Newfoundlanders have their own unique way of remembering the Great War.

When the war erupted in August 1914, Newfoundlanders heeded the call and rushed to enlist. At the time, Newfoundland was a proud part of the British Empire. And while it was ruled by an independent, responsible government, Newfoundland, like Canada, found itself automatically at war with Germany when Britain entered the fight on August 4, 1914.

Soon after the declaration of war, Newfoundland’s governor offered Britain a pledge of five hundred ground troops and 1,000 naval personnel.

Newfoundlanders were eager to enlist, and by September, more than 1,000 men had stepped forward. This number was cut in half, and the “First Five Hundred” — nick-named the “Blue Puttees” for the distinctive hue of their leggings — departed for Britain in October 1914. As the men boarded the SS Florizel, thousands of Newfoundlanders lined the docks in St. John’s to see them off.

The Royal Newfoundland Regiment went on to serve in Gallipoli in the campaign against the Ottoman Empire, and infamously, at the Somme, where at Beaumont-Hamel, France, on the first day of the July 1916 offensive, the entire regiment was virtually wiped out in the initial attack.

Other key battles involving Newfoundland include the second Somme offensive, the Battle of Arras (April 1917), the Battle of Cambrai (November 1917) and the Last Hundred Days campaign (August – November 1918).

By the end of the war, more than eight thousand soldiers had served in uniform. Of those, approximately 1,300 were killed and another 2,400 wounded during the conflict.

With a population of only two hundred thousand, these deaths and casualties were keenly felt on the home front. Back in Newfoundland, more than fifteen thousand women had volunteered during the war with the Women’s Patriotic Association, knitting and sewing clothers for soldiers, and preparing medical supplies for the Red Cross. Children also volunteered any way they could to raise money for the cause.

During the war, Newfoundland’s economy revved as it furnished raw materials and foods, such as fish, for the war effort. However, the armistice heralded the end of the boom, and by the late 1920s, the island colony was on hard times.

The July Drive

The July Drive

Newfoundlanders have their own unique way of remembering the Great War. By Dean F. Oliver.
Daniel O

Daniel O'Connell

O’Connell was age forty-seven when he enlisted, although the birth date on his attestation papers would have made him only age twenty-four.
John Shiwak

John Shiwak

Shiwak would impress all as an exceptional scout and marksman. One officer would call him the best sniper in the British army.
Roy Spencer

Roy Spencer

He was dying in the mud when a soldier from his hometown recognized him and carried him more than a kilometer to the casualty clearing station.