Tag Archives: Great \war

“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

 

 

 

Patrick’s Cove man “… represents the Dead who rest in France.”

Archival Moment

April 13, 1921

The-Call-To-Duty-Join-The-Army-For-Home-And-CountryWhen the United States entered the Great War of 1914-1918 it was only to be expected that sons of Newfoundland living in the United States would be amongst the sailors and soldiers who would join the American ranks.

Newfoundlanders living in the United States joined the Americans in the hundreds. Some died a hero’s death. The government of the United States had decided (if a request was made by parents or next of kin) to remove from foreign soil the bodies of those killed in war and bring them home for burial. Thousands were transferred, amongst those bodies was one destined for Newfoundland.

The dead soldier was Private Anthony McGrath, a native of Patrick’s Cove, Cape Shore, Placentia Bay, the son of George McGrath. Anthony had been working in New York when the United States declared war on Germany. Shortly afterwards he enlisted in the 106th Infantry Battalion of New York. After training he embarked with his unit as a part of the American Expeditionary Force to France, and in short order was in the front line trenches.

On September 27th, 1918, in the Argonne district, Anthony McGrath sealed his patriotism with his blood, when he was killed in action. The Meuse-Argonne offensive, in the Argonne forest (Sept 26–Nov 11), was their biggest operation and victory, in which Sergeant Alvin York became a national hero (played by Gary Cooper in a 1941 movie).

In the spring of 1921 the remains of Anthony McGrath were removed from France, brought to the United States, and then forwarded to Newfoundland.

In St. John’s, the newly formed Great War Veterans Association (G.W.V.A.) and Newfoundland Militia Department were consulted and arrangements made for a suitable military escort to meet the body on arrival of coastal steamship Kyle in the city.

Upon being notified the G.W.V.A. took charge of all arrangements and issued an appeal to all veterans to assemble at the dock pier, on arrival of S.S. Kyle to do honor to the remains of their deceased comrade. Permission was granted to all sailors and soldiers to wear uniforms and it was requested that all who could do so to wear them, as also for all American sailors or soldiers in St. John’s and vicinity to attend the funeral.

Commenting on the arrangements, the St. John’s newspaper the “Daily News” reported:

“This is an unique occasion in that it is the first body of a Newfoundland soldier who fell in France to be brought back for interment in his homeland …”

Another quotation from the same paper states:

“…. a Newfoundland soldier is being carried from the battlefields in France to find a resting place in his own country, and preparations are being made to pay him due respect in this instance, for he, after all, must represent the Dead who rest in France.”

The funeral procession paraded through the several communities on the Cape Shore, flags were flying at half-mast everywhere. All who could do so joined the funeral en- route to the soldier’s home, where, on April 13th, (1921) he was laid in his final resting place in the little cemetery on the hill overlooking Patrick’s Cove.

The final chapter was written in November, 1942, when representatives of the American Legion went from Argentia to Private McGrath’s grave at Patrick’s Cove and posthumously made him a member of the American Legion.

Anthony was the son of George McGRATH, age 65. He left to mourn his brother Bartholomew McGRATH, age 35; John J. McGRATH, age 25; George McGRATH, age 20; and sister Lucy F. McGRATH age 23.

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.rnr.therooms.ca/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp

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

Recommended Reading: Author: Collins, E.J. Repatriated: Veteran Magazine, July 1943, Vol. 14(1), pp. 93-95.

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.

 

 

 

 

A Soldiers’ Letter Home

Archival Moment

November 21, 1914

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

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

There was a tradition in the early days of the First World War that saw many of the letters that were written by young soldiers, to their loved ones, published in the local Newfoundland papers.

One of the first “Soldiers Letters”, written home, that was published, was dated November 1, 1914 from Private Frank Richardson, Regimental Number 66 to his parents, Mr. Thomas and Mrs. M. Richardson at 68 Bannerman Street St. John’s. The letter was published in the Evening Telegram on November 21, 1914. Private Frank Richardson was 19 years old.

Frank Richardson marched with 536 other men, on October 3, 1914 from the training camp at Pleasantville, St. John’s to board the SS Florizel, a steamer and sealing vessel that had been converted into a troopship. He with the others, that we now call the First 500 or Blue Puttees, was cheered on by a large gathering of citizens, including his parents. On 21 October the men of the Regiment arrived at Pond Farm Camp, England, there they spent seven muddy chilly weeks.

A reporter form the prestigious newspaper Time of London described Frank Richardson and his the Newfoundland Regiment as:

A smart Newfoundland contingent which has recently come in has the name of the colony similarly on its shoulder-straps. The newcomers are usually distinguished from the Canadians by their blue puttees. The type of man is the same-sturdy, strong, and unassuming. They are a splendid body of men, and had a great welcome from their brothers-in-arms.” (The Times of London , November 5, 1914)

All of the “soldiers letters” are interesting in that they give a unique perspective into the daily life and routine of a young soldier.

Frank Richardson’s  letter is typical in that it starts with a standard greeting, wishing his parents good health. He wrote:

“I write you hoping to find you as well in health and spirits as I am.” He continues “Father and mother don’t be downhearted. I am all right and hope that you are the same.”

Private Richardson was aware that his parents were extremely stressed because of rumors that his transport ship, the Florizel, that carried the First 500 from St. John’s to England had sunk. He wrote:

“You must have received a shock when you heard we were gone down. I mean the time the news spread down there that we were lost at sea, but we are not, the Germans will not put us down. There are better times coming.”

The letters tended to also make the promise of regular communication. The young soldier wrote:

“Last night we went over to the Y.M.C.A. It belongs to the Canadians. It is place for singing and dancing; you can buy what you like there, so I brought a book of writing paper with envelopes. I hope that you will soon write me.”

He continued:

“It takes a letter a long time to come from here, so don’t worry about not getting letters from me every week. I will make it a practice to write you every Sunday evening, and post it Monday, and you do the same father.”

A constant theme that can be found in the letters is the sense of urgency on the part of the young Newfoundland soldiers to be part of the war. All of these young soldiers wanted to be in the trenches fighting.   Private Richardson wrote:

“I wish that we were the front. We are going to get our guns tomorrow’ we have the whole fit out now.   All the boys are well and happy. Just now we received our guns and bayonets, some class of regiment now.”

The early letters were also very revealing about military location and military strategy. He wrote:

“The Turks have declared war on Russia. We may be going to Egypt, the Turks will try to get through there and we have to try and stop them. That is the talk that is going around there.”

Following the publication of the first batch of letters home in 1914 official censors and newspaper editors were careful to omit details about troop locations and morale.

Richardson concluded his first letter home with the line.

“So I close now in love. I am your loving son Frank.”

Frank Richardson did get his wish to get to the front. He saw action in Gallipoli, Turkey in 1915; he was wounded at Beaumont Hamel, France on July 1, 1916 requiring extended hospitalization. He was killed in action on August 16, 1917. It is not known if other letters that he wrote have survived.

National War Memorial: On Wednesday, 11 November 2015 at 10:55 a.m., the Honourable Frank F. Fagan, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador and Her Honour Patricia Fagan, will attend the Remembrance Day War Memorial Service at the National War Memorial where His Honour will lay the first wreath. Her Honour will lay a wreath on behalf of the Women’s Patriotic Association. Following the Service, His Honour will take the Salute in front of the Court House on Water Street.

Recommended Archival Collection:   From your home visit the website, The Great War: http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp  The site contains the military files of soldiers 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 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.

Recommended Museum Exhibit: Flowers of Remembrance: Level 2 Museum Vitrine: A number of flowers are associated with the First World War by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, including the familiar forget-me-not and poppy. Such commemorative flowers and their role in the collective memory of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are profiled. Using artifacts and period imagery relating to The Great War commemoration, The Rooms staff explore the significant role these flowers played across the last century

Recommended Song:   Recruiting Sergeant (Newfoundland-Great Big Sea) Recorded by Great Big Sea, Warner Music. Listen: http://www.wtv-zone.com/phyrst/audio/nfld/04/recruit.htm

 

How to name a war

Archival Moment

September 2, 1914

home1With the outbreak of war in August 1914 pundits began to coin phrases to best name this new conflict. In the very early days of the war the tendency had been to refer to it as the “European War.” As the war progressed and more nations became involved in the conflict it became known as the “Great War” and the “First World War”.

In Newfoundland, the first term given to the conflict was “The Great War” the term was first used on September 2, 1914. Copying an article from the New York Independent the St. John’s, Evening Telegram reported:

 Some wars name themselves, the Crimean War, The Civil War, the Franco – Prussian War, the Thirty Year war, the Revolutionary war, and many others.

This is the Great War

It names itself

The term “First World War” was another term that emerged shortly after the start of the war; the phrase is credited to the German philosopher Ernst Haeckel. Haeckel wrote:

“There is no doubt that the course and character of the feared “European War” will become the First World War in the full sense of the word.”

The “European War” became known as “The Great War”, and it was not until 1931, with the beginning realization that another global war might be possible, that there is any other recorded use of the term “First World War”.

During the Interwar period (1918-1939), the war was most often called the World War and the Great War in English-speaking countries.

After the onset of the Second World War in 1939, the terms World War I or the First World War became standard, with British and Canadian historians favoring the First World War, and Americans World War One.

Recommended Archival Collection:   At the Rooms Provincial Archives there is available 6683 individual service files, 2300 have been digitized and are available at: http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp   This searchable database for military service records includes the attestation papers: name, service number, community and district of origin, next of kin and relationship, religion, occupation, year of enlistment, fatality, and POW status (if applicable). Take some time to read the stories of these young men.

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.

We will march and sing with the First 500 tomorrow!! It’s a long way to Tipperary.

Archival Moment

October 4, 1914

 Cover page of sheet music published in 1914.

Cover page of sheet music published in 1914.

As the “First 500” or “Blue Puttees” marched from the tent city in Pleasantville, St. John’s, where they had completed their basic military training, they sang.

As the they marched through the streets on October 4, 1914 to the troopship the S.S. Florizel, that awaited them in St. John’s Harbour, to take them to fight for ‘King and Country” they sang a song that was new to many of them.

Marching towards the unknown, the young soldiers of the Newfoundland Regiment broke into this new marching song, the song, they were singing with great enthusiasm was “It’s a long way to Tipperary.”

The song, in the opening days of the Great War (August 1914) had quickly become ‘Britain’s Marching Song’ the London newspapers reported “it has become the marching song of the British Army.”

The St. John’s newspapers were determined that the young soldiers of Newfoundland Regiment should also know the song, reporting that because “it is not widely known in this country” (Newfoundland) the words should be published.

The Evening Telegram published the lyrics for all to learn on 19 September 1914.

Up to mighty London Came an Irishman one day.

As the streets are paved with gold

Sure, everyone was gay, Singing songs of Piccadilly, Strand

and Leicester Square,

Till Paddy got excited, then he shouted to them there:

CHORUS

It’s a long way to Tipperary,

It’s a long way to go. It’s a long way to Tipperary

To the sweetest girl I know! Goodbye, Piccadilly, Farewell, Leicester

Square!

It’s a long long way to Tipperary, But my heart’s right there.

(repeat chorus)

Paddy wrote a letter To his Irish Molly-

O,

Saying, “Should you not receive it,

Write and let me know!” “If I make mistakes in spelling, Molly,

dear,” said he,

“Remember, it’s the pen that’s bad,

Don’t lay the blame on me!

CHORUS

Molly wrote a neat reply To Irish

Paddy-O,

Saying “Mike Maloney Wants to

marry me, and so

Leave the Strand and Piccadilly Or you’ll be to blame,

For love has fairly drove me silly:

Hoping you’re the same!”

REPEAT CHORUS

British soldiers marchingThe irony was that many of the “First 500” or the “Blue Puttees” who were singing the song “It’s a long way to Tipperary” as they marched would die in what they called “Tipperary Avenue”, a communications trench, at Beaumont Hamel on 1 July 1916.

It was the custom in the “Great War” battlefields to name the roads and trenches with names that were familiar. At Beaumont Hamel two names that were familiar to The Newfoundland Regiment were St. John’s Road and Terra Nova Street.

In September 1916 Padre Thomas Nangle who was tasked with finding and identifying the bodies of the Newfoundlanders who died at Beaumont Hamel wrote:

“On Sunday, September 24th after saying Mass in a roofless barn within 800 yards of the German line, I started out on my quest … to find the bodies of the Newfoundlanders. I trampled on through Tipperary Avenue a communications trench from which our heroes “went over” on that fateful day (July 1). This (Tipperary Avenue) was the exact spot on which was made the most glorious event in the history of far off Newfoundland.”

It is a long way from Pleasantville, St. John’s, Newfoundland to Tipperary Avenue, Beaumont Hamel, France.

“It’s a long long way to Tipperary, But my heart’s right there.”

The song was originally written by Jack Judge and Harry Williams as a music hall and marching song in 1912. In 1914 columns of Irish marching soldiers made the song known and popular first in the British Army, then on the whole Western Front. The world first heard about the song from the London newspaper Daily Mail. Their correspondent, George Curnock witnessed the Irish soldiers marching and singing in Boulogne, France on August 13th, 1914. The song quickly became the definite song of the Great War.

Recreating the March to the Florizel: Commemorating the departure of the ‘First 500’ from St. John’s. On Sunday, October 5, 2014 approximately 500 individuals, from across Newfoundland and Labrador, will take part in a recreation of the historic march to the Florizel. Participants will march the actual route, taken by the original recruits, from Caribou Park, Pleasantville to the St. John’s harbour front, culminating with a special ceremony at the Harbour front. The march departs Pleasantville at 1:00pm and arrives at the Harbour front at approximately 1:45pm. More Information: http://honour100.ca/recreating-the-march-to-the-florizel/

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.

 

Military training exercises taking place in Pleasantville

Archival Moment

September 23, 1914

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: Training grounds at Pleasantville, St. John’s, ca. 1914. E-22-44), St. John’s, Newfoundland. Holloway Photograph.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: Training grounds at Pleasantville, St. John’s, ca. 1914. E-22-44), St. John’s, Newfoundland. Holloway Photograph.

In St. John’s and the surrounding area in September 1914 residents were very aware of the military training exercises taking place in Pleasantville in order to prepare the volunteers of the Newfoundland Regiment for Foreign Service.

Young men had gathered from all over the colony, at Pleasantville on the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake, in a hastily constructed tent city to train to fight for “King and Country’. The public was fascinated by what was happing at the camp and the local media were only too happy to report on the smallest details.

The Pleasantville camp had been established on September 2 with government, businesses, and private citizens donating the tents. Other shelters for the men of the Newfoundland Regiment were made from sails taken from vessels in St. John’s harbour.

On September 23, 1914 the St. John’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram reported:

“Yesterday afternoon (September 22, 1914) a squad of the Volunteers went country wards and engaged in skirmishing and marching in double quick time. The lads, who had their rifles with them, covered the different hills and woods from Virginia to the top of Signal Hill.”

There were in the hills and woods about St. John’s approximately 600 volunteers. The young men were all determined that they would be chosen for Foreign Service. They were also aware that the work of selecting would begin in the following week.

The reporter also noted that: “While the Volunteers were going through some various evolutions yesterday at the camp grounds some excellent photos of them were taken.” 100 years later, many of these photographs that were taken by (Lieut.) R.P Holloway are on exhibit at The Rooms. (see “From Recreation to Military Installation”. Level 2 Atrium, The Rooms.)  Lieut. R. P. Holloway was later named the official photographer for the First Newfoundland Regiment.

After a month of training, the First Five Hundred (537 soldiers), also known as the Blue Puttees, were ready to head overseas. On October 3, 1914, they marched from their training camp to board the SS Florizel, a steamer and sealing vessel that had been converted into a troopship. They were cheered on by a large gathering of citizens. The next day, the troops began their journey overseas.

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.

Let the bells ring out to remember

Archival Moment

August 4, 1914 at 9:25 p.m.

The Basilica Bells will ring out at  on August 4 at 9:25 p.m.  Please have your church toll their bells.

The Basilica Bells will ring out at on August 4 at 9:25 p.m. Please have your church toll their bells.

The sound of bells ringing is deeply rooted in our culture. In every town, in every parish, in every corner of this province, almost everyone lives within hearing range of church bells. “They provide the grand soundtrack to our historic moments, call out for our celebrations and toll sadly in empathy with our grief.”

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.

On Monday night, 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.

At precisely 9:25 p.m. as part of that commemoration the bells of the Basilica – Cathedral will toll and all churches in the province are invited to ring their bells in commemoration.

Contact your church to insure that a person has been to designated to ring the bells.

How-To-Download-Ringtones-To-Cell-Phones-600x250We can all participate. For those with mobile phones set the alarm to ring at 9:25 p.m. – change the tone setting to a church bell tone.

Remember.

IMPORTANT Read More: http://archivalmoments.ca/2014/08/a-call-to-arms-commemoration-of-the-outbreak-of-the-first-world-war/

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 First World War  service records of the Regiment areavailable at the archives on microfilm, some 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

 

Two Friends on the Battlefield

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

November 11

National War Memorail, St. John’s, Newfoundland

Two Friends on the Battlefield

In October 1915 a young student at St. Bonaventure’s College, P.J. Kennedy, who was later to become a priest in the Archdiocese of St. John’s, Newfoundland, observed:

“On Thursday, October 1, the Catholic members (of the First Newfoundland Regiment) went in a body to Confession and Communion.  It was an impressive sight to see this touching portrayal of Catholic faith hown forth in that hour of trial and excitement…        [Two days later] on October 3… the line of march to the Florizel [the ship that was to take them to the battlefields] was lined by thousands of spectators.

Heartbroken parents said a fond goodbye to sons whom they had looked forward to as support and comfort in old age…”

Having trained for war together they also died together. It must not be forgotten that these boys (and many were in their teens) had been   friends for life, they had grown up in the same neighborhoods, gone to the same schools, played on the same sports teams. When death knocked it was not impersonal.

An obituary for a 17‑year‑old Private Gordon A. Mullings tells of the friendship and bonds that developed between these young men. The obituary published in the Adelphian, the school journal of St. Bonaventure’s College, St. John’s reads:

“Amongst the gallant young soldiers (that served with Gordon A. Mullings) was his school chum, Jack Oliphant. The boys’ attachment ripened under the associations of barrack, camp, trench and battle, into a romantic soldierly friendship. The two young men set sail together from St. John’s.

They fought side by side in France and were wounded about the same time. On the very day that Gordon arrived in Scotland from hospital he found that Jack had already recovered from his wounds and had been picked in the draft to return to France. He immediately begged the O.C. for permission to   accompany his chum and on December 30 the two young St. Bon’s Boys found themselves once again in the war zone surrounded by the grim realities of the modern battlefield.

Just  three weeks later the golden cord which bound the two friends were  parted for on January 20, Gordon made the supreme sacrifice of his life for the cause of the Empire, but love ceases not with the  grave, Christian hope whispers of a reunion which will know nothing  of separation..”  (St. Bonaventure’s College, Adelphian,  St. John’s, NL. March 1917 page 46)

Recommended Archival Collection: Over 6000 men enlisted in the Newfoundland Regiment during WWI.  Each soldier had his own story. Each story is compelling. To read some of these stories go tohttp://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part3_database.asp click on soldiers at the top centre. Find a soldier from your home community or with your family name. Read his life story.

Recommended Song: Great Big Sea:  Recruiting Sergeant http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knxR-Q2VoBE

Recommended Book: Browne, Gary. Forget-Me-Not: Fallen Boy Soldiers: Royal Newfoundland Regiment World War One,St. John’s, DRC Publishing, 2010.