Tag Archives: War

“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.

An invitation: The tradition of the New Year’s Levee

Archival Moment

JANUARY 1, 1915

On January 1, 1915 Governor Walter Edward Davidson of Newfoundland made reference in his private diary to the tradition of the New Year’s Day Levee in St. John’s. He wrote

We received from 3:00 – 6:00 o’clock. It has been an ancient custom for men to call on their lady friends on New Year’s Day. It is dying out but 236 called here. It is usual for them to call also on the Roman Catholic Archbishop and the Anglican Bishop. The former (Archbishop Howley) is in Heaven but Monsignor Roche received a large number of visitors. The Anglican Bishop is away, spending every second winter in his other Diocese in Bermuda.”

The “ancient custom for men to call on their lady friends on New Year’s Day” that Davidson referred to in his diary has disappeared in Newfoundland but the tradition of the levee has survived.

This levee was a reception that was held early in the afternoon of New Years Day, typically at the residence of the host.  Attending these levees was an annual ritual in the town.

At the 1915 Levée Governor Davidson stood in the reception line with Captain G.H.F. Abraham and Captain H. Goodridge, Officers of the Newfoundland Regiment reminding guests of their solidarity with the many Newfoundland soldiers who had departed Newfoundland just three months earlier to fight for King and Empire.

The first recorded Levée in Canada was held on January 1st, 1646 in the Château St. Louis by Charles Huault de Montmagny, Governor of New France (later Québec).  In addition to shaking hands and wishing a Happy New Year to citizens presenting themselves at the Château, the Governor informed guests of significant events in the Mother Country, as well as the state of affairs within the colony.  This tradition is carried on today within The Commonwealth in the form of The Queen’s New Year’s Message.

The Levée tradition was continued by British Colonial Governors in Canada, and subsequently by Governors General and Lieutenant Governors, and continues to the present day.

 Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to read Governor Walter Davidson’s Private Diary. MG 136.5

Christmas, dinners and dances, forbidden

Archival Moment

December 22, 1914

“Dinners and dances, forbidden”

Photo Credit: World War I poster. During World War I, Allied Nations relied for propaganda on images and accounts of German atrocities to motivate their citizens to participate in the war effort. In this scene, the silhouetted German soldier with his thick Kaiser mustache drags a young girl away while the ruins of the city burn in the background.

Photo Credit: World War I poster. During World War I, Allied Nations relied for propaganda on images and accounts of German atrocities to motivate their citizens to participate in the war effort. In this scene, the silhouetted German soldier with his thick Kaiser mustache drags a young girl away while the ruins of the city burn in the background.

On December 22, 1914 Margaret  (Lady) Davidson the wife of the Governor of Newfoundland declared that there would be no “dinners or dances “in Government House on Military Road, St. John’s, during the Christmas Season. Lady Davidson thought that it would be inappropriate to have extravagant affairs while the war raged in Europe.

Her gesture, to the men in uniform and their families, was much appreciated but her husband Governor Walter E. Davidson felt that there must be some form of “relaxation” so he invited 64 guests to the house for a game of Belgian Bridge.

Lady Davidson gave her nod to the card game because the event would be used to support the Belgian’s who had been displaced in August 1914 by the German Invaders. In 1914 tens of thousands of Belgian refugees were homeless. They were seen by the world as desperate people in need of emergency assistance, but also victims of German aggression. Throughout the world including Newfoundland committees were being struck to provide charitable relief to Belgian refugees.

Governor Davidson wrote in his personal diary on December 22, 1914:

 “In the evening we had a gathering called Belgian Bridge. There were 16 tables and we played from 8:00 – 10:30 p.m. and then supped. Each of the 64 contributes 50 cents, and if any play for stakes, the winnings go to the Belgian Fund. We netted $90.00 dollars which included extra droppings in the plate and donations from others who come not come.”

Belgian Bridge games were being held in all of the finer houses in the town. Governor Davidson reported:

“There have been similar evenings at the Marmaduke Winter’s and Mrs. Will Job’s and others”

The Governor was quite pleased that his wife approved of the card games he wrote:

Governor Davidson wrote in his diary that he was very pleased that “this form has received her approval.”

Archival Collection:   A the Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to read the Diary of Governor Walter Edward Davisson. (MG 136.5). He played a significant role in the life of Newfoundland and Labrador especially during the First World War. His insights into the social, political and economic life of NL are interesting.

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

 

 

A Christmas Box for our Soldiers and Sailors

Archival Moment

December 1914

christmaswwixsb05m_mediumDuring the first week of December 1914 throughout Newfoundland and Labrador the conversation in many households was about preparing a ‘Christmas Box’ for the Newfoundland boys who had signed up to fight for King and Country.

If the ‘Christmas Box’ was to reach ‘the boys’ with the Newfoundland Regiment that were stationed in England, it would have to be ready by December 10.

The tradition of the ‘Christmas Box’ is well established in Newfoundland, as early as 1819 the Anglican clergyman Rev Lewis Amadeus in his book ‘A History of the Island of Newfoundland’ observed:

“ [The Christmas boxes are] presents, not in coin. . . but in eatables, from a turkey or a quarter of veal or mutton, or a piece of beef just killed for the occasion, down to a nicely smoked salmon.”

In 1914 a number of St John’s businesses were promoting the notion of sending Christmas Boxes (Hampers) to the young men who had signed up for the war effort. Universal Agencies located at 137 Water Street encouraged family and friends of the Ist Newfoundland Regiment to send the boys “their Xmas Dinner.

Universal Agencies advertised:

“We have just received word from our London connections that should the friends of any of our Volunteers on Salisbury Plain wish to send them Christmas Hampers they will undertake to supply Hampers containing such things as Turkey, Ham, Sausages, Pudding, Mincemeats, Fruit and Confectionary … “

Universal Agencies also advertised that they would offer three different size of hampers, $5.50, $11.00 and $16.50

Families were also told that the ’Christmas Box’ would be incomplete without a package of cigarettes.

“And don’t forget that after a good dinner your boy will appreciate a box of the famous De. Reszke Cigarettes at $1.50.”

In order to make the price of sending a ‘Christmas Box’ cost effective the “ Newfoundland Government removed all duties on smokes going direct to our Soldiers on Salisbury Plains and our Sailors on the Ocean.”

The Christmas Hampers may have been addressed for Pond Camp on the Salisbury Plain where the tented camp was established in October 1914 for the Regiment but by December the Regiment was moved to Fort George, Inverness located in the Highlands of Scotland. The Newfoundland Regiment celebrated its first Christmas away from home with a Regimental dinner and with visits to the many homes of the Scottish people who showed in many ways their appreciation for these young soldiers.

Recommended Archival Collection: http://www.rnr.therooms.ca/part3_database.asp

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

 

 

 

First World War Letters

Red-Crossnurse-writes-a-letter-for-an-injured-patient“First World War Letters”  is a documentary that CBC just launched using letters that are found in the Rooms Provincial Archives.

The Rooms holds thousands of pieces of correspondence from the First World War, written by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. They come from the records of the men and women who signed up to serve King and Country at home, in the trenches, on the sea and in the air.

Take some time to watch and listen to their stories. These are the voices of our families. Click on the link below:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/beaumont-hamel-letters-1.3630620

Watch the video then scroll down and  LISTEN to the whole documentary.

 

 

 

Newfoundland Nurse: Letter from the trenches

Archival Moments

June 13, 1915

Newfoundland Nurse: Letter from the trenches

nurseOn June 13, 1915 Maysie Parsons, 26 years old, originally from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland wrote to her father Edward Parsons from L’Hopital de L’Ocean, a field hospital in La Panne, Belgium. In her letter she wrote frankly about war and what she was witnessing. She wrote:

“My Dear Father

Although we are only six miles from the trenches, we never hear any war news. The only thing we do know is when there is a battle on this end. We can hear the guns and see the flashes and lightening, and tonight, oh, it is simply terrible. It is just the same as thunder and lightning and to think that every flash means so many deaths!

It is horrible. We do get terrible cases in. I know if you saw the poor patients, you would wonder how they could possibly live. It is impossible to sleep lots of nights.

War certainly is HELL

Tonight I am writing by the light of candle. We can’t get any sleep. And have been watching the flashes off the guns, etc., all along the lines for hours. It really seems that the fighting is all around us. I am glad I came but it certainly seems strange.

Wherever we go we very seldom meet anybody that can speak a word of English, and then if we go for a walk about every few yards we are held up by a sentry and have to produce our passports.”

Maysie was frustrated that she could not speak the language of the soldier boys that she was treating. When war broke out, Belgium did not have enough nurses so were dependent on nurses sent from British Commonwealth countries including Canada and Newfoundland. Masie signed up with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. She wrote:

We get a lot of cases in here that only live a few hours. It seems terrible, they have not a person belonging to them, and I wish I could speak French. It is certainly hard to nurse every sick patient when you have to guess at what they want, and then not to be able to speak to them. Kindly and sympathize with them. I think a kind word often means a lot.

Maysie was also conscious that all of her letters would be read by censors and was careful not to disclose details that would result in her letter being delayed and or not delivered.

Yesterday we had quite a lot of patients come in, 61. I could write for hours about how thy have been treated, but you see, our letters are censored, and there are lots of interesting things we cannot tell.

Like other letters that were sent by sons and daughters from the trenches of Europe to parents back home in Newfoundland the letters would always make reference to other Newfoundlanders that they had encountered, their Newfoundland patriotic fervor was always evident.

The other day a man came and asked me what part of Canada I as from, so I told him not Canada, but Newfoundland, he told me he knew Sir Edward P. Morris quite well, and how he had to study up about the fisheries, for the Convention of the Hague. He was asking me about Newfoundland, and afterwards I found out he was the Editor of the London Times.

We found an English newspaper today, and you should see the bunch get around it, it was about a month old, but we read everything in it, even the advertisements. It was good to see something in English.

I sent some cards home, hope they get them.

Love too all,

From your Loving daughter

Maysie

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Take a look at some of the  photographs  of the interior of Government House –  100 years ago – Pindikowsky  is responsible for the ceilings. Type  Great War Photograph  Collection  in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium, The Rooms. 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.