Tag Archives: POW

Newfoundland Woman Interned in German Prison Camp

November 16, 1941

Mr. and Mrs. Andrew B. Edwards of Lawn, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland wrote Cluny Macpherson, Assistant Commissioner of the Red Cross at St. John’s on 16 November 1941 informing the Red Cross that their daughter Marie Andrew Edwards, age 22 was interned in a German prisoner of War Camp in France. The Edward’s were aware that McPherson was the local representative of the International Red Cross.

Mary Andrew Edwards: was born in Lawn, Placentia Bay. She was the daughter of Andrew Edwards and Nora (Picco). She received her early education in Lawn and at age sixteen she went to work in St. Pierre et Miquelon.

After a few years in St. Pierre et Miquelon she felt the calling to religious life, this she confided to her parish priest who encouraged her to join the St. Joseph of Cluny Sisters, a teaching order of nuns at St. Pierre. Upon being accepted into the congregation at St. Pierre she took the name Sister Therese. She left St. Pierre et Miquelon in 1938 going to a convent in Paris.

After the Nazis victory over France in 1940, Sister Therese and four hundred nuns from different congregations were rounded up and sent to Prisoner of War Camps. She was in a particularly difficult position, as a Newfoundlander, she was carrying a British passport.

POW CAMP

During one period the commander of the POW camp, allowed the nuns to have Mass celebrated by priests and bishops who were also prisoners of war there. Sister Therese and two other sisters of the order were allowed to take Religious Vows, the ritual that officially made them nuns.

Near the end of the war the Swiss Red Cross investigated the camp, finding many of the prisoners were very ill. They encouraged the Germans to release the nuns to a healthier camp. This was done.

When Sister Edward’s was liberated she was sent to Africa for six years after which she was recalled to France. After a few months in France she was sent to New Caledonia.

After twenty three years there she was allowed home to visit parents and family members, after which she returned to the mission. She did this a few times in the ensuing years and at one time she and her sister Nora – who also joined the convent – came home together.

Mary Andrew Edwards died in 1997.

Nora Edwards at 99 years young is still active in her religious community. In March she celebrated her 77th anniversary as a member of the religious community.

Recommended Archival Collection: Search the Rooms  online database for descriptions of our archival records and view thousands of digital photographs. https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Archival Collection: Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese of St. John’s File 107-15-8

Recommended Book: Did you know that German’s were interred in camps in Newfoundland during WWII? Read: Gerhard P. Bassler. Vikings to U-Boats: The German Experience in Newfoundland and Labrador. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006.

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

 

Newfoundland takes Prisoners of War

Archival Moment

August 22, 1914

Prison13495337191864875045prison3-hiIn the hours following the declaration of the First World War in August 1914, the government of Newfoundland began to declare ‘certain individuals’ as ‘Prisoners of War.’

In St. John’s, the local papers reported as early as August 18, 1914 “that one Carl Winicarski, an Austrian fireman was held as a prisoner of war.”

On August 20, 1914 “the police (in St. John’s) arrested another German as a Prisoner of War, there are now detained on the Police Station two Germans and a Pole.”

These were all men working on foreign vessels, that happened to be tied up in St. John’s harbour, that were carrying passports of the enemy countries, the Central Powers, Germany, Austria-Hungary and The Ottoman Empire (Turkey).

It appears that the Police Station was inadequate for the purposes of holding ‘Prisoners of War.’   The St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported on August 21, 1914:

“Owing to complaints being made that the Police Station was unfit to quarter Prisoners of War (POW’s) yesterday afternoon two German’s and a Pole were removed from there to the Penitentiary, where they will be allowed a certain amount of liberty.”

Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) on Quidi Vidi Lake became then the home for the prisoners of war in St. John’s. Initially, “prisoners of war” were also held in Corner Brook and Harbour Grace in the town’s Police or Court House cells.   As the numbers increased they were transferred to a facility in Donovan’s, (on the outskirts of St. John’s) and eventually to a larger facility in Amherst, Nova Scotia.

The Amherst Camp was the largest prisoner-of-war (POW) camp in Canada during World War I with a population of 853 prisoners. The most famous prisoner of war at the camp was Leon Trotsky.

The Prisoners of War in Newfoundland “were allowed a certain amount of liberty” and remembered fondly their time in Newfoundland and the people that they met while they were incarcerated.

Richard Frohner who had been arrested in Harbour Grace wrote from Amherst in 1917:

“I would rather be in Harbour Grace as here. (Amherst). Our best times we had over there (Harbour Grace) and in Donovan’s but I know that we will not get back as POW’s, we hope that this war will be over and we will be free once more…”

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 Regimen. 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 , 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.

Recommended Exhibit: The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery. POINTED NORTH: Rockwell Kent in Newfoundland & Labrador, May 31 – September 21, 2014. As part of the Rockwell Kent Centennial in Newfoundland, The Rooms presents paintings, drawings, prints and books from various points throughout Kent’s career, highlighting those inspired by his time here. With anti German sentiment rising as the Great War approached, Kent who had studied as a youth in Germany cavorted about Brigus, Newfoundland singing German tunes and extolling the virtues of German culture. See also http://therooms.ca/rockwellkent/

“I should like to know if I could send him … a package of food”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

  July 1:  Prisoners of War in Germany, Regulations.  

Newfoundland Prisoner of War in Germany regulations concerning parcels.  April 1918, Daily News.

Newfoundland Prisoner of War in Germany regulations concerning parcels. April 1918, Daily News.

George Edward Pike

Rank: Lance Corporal

Service: 898

Community: Grand Falls

Age: 33

Date of Death: July 1, 1916

Regiment: NewfoundlandRegiment

Cemetery: Y Ravine Cemetery, Beaumont Hamel

Parents: Nathaniel and Emma Pike of Grand Falls, Born at Harbour Grace.

The “July Drive”  on July 1, 1916 annihilated the Newfoundland Regiment. When the roll call was taken, only 68 responded. Final battle figures revealed 233 men from the Regiment dead, 386 wounded, and ninety-one reported missing (and later assumed dead).

In the trenches at Beaumont Hamel, George Pike of Grand Falls stood shoulder to shoulder with a number of other men from Grand Falls and Botwood.

When news of the July Drive reached Newfoundland, many families refused to believe that their sons had died.  The family of George Pike prayed that he was a Prisoner of War (POW). His father Nathaniel wrote to the Department of the Militia in the Colonial Building in St. John’s explaining “if  (George) is a prisoner in Germany, I should like to know if I could send him … a package of food…”

The Department of the Militia responded that he should not send any food packages:

 Until it is known that your son is a prisoner of war or elsewhere, it would be strongly inadvisable to send any parcels to him. Every effort is being made to ascertain whether if any of the missiing are prisoners of war and  and lists on which your sons names figures, have been sent throughout Germany. 

It was not until November that the War office confirmed that George Pike had died with all of the other Newfoundlanders on July 1, 1916.

Recommended Reading: Browne, Gary. Forget-Me-Not: Fallen Boy Soldiers,St. John’s: DRC Publishing, 1911. 145p.

Recommended Song:  Oh, Oh It’s a Lovely War by Courtland and Jefferies  http://www.ww1photos.com/OhWhatALovelyWar.html

Recommended Archival Collection:    At the Rooms Provincial Archives there are 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.

“He asks for some eats and smokes”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

 JULY 1: MEMORIAL DAY

Royal Newfoundland Regiment

George Goudie

Rank: Corporal

Service #2242

Community: Grand Falls

Age: 18

Occupation: Timekeeper

Date of Death: November 6, 1918

Regiment:  Newfoundland Regiment

Cemetery: Vevey (St. Martin’s) Cemetery, Lake Geneva,Switzerland

Parents: Elias and Mary Jane Goudie, of Grand Falls. Born at Northern Arm, Botwood.

During the war years parents often received conflicting news from the front.  If a soldier went missing in action (MIA) often the only shred of hope that the parents could cling to was that their son was prisoner of war (POW).  As a POW they could at least take comfort that he was alive.

On June 15, 1917, Elias and Mary Jane Goudie, the parents of George, received a telegram that gave them hope.  He was alive and “being treated well.”

The Telegram  read:

” Have pleasure in informing you Record Office, London, today reports  No 2242  Corporal  George Goudie, prisoner of war at Munster, Westphalia, Germany, April twenty third, suffering from gunshot wound right leg, being well treated.”

Upon hearing the news that that their was in the POW Camp in  Germany , Elias and  Jane,  through their local clergyman  Reverend W.T. D. Dunn, Pastor of the Methodist Church in Grand Falls  wrote

“In his letters to his parents (George Goudie)  pleads for a shaving outfit, a towel and some eats and smokes. His parents would be glad to furnish amounts ….” 

There was more reason for hope when news arrived that he was “being transferred from Germany to a POW Camp in Switzerland”.

Unfortunately the POW Camps were breathing grounds for disease especially tuberculosis.  News arrived (November 18, 1918) that he had contracted the disease and had died “shortly after the Armistice, just before he was to be repatriated …”

Recommended Reading: Browne, Gary. Forget-Me-Not: Fallen Boy Soldiers, St. John’s: DRC Publishing, 1911. 145p.

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.