Tag Archives: soldier

Australian Nurse writes a grieving Newfoundland Mother

Archival Moment

April 25, 1915

Australian Recruitment Poster, 1917

Australian Recruitment Poster, 1917

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.

Fighting with the ANZAC forces was the Newfoundland Regiment serving as part of the 29th Division of the British Army fighting in Gallipoli.

Six months after the ANZAC forces had landed 1,076 Newfoundlanders came ashore along the shores of the Dardanelles Strait (Turkey) 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.

Australian Nurse writes a grieving Newfoundland mother.

Australian Nurse writes a grieving Newfoundland mother.

During the almost four months the Newfoundland Regiment fought at Gallipoli, approximately 30 men died in action and 10 more died of disease. One of the young men who died was Joachim Murphy, Regimental # 696, he was 19 years old, the son of Joseph Murphy of Mundy Pond Road, St. John’s.   A young Australian nurse held him as he died and wanting to bring comfort to his mother wrote her this letter.

 

Australian Base Post Office

Alexandria, Egypt

December 6th 1915

 Dear Mrs. Murphy,

 I am an Australian Nurse on the Hospital Ship on which your son passed away when we were crossing from the Dardanelles to Malta.

 I have not much to tell you but thought it might comfort you in your sorrow to have a few lines from someone who was with him in his last hour. He was a very good boy and though so badly wounded was very brave and courageous, as I know he must have been when fighting.

 His injuries were such that his mental condition was not very clear so that he could not talk much about his home and friends but in his half delirium I often heard him say “Mother” as if he was thinking of his home. He suffered very little pain and passed peacefully away.

 He was seen by the priest before he died and had the Last Rites of his church. I am a Protestant myself and did not quite know what to do about a Crucifix he was wearing but thought it best to leave it to him when he went to his last resting place.

 These two letters I am enclosing were in the front pocket of his coat and were evidently treasured by him. I feel sure you would like to have them.

Trusting, that God will comfort you in your great loss and sorrow.

 I remain yours very sincerely,

 Jessie Reeves

 P.S.: The only address I have is St. John’s, Newfoundland so this may never reach you but am sending it; with the hope that it may do so. I think, St. John’s may not be a very big place so that it may get there.

Note: Jessie Reeves was a nurse with The Queen Alexandrea’s Imperial Nursing Service Reserve (QAIMNSR) She was originally from 5 Fenwick Street, Kew, Melbourne, Victoria. During the First World War (1914- 1918) she was at the Stationary Hospital in Ismalia,Egypt. After the war she did not marry, she died in Box Hill, Victoria in 1967.

Note: Joachim Murphy, Regimental # 696 was 19 years old was the son of Joseph Murphy of Mundy Pond Road, St. John’s. He died from shrapnel wounds that he sustained on a 4 November 1915. He was buried at sea on 7 November 1915 having died on the Hospital Ship.

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 compiled in 1915-1916 in recognition of the services of Newfoundland Regiment soldiers during the Gallipoli campaign.

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 Reading: When the Great Red Dawn Is Shining by Christopher J.A.Morry; Breakwater Books Ltd. St. John’s, NL. On their march towards the Somme, and Beaumont Hamel, the young men of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment raised their voices to sing “When the Great Red Dawn is Shining,” a song about returning home to the people they love. Howard Morry was one of the young men who managed to make it back. And now, one hundred years after the events that changed his life, we hear Morry’s voice, in these pages, rising from the silence to recount his days with the famed Regiment.

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

 

 

Newfoundlanders with “The Diggers”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

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 is no Caribou 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 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

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 rosary was distributed to each man

Archival Moment

January 28, 1915

Mass in the trenches

Mass in the trenches

There was a ritual in Newfoundland throughout the First World War (1914-1918) whereby the young volunteer soldiers gathered under the banner of their own denomination for lectures, prayers and blessings from the priest or minister of their church.

Those of the Roman Catholic faith typically gathered at St. Bonaventure’s College, Bonaventure Ave (directly across the street from The Rooms) for a series of lectures and prayers.

The Evening Telegram reported on January 28, 1915:

“The first of a series of lectures to the Roman Catholic members of the volunteers before their departure for England was given in the oratory of St Bonaventure’s College last night by Reverend Father Joseph Pippy who eloquently portrayed to his listeners the new duties they were entering upon.”

Father Pippy urged strongly the young volunteers:

“to conduct themselves as true men, to uphold the best traditions of their religion and to act as true soldiers in the observance of military duties in order that they might bring credit on themselves, their regiment the colony and the empire.”

The Reverend lecturer exhorted the young men above all toL:

“resist the temptations of intemperance; a righteous cause was being fought. He continued and it behooved every volunteer to do his duty as best he knew how”

The local newspaper correspondent reported “The lecture lasted nearly an hour and was impressive and beneficial to the large number of volunteers present.”

The evening concluded with “Benediction, imparted by Reverend Father Thomas Nangle after which a rosary was distributed to each man.

Prayer Book distributed to the volunteers of the Newfoundland Regiment  (click on to enlarge)

Prayer Book distributed to the volunteers of the Newfoundland Regiment (click on to enlarge)

The men gathered were told that there would be one more token of their faith,

“Prayer books will be given out later before their departure …. the members will (also) attend confession and communion in a body.”

The distribution of the rosary was significant, the rosary would have been a prayer that all of the Catholic volunteers would have known by heart. There was a time when it was a prayer that would have been recited in every Catholic home.

These young me clung to their faith, they especially clung to their rosary beads. Richard A. Howley of St. John’s whose ship the H.M.S. Irresistible had been blown out of the water wrote from his hospital bed in Plymouth, England in 1915:

“It was terrific, my legs felt as if they were both broken, and my back as if it had been flayed. I fell on the spot and thought that I was done for. I had a little Rosary … I took it out, kissed the Crucifix and crossed myself, I immediately experienced an extraordinary change , something forcing me into action …”

In the service records of many of the Newfoundland volunteers, they reference turning to their faith.

During the Great War the United States government produced and issued special “combat” rosaries for the spiritual welfare of Catholic soldiers. These rosaries were made to withstand the rugged reality of life in the trenches. Made of brass, washed in silver, and blued to darken the metal (to prevent them from making the soldiers easy targets) these rosaries were made to last. Instead of a traditional chain, the combat rosary featured a significantly stronger “pull chain” from which they are sometimes named.

We have no description of the rosaries that were issued to the Newfoundland volunteers but if you know of or hold a pair that have a connection to the First World War I would love to talk to you about them.

Recommended Archival Collection: The New Testament presented by the British and Foreign and Newfoundland Bible Societies to the Members of the First Newfoundland Regiment in the War of 1914: MG 702.1

Recommended Exhibit: Flowers of Remembrance   Level 2, Museum VitrinesArtifacts and period imagery explore the flowers associated with the First World War, most especially the forget-me-not and the poppy. These flowers have played a significant role across the last century. – See more at: https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/now/flowers-of-remembrance#sthash.sPiXTerZ.dpuf

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.

 

A letter from London: Remembrance Day, 2015

Wandsworth Cemetery, London is home to the graves of 18 Newfoundlanders.

Wandsworth Cemetery, London is home to the graves of 18 Newfoundlanders.

How children at an English elementary school came to care for 18 Newfoundland graves. The Royal Newfoundland Regiment plot sits near the heart of the Wandsworth cemetery in London, England, not far from the Australians and the New Zealanders. Seventeen young men and one woman from Newfoundland lie buried here.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/ted-blades-letter-from-london-1.3311124

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

 

First World War Speakers Series

RecruitingDr. Dean F. Oliver: I See Horror. What Do You See?

Location: The Rooms Theatre

Date: November 4

Time: 7:00pm – 8:30pm

Cost: $15 (10% discount for members)

Join Dr. Dean F. Oliver, Director of Research, Canadian Museum of History as he compares actual war to remembered war, lived experience to imagined pasts. It is a dialogue as politically charged and personally traumatic now as it was in 1914, when the first mother read the first son’s carefully evasive letter, or the first censor made the first disaster the first victory. Think about war: what do you see?

Dr. Dean F. Oliver is a Newfoundlander by birth, and Director of Research at the Canadian Museum of History. Formerly (2003-2013) the Director of Research and Exhibitions at the Canadian War Museum, he has taught history, political science and international security, and was founding editor of the monograph series, Studies in Canadian Military History. The Oxford Companion to Canadian Military History (with J.L. Granatstein), published in 2010, won the annual Charles P. Stacey Prize for the best work of military history published in Canada.

Award-winning directed exhibitions have included Canvas of War, Afghanistan, and 1812.

In 2010, Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands knighted Dr. Oliver in the Order of Orange-Nassau in honour of his “contributions to society.”

His most recent article, “The July Drive”, on Newfoundland and Labrador’s memory of the First World War, appeared in Canada’s Great War Album, edited by Mark Reid (2014).

He is currently curating an exhibition on Newfoundland at war, and another on Canada in world affairs since 1945. His next publication, “Canada in the Great War,” will appear this fall as part of a European online interactive encyclopedia.

For more information call: 757-8090.