Tag Archives: Great \war

“The soldiers paired off and waltzed around the field …”

Archival Moment

September 21, 1914

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-69; Payday 1st N.F.L.D. Reg. [Regiment][Pleasantville] Note the Greatcoats.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-69; Payday 1st N.F.L.D. Reg. [Regiment][Pleasantville]
Note the Greatcoats.

There was quite the party at Pleasantville, St. John’s on September 20, 1914  the local papers reported  that:

“A large number of citizens visited Pleasantville where an enjoyable concert was given by the Catholic Cadet Corps (C.C.C. ) Band. The programme was an excellent one, and as the band played the “Pink Lady” waltz, several of the soldiers paired off and waltzed around the field. They wore their military great coats and as they moved to the strains of the waltz, the sight was a novel and attractive one.”

The men were no doubt proud of their new greatcoats that had just arrived from Halifax. Why not show the off! A greatcoat, also known as a watchcoat, is a large overcoat typically made of wool designed for warmth and protection against the weather. Its collar and cuffs can be turned out to protect the face and hands from cold and rain, and the short cape around the shoulders provides extra warmth.

It was also recounted that a young boy from the city wanted to entertain the soldiers. The newspapers reported:

 

“During the intervals the small boy with the mouth organ entertained a number of lads and lasses to a programme of quadrilles, which were danced in fine style on the bridge.”

 

This was one of the last concert events at Pleasantville that was scheduled before the Newfoundland Regiment departed Newfoundland to fight for King and Country, on October 4, 1914.

The St. John’s Evening Telegram reported that many of the young soldiers were very conscious of their responsibilities.

“The scene at the camp was military in every particular, and amid the joviality that prevailed, the guards slowly paced their grounds apparently unconscious of aught but duty. Patriotism was everywhere resplendent amongst those that visited the scene and the beautiful blending of duty and pleasure in the soldier’s life was manifested in a marked degree.”

One of the privileges that a soldier of the Great War was entitled to upon his return home was the “privilege of retaining his uniform including great coat”  (Department of Militia, The Sailor and Soldiers Handbook Published by the Civil Re-Establishment Committee, January, 1919).

Recommended Archival Collection: Great War service records of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment are available on line, those not on line are available at the The Rooms Provincial Archives on microfilm.  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 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.

Berry Pickers and Shooting Instructors

Archival Moment

August 27, 1914

The Rifle Range is in the Southside Hills. Stay out of the berry patches.

The Rifle Range is in the Southside Hills. Stay out of the berry patches.

With the declaration of war on August 4, 1914, the task of turning civilian volunteers in Newfoundland into something resembling a military force fell to the Musketry Committee.

On August 27, 1914 a meeting of the Musketry Committee was held at the Catholic Cadet Corps (C.C.C.) Armoury. Sergeant Instructor Joseph Moore, a former professional soldier with 21 years’ service in the British Army, outlined the plan of training the recruits.

The first of the men to sign up for the Newfoundland Regiment were coming from the established paramilitary brigade headquarters of the Church Lads’ Brigade, the Catholic Cadet Corps, the Methodist Guards, the Newfoundland Highlanders, and the Legion of Frontiersman.

Instructor Moore explained that the preliminary training would consist of shooting and the cleaning and proper care of rifles. A decision had been made that squads of 50 men under the command Instructor Moore would be given three days practice at the Southside Range after which they will continue their training at Pleasantville.

Pleasantville, at Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s with the declaration of war, 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.

Reports indicate that “quite a number of gentlemen had volunteered as instructors, and all arrangements for efficient training of the recruits had practically been finalized.”

This Committee were working with the Equipment Committee with regard to the procuring of rifles, but no decision had yet been reached as to which rifle would be adopted.

Those living near the Southside Rifle Range were not amused. The hills east of St. John’s  called the  South Side Hills  were known as  the best berry picking grounds  in the town. Within days notices were posted in the local newspapers and about the Southside warning residents to stay away from the rifle range.  Their traditional berry picking patches were now off limits.

Some it is reported were to chance a stray bullet from the Rifle Range in order to get their bucket of beloved blue berries!

Recommended Archival Collection: Great War  service records of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment are available on line, those not on line are available at the The Rooms Provincial Archives on microfilm.  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

 

 

Talk of War begins in Newfoundland

Archival Moment

July 30, 1914

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. E 39-4; Three sailors from HMS Calypso

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. E 39-4; Three sailors from HMS Calypso

One of the first indications that Newfoundland would become part of what was shaping up to become a “big European War” later to be called the ‘First World War’ came by way of notice in the Evening Telegram on July 30, 1914. The St. John’s newspaper reported:

“We understand that the commanding officers of the H.M.S. Calypso have been instructed by the Admiralty to have all the Reservists in readiness and within calling distance, if their services are required. The total strength of the Reserves is about 600.”

This information came as a surprise to many in Newfoundland, most naval reservist were fishermen and were more preoccupied with their fishing enterprise than they were about the situation in Europe. But those following world and current events had heightened concerns about a European war. Calling the reservists to action just in case of war was a  natural sequence.

The Editor of the Telegram went on to write:

“Without a doubt the odds are largely in favor of a Big European War, in which practically all the Powers will be involved.”

The Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) was formed in 1902 through the combined efforts of Newfoundland and Great Britain. In September of that year the H.M.S. Calypso was commissioned for service in Newfoundland as naval training vessel. The reservists on board the H.M.S. Calypo were trained in gunnery instruction, fire station exercises, physical training, and using rifles and dumbbells. The Calypso was moored in St. John’s Harbour.

On August 2, 1914, the talk of war became a reality; the reservists of Royal Naval Reserve were called for active duty. Posters were placed throughout St. John’s notifying Newfoundland reservists to report to the Calypso as quickly as possible. Another vessel, the S.S. Kyle was dispatched to pick up reservists in various outport locations on the way south from the Labrador fishery.Notification was made to outport Magistrates that reservists are to report immediately to St. John’s.

Commander A. MacDermott expected problems with the call-up, as it was the height of the fishing season, but his fears were unfounded. MacDermott reported that once the call was issued every man-jack of them (responded) and with no trouble at all, though many of them had to walk fifty or sixty miles to the nearest steamer or railway station to catch their ride to St. John’s.

Mr. William Clance of St. John’s is reported in The Telegram to be the first reservist to report for duty on board the Calypso, and is awarded a prize of £2.

On August 4, 1914, Great Britain and her Dominions, including Newfoundland and Canada, were officially at war as a result of Germany declaring war on Belgium. Great Britain had giving Austria-Hungary an ultimatum to stand down from hostilities. When Austria-Hungary did comply a state of war was declared at 11.00pm

Most Newfoundlanders give credit to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment (The First 500 or Blue Putees) as being the first Newfoundlanders to go on active wartime service, they were not. It was the 106 seamen of the Newfoundland Division of the Newfoundland Reserve who went aboard the H.M.S Niobe in St. John’s September 6, 1914 that were the first that went aboard, setting out on a war footing.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives read the correspondence dated 1914 concerning, Recruiting, Royal Naval Reserve GN 2.14.302 ; and Mobilization; state of the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve GN 2.14.311 from the Office of the Colonial Secretary fonds.

Recommended Exhibit:  Beaumont – Hamel and The Trail of the Caribou: The Rooms, Level 2: 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.fcJ6w2Vi.dpuf

Recommended Reading: Codfish, Cruisers and Courage: The Newfoundland Division of the Royal Naval Reserve, 1900 – 1922. By W. David Parsons.

 

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.

 

Telling the story of war in song: the men of the Goulds

Archival Moment

July 1, 1916

The Songs of World War One

The Songs of World War One

Deeply rooted in the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador is the tradition of telling stories in song. During the First World War whole communities rallied around the young men from their towns that signed up to fight for King and Country, singing songs that extolled the virtues of the young men. Typically the songs followed established tunes, well known in the communities with new lyrics added that resonated with the people of the place.

During the First World War, if you attended a party in the Goulds (on the outskirts of St. John’s) it would be likely that you would hear sung “The Boys from the Goulds” sung to the tune of the old Irish song “Wearing of the Green.”

The Boys from the Goulds

Oh, people dear, did you hear

The news that’s near and far?

For our old dear boys here from the

Goulds

Are going to the war!

They are a crowd of stirring lads,

The truth to you I’ll tell;

They will shortly leave for Scotland

Where they will be trained there well.

Chorus

They’re the Boys from Newfoundland

The Brave Boys from Newfoundland

They will fight the Kaiser’s Army

They’re the Boys from Newfoundland

There is Weston William and Peter Finn,

James Howlett and Thos Clarke,

And William Frizell and Henry

They’re sure to do their part;

There is Perry Howlett and Willie Ryan

John Heffernan and Joe White.

Then they go to fight the Germans

They mean to show their might.

 

Chorus

 

There’s James Walsh and Lawrence Murphy

Poor John Barton once so brave;

The latter two I mention

They have filled a soldier’s grave.

Chorus

The men that are referred to in the song are:

Weston Williams, Regimental #: 3312. Age of Enlistment: 18.

Peter Finn, Regimental #: 3230. Age of Enlistment: 22.

James Joseph Howlett, Regimental #: 3313. Age of Enlistment: 19.

Thomas Clark, Regimental #: 3311 from Goulds, Age of Enlistment: 18

William Frizell, Regimental #: 3279. Age of Enlistment: 21

Pierre Howett, Regimental #: 3352. Age of Enlistment: 18

William Ryan, Regimental #:133. Age of Enlistment: 24

Michael Heffernan, Regimental #: 4316. Age of Enlistment: 26

Joseph White: Regimental #: 1241. Age of Enlistment: 20

James Walsh: Regimental #: 2341. Age of Enlistment: 22

Lawrence Murphy: Regimental #: 196. Age of Enlistment: 20

John Barton: Regimental # 1485. Age of Enlistment: 28

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Type  Newfoundland Regiment   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:

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.

Listen to the tune: ‘The Wearing of the Greene’ and sing the lyrics of the “The Boys from the Goulds” : http://www.ireland-information.com/irishmusic/thewearingofthegreen.shtml

A German Spy (or Artist) in Newfoundland?

Archival Moment

May 22, 1915

“Capture, transform and annihilate that sterile land of Newfoundland”

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 49-93; Rockwell Kent Cottage at Landfall, Brigus

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 49-93; Rockwell Kent Cottage at Landfall, Brigus

The celebrated American artist Rockwell Kent made his first visit to Newfoundland in 1910 visiting the Burin Peninsula with the hope of finding a place to establish an art school. In 1914, Kent returned to Newfoundland settling with his wife and children in the historic town of Brigus.

Kent was a big personality, in a small town, making it inevitable that the residents would be interested in their new neighbor. They were not amused with what they were witnessing. With anti German sentiment rising as World War I approached, Kent who had studied as a youth in Germany cavorted about the town singing German tunes and extolling the virtues of German culture.

There was also the matter of a very large order of eight tons of coal that he had ordered and purchased for his winter’s supply. To pour salt into the wound of rumor no locals were admitted to his studio that remained locked with a sign that read “CHART ROOM — WIRELESS STATION — BOMB SHOP.” The last straw was that he painted a German eagle underneath the sign.

The locals concluded that the coal was for German submarines that were lurking in the waters off Newfoundland and his studio was definitely a German spy station passing on naval intelligence to his German friends!

He had to go!!  The government of the day quietly investigated sending police constables to Brigus to interview him. Kent was not happy with the investigation. He wrote to Governor Davidson at Government House in St. John’s stating:

“if an investigation had been conducted by men of probity and understanding, as I from the beginning have demanded, instead of by half illiterate constables, themselves of the mob, it is impossible that I would now be leaving this country”

There were few who had sympathy for him. In accordance with the decree of the government he was compelled to depart Newfoundland on the steamer “Florizel” in 1915.

Not happy with the order to leave Newfoundland he took several parting shots at the people of Brigus and the people of Newfoundland generally. One was in a letter; the other was in a painting.

In a letter to the journal The New Republic on 22 May 1915 one of the most influential liberal magazines in the United States he wrote that he hoped some German would “capture, transform and annihilate that sterile land” of Newfoundland.

The painting that best reflects his frustration with Newfoundland is House of Dread. The painting depicts a drab house with a woman falling from a window and a man below hunched against the wall. Kent said of the painting “It is ourselves in Newfoundland, our hidden but prevailing misery revealed.”

One would think that this would have been the last of this troublesome painter but in 1967 Joseph Robert Smallwood, the Premier of Newfoundland and an admirer of Kent’s work decided to try and make amends. He wrote to him:

“I certainly would not blame you (Rockwell Kent) if you felt nothing but revulsion at the thought of Newfoundland and yet from all I have ever read of yours, and heard about you from mutual friends, I would truly be surprised if you had not taken it all with good humour … How can Newfoundland show her regard for you? …Would you come back here? Would you be this government’s guest on a visit back to Newfoundland, including Brigus? … Please forgive us for past injuries, and please be magnanimous enough to be our guest some time at your convenience …”

In July 1968 Kent did return to Newfoundland as a guest of the Newfoundland Premier. During his visit he was the toast of the town with the Premier being profuse in his apologies for the treatment that he had been given in 1915 and hosting a grand luncheon with several hundred guests. Kent seemed to be pleased with the reconciliation. In appreciation in 1968 he published a book, After Long Years that included a number of drawings from his time in Brigus. He dedicated the book to his new friend Joseph R. Smallwood.

The house that Kent made his home in Brigus was in in the area of Brigus called The Battery, The house, known today as the Kent Cottage at Landfall. The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery Division and Canada Council for the Arts, supports a series of summer Artist-in-Residence programs at the house. Since 2005, The Rooms and Landfall Trust have partnered to annually co-sponsor a summer Kent Cottage resident artist. In 2008, the Trust started an annual writer’s residence program at the Cottage.

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’  on Rockwell Kent?  Type his name 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 Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives, GN 1/10/0 Box 2. Letter’s of Rockwell Kent to Sir Walter Davidson, 1915.

Recommended Web Site: Landfall Trust of Brigus, Newfoundland and Labrador  http://www.landfalltrust.org/

 

 

 

 

“Sell the boots for the keep of the soldier’s graves in France”

Archival Moment

May 14, 1918

In the trenches ‘Seal skinned boots’ offered the best possible protection against trench foot.

In the trenches ‘Seal skinned boots’ offered the best possible protection against trench foot.

On May 14, 1918, Mr. Frederick Harris of Glovertown, Bonavista Bay received in the post a package that read:

“one package of effects, which belonged to your son, the late #2607 Private Eugene Harris of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.”

Twenty (20) year old Eugene had died in action in the trenches of France a few months earlier.

The package contained “one identity disc and one cigarette case.”

The package was also supposed to include a pair of seal skinned boots that the father had sent to his son but the father upon hearing that his son had died wrote to the war office and suggested:

“I would like you to sell the skin boots and give the money toward the keep of the soldier’s graves in France, the socks and mits I would like to be sent to my other son No. 3365 Private Clarence Harris in France. I don’t suppose he will need the boots as I sent him a pair when I sent the other dear boy the boots … “

When he was writing the letter Frederick Harris was not aware that his other son Clarence had also died. News had not yet reached the family.

Two of his sons lay dead in the trenches of France.

The Harris family like thousands of other families in Newfoundland upon hearing of the death of their sons were determined that if their child was to be buried in foreign soil that the grave be a respectable plot and well maintained. It was the prayer of this grieving father that the sale of the seal skinned boots would help in some small way to offer this dignity.

Five years following the death of his two sons Frederick Harris writing to the war office asked for a photo of the graves where his sons were buried. With photo in hand he wrote:

I received the photos of the grave of my boy Eugene Harris. Thanks very much.”

The only remembrance that the families had of their “soldier boys” was a photo of the grave that was hung in an honored place in the household and the few contents of the package of effects that was sent to them.

The men of the Newfoundland Regiment that fought in the trenches of France in the Great War suffered prolonged exposure of the feet to damp, unsanitary, and cold conditions that often lead to ‘trench foot.’ It was not unusual for young soldiers like Eugene Harris to write home and order ‘seal skinned boots’ that offered the best possible protection against the wet and cold.

The sale of Private Eugene Harris’s pair of seal skinned boots at the request of his father was one of the many acts of generosity shown by Newfoundlanders that would eventually see the erection of memorials in France and communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

Lest we forget!

Archival Exhibit: The Trail of the Caribou in Trench Maps: Level 3, Inside Archives Reference Room. The Rooms Provincial Archives collection of trench warfare maps provide researchers with an opportunity to learn more about our long and rich military history and the important role Newfoundland troops played during the First World War.

Recommended Website: Find the Regimental Records of the men of the Newfoundland Regiment here. This is a work in progress not all records are on line.  Search here: http://www.rnr.therooms.ca/part3_database.asp