Tag Archives: Regiment

An Irish soldier and his socks knit by an aged Newfoundland woman

Archival Moment

January 26, 1916

Knitting comforts. (Click on to enlarge)

Knitting comforts.
(Click on to enlarge)

During the First World War women in kitchens and parlors in homes throughout Newfoundland and Labrador were enthusiastically knitting goods, especially socks for the men who had signed up to fight for King and Country. Many of these women were members of the Woman’s Patriotic Association (W.P.A.) an organization of more than 15,000 women from throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is estimated that between 1914 and 1916, the ladies at Government House and from throughout the towns of the colony of Newfoundland produced 62,685 pairs of socks, 8,984 pairs of cuffs (mittens with a trigger finger), and 22,422 mufflers. These items were often referred to as “comforts.”

The socks that were knit were intended primarily for the men of the Newfoundland Regiment but there is evidence that soldiers from other countries including some from Ireland were the beneficiaries of the woolen socks.

In January of 1916 Mrs. Margret Morris of Long’ Hill, St. John’s was thrilled to receive a letter from an Irish Soldier thanking her for socks which he received ‘Somewhere in France’ and found to have been knitted by her. The 85 year old Mrs. Morris was so delighted with the letter of thanks that she strolled down to the offices of the St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram to have her story published.

The newspaper reported:

Mrs. Margaret Morris an old lady of 85 years has received a letter from an Irish soldier thanking her for socks which he received and found to have been knitted by her. His name is Private B. McCourt and he is with (British Expeditionary Force) B.E.F. in France.

The old lady was delighted to receive the letter and hopes to get another from him as he asked her to write to him. He thanked her for the socks she had knitted, said how glad he was to get them and expressed much appreciation at receiving a pair knitted by an aged person.

The old lady had placed a slip of paper in one of them giving her name address and age.”

The practice of slipping a note in the toe of the socks that they knit with their name and address as well as a prayer for their soldier boys was well established among the Newfoundland knitters. Those receiving the socks with the notes were often gracious enough to return a note of thanks.

It is not likely that the old lady did receive any other correspondence from her Irish soldier, she died on March 8, 1916 at her residence on Long’s Hill just a few weeks after the initial letter from him.

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

Recommended Archival Collection: Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War, this on line exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the province’s soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. This on line exhibit focuses on the World War I service records of the Regiment, available at the ARCHIVES on microfilm. Some of the service records are on line at: http://www.rnr.therooms.ca/part3_database.asp

Recommended Exhibit:  BEAUMONT-HAMEL AND THE TRAIL OF THE CARIBOU:   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.g7eLJMu8.dpuf

 

“Fish and Brewis is the dish that Newfoundlanders yearn …”

January 18, 1917

Archival Moment

Fish and Brewis served to the Newfoundland Regiment in the trenches of France.

Fish and Brewis served to the Newfoundland Regiment in the trenches of France.

“Fish and Brewis” has long been one of the most common meals served in Newfoundland and Labrador and during the First World War (1914 -1918) Newfoundlanders were determined to see the meal served to the ‘boys’ of the Newfoundland Regiment. The people of the Dominion of Newfoundland were so resolute that this Newfoundland delicacy be available to their ‘soldiers boys’ in the trenches of France that a “Fish and Brewis” Fund was established to purchase and send overseas the two main ingredients, dried cod fish and ship’s biscuits.

Like most people in a foreign land, the men of the Newfoundland Regiment missed the comfort foods of home. One historian reported, Fish and Brewis is the dish that all Newfoundlanders yearn when away from home.”

Fish and Brewis (pronounced “brews”) is a combination of salt cod and hard bread, which is a small, compact cake, made with flour and water and sometimes called “hard tack.” The dish is frequently sprinkled with “scruncheons,” which are crisp fried bits of salt fat-back pork, and the scruncheons are sometimes fried with onions.

In a letter dated January 18, 1917, Charles P. Ayre, the Honorable Secretary, of the Fish an Brewis Committee, in St. John’s received a note from Captain (Rev.) Thomas Nangle expressing the thanks of the Ist Battalion, Newfoundland Regiment in France for the feed of the “Fish and Brewis.” He wrote:

“it would be hard to find in the whole British Army a more contented unit than the boys from “Newfoundland” on that Sunday morning we had Fish and Brewis for breakfast. The men enjoyed the meal to such an extent that even in the line … arrangements for them to have this ration once a week while it lasts.”

Nangle gave much of the credit for the meal to the Newfoundland cooks who cooked the “home produce” the dried fish and hard tack. He wrote:

“That it was cooked properly let it suffice to say that our cooks are Newfoundland cooks, know their business, and did it properly.”

The military historian Gerald W.L. Nicholson author of The Fighting Newfoundlander noted that there was one ingredient was missing. He wrote:

“The shipment did not include fat pork, which when fried into ‘schruncheons” added the crowning touch to the fish and brewis. The battalion’s cooks substituted with bacon, and produced a treat which evoked from every true Newfoundlander expressions of deepest satisfaction…. “

The Newfoundlanders were all very contented with their breakfast but an Essex Officer, not familiar with the delicacy was heard to say “What the hell is that?”

A young soldier of the Newfoundland Regiment writing to his mother on January 25, 1917 wrote:

“ I have been informed that the good people in dear old St John’s have gotten up what they called a “Fish and Brewis Committee”to gather funds to buy some bread and fish to send to “Our|boys to make a treat of Fish and Brewis for them. I am sure they will enjoy and appreciate it because the fish you sent me in one of the parcels was simply grand. I cannot find words to describe to you how delighted I was to get it.”

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.HNEnynnP.dpuf

Recommended Cook Book: Edward A. Jones spent decades sampling and lovingly collecting salt cod recipes from around the world. The result is Salt Cod Cuisine: The International Table, 2013 a remarkable collection of 250 step-by-step salt cod recipes that celebrates salt cod and its place in world history and culture.

“The first Newfoundlander, to die as a soldier in the service of this country…”

Archival Moment

January 2, 1915

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: C 5-97; John Fielding Chaplin

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: C 5-97; John Fielding Chaplin

A dark pall of sadness hovered over St. John’s on January 2, 1915 with news that “the first name was recorded in the Immortal Honor Roll of the Newfoundland Regiment.” The name of the first Newfoundlander, to die as a soldier in the service of this country, one of the First 500 was Private 584, John Fielding Chaplin.

The Governor of Newfoundland, Walter Davidson wrote in his diary on January 2, 1915:

I learn by telegraph that Private 584, John Fielding Chaplin, of St. John’s, died at Fort George (Scotland) on December 31st.”

Chaplin had arrived at  Fort George, Scotland with the Newfoundland Regiment on December 8, 1914.

On January 2, 1915, that Governor Davidson spoke  “with his father and mother and succeeded in checking a proposal for the transport home of the lad’s remains.”

Governor Davison wrote that “He (John Chaplin) was quite young, only 18, and the Doctors hesitated to let him go because of his youth: but his father supported the lad’s entreaties. He was a bright smart young soldier and universally liked.”

John Fielding Chaplin was from Circular Road, St. John’s the son of Mark Chaplin a leading tailor, who operated a successful business from 175 A Water Street. Chaplin “did not die at the firing line” his Regimental Record reads that he died at St. George, Scotland of “abdominal disease.”

The Governor having made the promise to the parents that their son could be transported back to Newfoundland for burial was disappointed to have to return to them to inform them that “it would not be feasible to send home the body of Private Jack Chaplin for internment, the funeral takes place at Fort George.”

The Evening Telegram reported:

His is the first name to be recorded in the Immortal Honor Roll of the Newfoundland Regiment and on this account Newfoundlanders, while expressing deep sympathy to the grief stricken parents, will remember with pride the young volunteer, who though not at the firing line, died as a soldier in the service of this country.”

On January 5, 1915 Private 584, John Fielding Chaplin was buried in Ardersier Parish Churchyard. The Telegram reported:

Newfoundland’s young soldier will be resting among the heroes who have trod the immortal path of duty and devotion to this country. Thought separated from those that he loved in life; the memory of his immortal sacrifice will console them until they are united forever with him in the land of peace.”

Note: John Chaplin’s official Regimental Record states that he died on January 1, 1915.  Governor Davision writes  December 31, 1914.

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives. Governor Davidson’s Private Diary, MG 136.5

Recommended Exhibit: 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.HNEnynnP.dpuf

Recommended Reading: Christopher Morry’s : When the Great Red Dawn is Shining: Howard Morry’s Memoirs of Life in the Newfoundland Regiment — 11 Platoon, C Company, RNR. Breakwater Books, St. John’s, 2014.

A ‘Smoking Concert’ at Quidi Vidi Lake

Archival Moment

September 14, 1914

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-52; N.F.L.D. 1st Regiment Camp [Pleasantville], St. John’s, NL. In September 1914 Pleasantville was the site of a number of ‘Smoking Concerts’.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-52; N.F.L.D. 1st Regiment Camp [Pleasantville], St. John’s, NL. In September 1914 Pleasantville was the site of a number of ‘Smoking Concerts’.

One of the entertainments that was held for the young men in the camps at Pleasantville, near Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s in September 1914 were the ‘Smoking Concerts’. The young men in the camps at Pleasantville were the first recruits for the Newfoundland Regiment. They were training to prepare to fight for ‘King and Country’.

Originally the term ‘Smoking Concert’   referred to live performances, usually of music, before an audience of men only; popular during the Victorian period. At these functions men would smoke and speak of politics while listening to live music.

In Newfoundland and other places by 1914 the smoking concerts were much less formal; they were not so much about discussions about politics but evenings of song and recitations.

In St. John’s, one of the locations for the ‘Smoking Concerts’ was at the ‘mess tent’ on the Pleasantville grounds. There are reports that as many as 400 men would gather under the tent for the entertainment.

One of the local celebrities that could be found, on a very regular basis at the camp, playing the piano for the ‘Smoking Concerts’ was Charles Hutton. Hutton was a leading figure in Newfoundland musical activities, he was the owner of Hutton’ Music Store (that was later taken over by his sons) and his wife was a celebrated classically trained singer.

Hutton would play for many of the men who would come forward to sing their ‘party pieces’. The evening would include solos, storytelling, musical recitations, and instrumental numbers. The evening would always close with the singing of the National Anthem by the entire gathering.

Typically alcohol was involved. ‘Smoking Concerts’ were referred to by some by the much more indelicate term, ‘Piss Ups.”

Imagine, going down to Quidi Vidi for a ‘Piss up’, I mean “Smoking Concert.”

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

 

 

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“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

 

 

 

Newfoundland soldiers, woolen helmets and buxom Scottish lassies

Archival Moment

February 19, 1915

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: F25. Newfoundland soldiers wearing “woolen helmets.” Can you identify any of these Newfoundland soldiers?

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: F25. Newfoundland soldiers wearing “woolen helmets.” Can you identify any of these Newfoundland soldiers?

The men of the Newfoundland Regiment have long been known as the ‘Blue Puttees’ because of the distinctive “blue leggings” that they wore on departure from Newfoundland to fight in the First World War.

On arrival in England in October 1914, the blue leggings (puttees) were replaced by the standard khaki leggings but the Newfoundlanders continued to differentiate themselves by what they wore, their woolen helmets”.

On arrival in England in October, The Newfoundland Regiment many wearing their knitted toques were at Salisbury Plains, England for several weeks, then they went to the Seaforth Highlanders at Fort George, Inverness, Scotland; from there they were transferred to Edinburgh Castle. It was the first non – Scottish regiment to do so. It was a very prestigious assignment.

The local newspaper the Daily Record and Mail in Glasgow reported on February 19, 1915 about the arrival of the Newfoundlanders in an article that featured a photograph of the Newfoundland Regiment, with the young Newfoundlanders smartly marching. The caption of the photograph reads:

“Soldiers with woolen helmets

A woolen helmet is the quaint headgear worn by a section of the Newfoundland men which are training in Edinburgh.”

The “woolen helmets” were in fact Newfoundland knitted toque’s.

The newspaper account reads:

“The advance party of a Newfoundland Regiment has arrived at the (Edinburgh) Castle and their advent to the city is of more than passing interest.

The members of the advance party of the (Newfoundland Regiment) are a fine looking well set-up and stalwart body of men and with the exception of their headdress which is of a knitted khaki-colored material there is nothing to tell of the difference between the British Regulars and Territorials and themselves.

The (Newfoundland Regiment) advance party took the way to the Castle from the railway station in a style which showed that their training has been in excellent hands and during the day from what was seen of them on the streets it was apparent that they would soon be thoroughly at home.”

The Newfoundland Regiment and later the Newfoundland Forestry Companies were quick to make Scotland their home. John A. Barrett writing home in July 1917 reported:

“In Newfoundland you speak of the ‘wee Scotch lassies’ but they are ‘no so wee at all’. Many of them are buxom, blooming fair ones, and are already becoming greatly attached to some of our lads. Don’t be surprised if some of our confirmed bachelors join the Benedicts before they return to Newfoundland.”

 Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 97-5. The Regimental service hat with the caribou pin was introduced in 1916. Can you identify any of these Newfoundland soldiers?

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 97-5. The Regimental service hat with the caribou pin was introduced in 1916. Can you identify any of these Newfoundland soldiers?

The “woolen helmets” or “knitted toque’s” may have been considered quaint and distinctive by the Scottish locals but the young Newfoundland soldiers were quite embarrassed by them. They were looking forward to receiving their Regimental caps that would arrive a month later.

The “woolen helmets” were soon displaced by the “caribou cap badge” forming one of a number of regimental identifiers worn by the men of the Newfoundland Regiment.

Definition: Benedict, a newly married man who was previously considered a confirmed bachelor. [After Benedick, a character in Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare.].

Recommended Archival Collection: Patriotic Association of the Women of Newfoundland Description number MG 842.5 This file consists of printed publication prepared by Women’s Patriotic Association (WPA), with introduction by Lady Margaret Davidson. The publication includes instructions for knitting home comforts and convalescent clothes for soldiers.

Recommended Exhibit: At the Rooms: The Newfoundland Regiment and the Gallipoli Campaign: At the Rooms Level 3, Archives Reference Room.   “That there can be no higher praise!” This exhibit commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915, where members of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment experienced their baptism by fire and saw their first combat casualties. Lantern slides, photographs, maps and documents provide insights into this ill-fated campaign.

Recommended Reading: Christopher Morry’s: When the Great Red Dawn is Shining: Howard Morry’s Memoirs of Life in the Newfoundland Regiment, 11 Platoon, C Company, RNR. Breakwater Books, St. John’s, 2014.

 

 

 

What happened to the ‘hockey’ Rover?

Archival Moment

January 1917

20uzhx4Hockey has evolved over the years and one of the more profound changes that came about during the First World War was the introduction of six aside hockey.

Previous to the war years, Newfoundland teams put seven players on the ice. The additional player was known as the “ROVER’. The rover did not have a set position per se, but rather “roamed” about the ice.

There were two other positions that fans would have known, the “POINT” and “COVER POINT”, eventually they became today’s Defense.

In the winter of 1917 a contingent of the Newfoundland Regiment departed Newfoundland by boat   destined for Halifax where they were to join a flotilla destined for England. On route to Halifax it was discovered that all of the men had contracted mumps and or measles.   So as not to infect the rest of the troops the Regiment was sent from Halifax to Windsor, Nova Scotia where they were to recuperate.

Among those aboard ship were some of the best hockey player’s that the Dominion of Newfoundland   had ever produced. Known as the Windsor Contingent of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment some of the hockey players in quarantine were H.G.R. (Harry) Mews, Charlie Strong, Ernie Churchill, Rex White, Duke Winter and Lionel Duley.

The team played a series of games in Windsor during their ten-week quarantine before sailing to England and the trenches of France  in April.

This was the first time that Newfoundland put a team on the ice playing with six players per side. The Newfoundland players liked the new game. With the rover removed the players had much more ice surface to cover. The game became much faster.

In 1918, Nova Scotian teams visited St. John’s and the new rule change was introduced. The change was formally adopted in 1919 by the Newfoundland Hockey Association. The ‘Rover’ was no more.

Duley, was Killed in Action in 1918, Strong died of wounds sustained in battle in 1918, Mews returned to Newfoundland and later became Mayor of St. John’s.

The St. John's Ice Caps will be wearing a special jersey to remember the Newfoundland Regiment on February 5th and 6th.

The St. John’s Ice Caps will be wearing a special jersey to remember the Newfoundland Regiment on February 5th and 6th.

On January 14, 2016 with great pride and respect, the St. John’s IceCaps , at The Rooms , unveiled a Royal Newfoundland Regiment tribute jersey to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme at Beaumont-Hamel.

The logo on the tribute jersey features a black silhouette of a First World War Royal Newfoundland Regimental solider encircled by the words: Royal Newfoundland Regiment 1916-2016. The entire IceCaps team was on hand to model the new jerseys.

The IceCaps will wear the jerseys Friday and Saturday, February 5th and 6th versus the Utica Comets. Many in the seats at Mile One will be remembering their ancestors who loved the game.

Tickets can be purchased at the Mile One Centre box office or online at www.mileonecentre.com

LEST WE FORGET

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives – Sports Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador has a substantial collection of photographs detailing the history of League Hockey in Newfoundland and Labrador.