archival  Collection: GN 123: Take some time to come to visit the  Provincial Archives at The Rooms and explore  the seven volumes of typed transcripts, passenger lists, a list of the crew and passengers lost, manifests and customs clearance, the Florizel crew agreements and the report of the Minister of Marine and Fisheries regarding the wreck of the Florizel.

Recommended Reading: A Winter’s Tale: The Wreck of the Florizel By Cassie Brown, Flanker Press, 1997.

Recommended Link http://archivalmoments.ca/2012/02/an-ocean-horror-that-has-come-home-the-ss-florizel/