Tag Archives: Royal Newfoundland Regiment

Newfoundlanders with “The Diggers”


April 25, 1915

Newfoundlanders fought side by side with the men of Australia and New Zealand.

Newfoundlanders fought side by side with the men of Australia and New Zealand.

ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day is Australia and New Zealand’s most important national day of commemoration.  The day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces on 25 April, 1915 in Gallipoli, Turkey.

The Australians and New Zealander’s stayed together and fought the Turks for eight months. They took part in battles that are forever etched in the military consciousness of their countries. In one battle alone at a place called Lone Pine, the Australians lost close to 2,200 men.

They won the ground and seven Victoria Crosses were earned in the process.

Six months after the ANZAC forces had landed 1,076 Newfoundlanders came ashore along the shores of the Dardanelles Strait on September 20, 1915. The Newfoundlanders spent the first months digging trenches and keeping long night watches, spending time on the front line learning trench warfare techniques from the ANZAC forces (they had been dubbed with the nickname diggers).

The number of Australian and New Zealand casualties ran high, New Zealand: 2721 and Australia approximately 8700.

The lack of a military breakthrough convinced the Allies it was time to withdraw from Gallipoli. It was decided the Newfoundland Regiment would help in the difficult task of covering the evacuation of Allied troops onto waiting ships. This rearguard operation went well and the Newfoundlanders were among the last Allied soldiers to leave Turkey in January 1916.

During the almost four months the Newfoundland Regiment fought at Gallipoli, approximately 30 men died in action and 10 more died of disease.

Gallipoli was the first of many battles that would earn the Newfoundland Regiment an impressive reputation during the First World War. The Newfoundland Regiment would go on to fight with distinction in Belgium and France throughout the rest of the conflict. The regiment even earned the title “Royal” in 1917 in recognition of its exceptional service and sacrifice—the only regiment to be honoured this way by the British during the war.

The “Trail of the Caribou” designed to trace the path of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment  through its engagements in the First World War, consists of six large caribou statues cast in bronze.  Each caribou, the symbol of the regiment and the province (then-dominion), stands facing the enemy line with its head thrown back in defiance, a symbol of Newfoundlanders’ bravery and fortitude in battle.

A replica  of the six  caribou  are at Beaumont Hamel, Gueudecourt, Monchy-le-Preux, Masnieres and Courtrai, all sites where the Royal Newfoundland Regiment fought for King and Empire. A replica also stands in Bowring Park in St. John’s. There  are on going conversations with the government of Turkey  about the possibility of establishing a monument at  Gallipoli.

So it’s over the mountain and over the sea
Come brave Newfoundlanders and join the Blue Puttees
You’ll fight the Hun at Flanders and at Gallipoli
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives VA 36  This collection consists of photographs related to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War. The collection consists of two photograph albums which have been dismantled, as well as individual items. One album was apparently compiled in 1915-1916 in recognition of the services of Newfoundland Regiment soldiers during the Gallipoli campaign. (Note: Originals are restricted for conservation reasons. Digital scans available.)

Recommended Exhibit:  At the Rooms, Beaumont Hamel: The Trail of the Caribou. 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.  https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/now/beaumont-hamel-and-the-trail-of-the-caribou

Recommended Activity: On April 25th visit the War Memorial in your town and remember the men of Newfoundland and Labrador who stood with ‘the diggers’ at Gallipoli, Turkey.

Recommended Web site: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/pdf/cr/pi-sheets/gallipoli-eng.pdf

Recommended Song: Great Big Sea: Recruiting Sergeant: http://www.wtv-zone.com/phyrst/audio/nfld/04/recruit.htm

NEW Royal Newfoundland Regiment postcard and photograph album now online

Royal Newfoundland Regiment postcard and photograph album now online

Eric Ellis Collection

Photo Credit: Eric Ellis: A 8-34; H Company, Newfoundland Regiment (detail)

The Rooms has in recent year made it a priority to scan and make available online material related to the First World War (1914 – 1918) and the most recent online offering is the Eric Ellis album of photographs and postcard.  (VA 77).  The 150 photographs and postcards were collected by Ellis, a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

Eric Ellis was educated in St. John’s. He enlisted in the First Newfoundland Regiment (later the Royal Newfoundland Regiment) on 9 October 1915, he was 20 years old. He served in the army until the end of World War I and was promoted three times: Corporal (27 October 1915), Acting Sergeant (11 August 1916) and Second Lieutenant (18 May 1917). During his service he earned a certificate from the Scottish Command School of Musketry which qualified him in small arms instruction. Following active duty in France, Belgium and Germany (1918), he was discharged on 15 February 1919 and was placed on reserve. After the war he married Elsie H. Churchill (1892-1975) in 1923; they had one daughter, Elsie C..

By 1935, Ellis was an assistant supervisor in the Butterine Factory in St. John’s. The following year, he was employed as assistant supervisor at the Browning Harvey beverage bottling plant. He worked there for many years and attained the position of plant manager of the company’s St. John’s Ropewalk Lane plant.

Ellis died in 1982 and was interred in the Topsail Road Anglican Cemetery, St. John’s.

The photographs and postcards depict members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and activities, scenes of war damage [1914-1919] and scenes throughout Europe including Belgium, France, Germany and Russia.

To view the collection:  http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/therooms_permalink.html?key=47963

Please Inform Next of Kin

November 11

Archival Moment

The McGrath’s of  Branch  

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 59-56; Graves of Newfoundland Regiment soldiers, Newfoundland Memorial Park., Beaumont Hamel, France.

On 17 April of 1917, twenty one year old George McGrath of Gull Cove, Branch, St. Mary’s Bay left Branch for St. John’s. He was determined to sign up for the war effort to fight for “country and king.”

Just one month following George’s departure from Branch his nineteen year old brother Joseph told his father Patrick and his mother Elizabeth  that it was also his intention to join the war effort.  Joseph left Branch and met with recruiters in St. John’s signing his attestation papers on 11 May, 1917. 

In August 1917 Joseph McGrath #3760 with the other First Newfoundland Regiment volunteers marched from their training camp near Quidi Vidi Lake to the SS Florizel, the troop ship, anchored in St. John’s Harbour.  They were beginning the first leg of a journey to the fighting fields of Europe.  He joined a battalion in Rouen, France on January 15, 1918.

Five months later Patrick and Elizabeth McGrath  – were approached by the parish priest clutching a telegram –   it read “Regret to inform you  that the Record Office, London, officially reports NO 3760, Private Joseph McGrath wounded on April 13 and missing in action.”

Patrick and Elizabeth McGrath for consolation turned to family and friends in Branch.  They lived in hope – in letters to the war office they pleaded for “any shred of news.” 

There was also confusion – their son George who was fighting in Europe had heard rumors that Joseph was in Wandsworth, a large hospital about 5 miles outside of London. Wandsworth Hospital was where many members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment were treated for injuries. 

On 13 November 1918 word spread quickly in Branch that a second telegram had been delivered – via the Newfoundland Postal Telegraph – the telegram was addressed to “The Parish Priest or School Teacher.”  The telegram read: 

“London reports today that Private Joseph McGrath previously reported wounded and missing in action is presumed dead. Please inform next of kin Patrick McGrath, Gull Cove, Branch.”

The blinds in all the homes of Branch were drawn.  

Joseph was buried at  BEAUMONT-HAMEL -Somme, France. He had just turned twenty years old.

On November 11 make time go to the cenotaph in Branch –  or the cenotaph in your community  – whisper a prayer for Patrick, Joseph and George McGrath.  Whisper a prayer for all who have known war, or died in a war; remember all who have lost a loved one.

Other TRUE STORIES  based on the files of the members of the  Royal  Newfoundland Regiment.

He Was My Only Son: http://archivalmoments.ca/2012/06/he-was-my-only-son-he-has-played-the-heros-part/

Little Hope of Recovering the Body: http://archivalmoments.ca/2012/06/little-hope-of-recovering-the-body/

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. 

Lost Tradition: Upon hearing the news of the death of someone in most Newfoundland communities the curtains and blinds were drawn. Houses on the funeral route had their doors closed and their curtains drawn


Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives Division: B22-55 Photographic reproduction of a published music sheet. Credited to Francis Forbes, Chief Justice of Newfoundland (1816-1822)

The Banks of Newfoundland –  The Regatta Day Tune

Francis Forbes’s, Chief Justice of Newfoundland (1816-1822) and later First Chief Justice of Australia (1823-1837) is credited with writing “The Banks of Newfoundland”. Most would immediately recognize the tune as “Up the Pond,” or  “Dum-Da-Diddely.” 

The music is a piece steeped in the tradition of North America’s oldest continuing sporting event the annual Royal St. John’s Regatta. The tune is traditionally played as the crews pass the bandstand on their return to the stakes, though it has been played at the start of the races as well.

In addition to this connection with the Regatta, “The Banks of Newfoundland” is the Regimental March for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

“The Banks of Newfoundland” enjoyed a populist appeal in nineteenth-century Newfoundlandthat would have likely astounded Justice Forbes.

Processions, festivals, dinners, soirees, and the like were frequently enlivened with renditions of the popular tune, a tradition that began in the 1820s .

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms, Provincial Archives Division see B22 -55:  The Banks of Newfoundland: A Dance composed by Judge Forbes.Boston: published by Oliver Ditson,115 Washington St. [photographic reproduction]

 Recommended Reading: Dictionary of Canadian Biography:  http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=3386

 Recommended Reading: A Newfoundland SongbookA Collection of Music by Historic Newfoundland Composers, 1820-1942“, compiled and annotated by Paul G. Woodford: Creative Publishers,St. John’s (1987).

Recommended to Listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNVQdwzMKpA