Tag Archives: The Rooms

“Little hope of recovering the body”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

JULY 1 – MEMORIAL DAY

Letter Home from the trenches

Herbert Wills

Rank: Corporal

Service: 2185

Community: Grand Falls

Age: 18

Occupation: Papermaker

Date of Death: December 8, 1916

Regiment: NewfoundlandRegiment

Cemetery: Beaumont Hamel (Newfoundland) Memorial

Parents: Frederick William and Mary Wills of 8,Exploits Lane,Grand Falls.

The one comfort that families desperately wanted upon hearing about the death of their son was to know, that their son, had been buried in a marked grave with dignity.

Fred Wills wrote a number of letters to the Minister of the Militia at the Colonial Building, St.  John’s pleading to know where his son (Herbert Wills) was buried in France.  Many bodies were never recovered.  The battlefields of France became their grave yard.

The Minister of the Militia called on Reverend Colonel Thomas Nangle the R.C. Chaplin to the Newfoundland Regiment in France to make inquires about his place of burial. But Nangle could find no information:

“I am writing herewith copy of said letter  and although  Father Nangle gives but little hope of recovering the body. I trust that his next endeavours will be successful, and that we will have the pleasure of forwarding you good news.”

It was letters like the one that was written by Fred Wills that moved the government ofNewfoundland to establish a Memorial at Beaumont Hamel where the sons of Newfoundland would be remembered. A place of peace and dignity.

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.

“The present generation in Newfoundland . . . leaves a mighty inheritance”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

March 29, 1869

The Mullock Episcopal Library (now the Basilica Museum) is home to some of the oldest books in the province.

On this day (29 March 1869) the talk in the town was all about the death of the Catholic Bishop of St. John’s, John Thomas Mullock.
John Thomas Mullock was born in 1807 at Limerick, Ireland.  In July, 1850, he became the Catholic Bishop of Newfoundland.

 He is celebrated for much that he did for the local church, he completed the splendid Cathedral (now Basilica) of St. John’s, built the Episcopal Library now the home for the Basilica Museum, founded St. Michael’s Orphanage, and established St. Bonaventure’s College.  All buildings designated in 2010 as part of the Ecclesiastical District of St. John’s by Parks Canada.

He would have likely celebrated the building of The Rooms in the neighborhood of his Basilica Cathedral.  He had hoped that the neighborhood around the Basilica would become the academic and cultural centre of the town.

He was also keen to make Newfoundland a hub of activity in the emerging communications industry.  Long before the first attempts to lay a submarine cable across the Atlantic he was (1857), the first to publicly propose the feasibility of connecting Europe with America by means of submarine telegraph.

In a series of two lectures on Newfoundland given in St John’s in 1860 he revealed his hope in his adopted land:

“The present generation in Newfoundland . . . leaves a mighty inheritance to their children, and we are forming the character of a future nation.”

 

Recommended Reading: Ecclesiastical History ofNewfoundland, volume II / by Archbishop Michael F. Howley, edited by Brother Joseph B. Darcy, associate editor, John F. O’Mara.