Little Heart’s Ease sends 11 men to war

Reprinted from The Packet, May 10, 2018
by Lester Green

(Click on image to enlarge)

View of the “Point” at Little Heart’s Ease where Eli and Albert Drodge were raised.

The community of Little Heart’s Ease is often confused with Heart’s Ease (Beach) in many historical documents, leading people to believe that the history of settlers at Little Heart’s Ease dates back to the late 1600s. The earliest European history can be traced to Heart’s Ease Beach but the European history at Little Heart’s Ease began with the arrival of Stringer’s, Shaw’s, Martin’s, Drodge’s and Jacobs’ inside the boundaries of the harbour around the 1860s.

Before people settled in the harbour, families such as Benson’s, Vardy’s, Shaw’s and Martin’s lived at the now abandon communities of Clay Pitts and Batt’s Cove located outside the harbour along the shores of Southwest Arm. With the outbreak of the war, eleven men enlisted and served with the Armed Forces of Great Britain. Seven men joined the Royal Newfoundland Regiment: four were Shaw’s – Andrew, Daniel, Bernard, and William James; two were Jacobs – Arthur and Levi; and, one was a Peddle – William John. (Click on their names to find more information about their service or check articles written and published in the Packet in 2016 under the heading Where Once They Served.)

Four men served with the Royal Naval Reserve from Little Heart’s Ease. Two were brothers – Eli and Albert Drodge – one was Joseph Martin and the other, George Stringer. Seaman Stringer paid the ultimate sacrifice losing his life aboard the HMS Viknor on January 13, 1915. This week’s article will relate the journeys of Albert and Eli. Next week’s article will describe the hardships faced by Joseph Martin. George Stringer’s supreme sacrifice was related in an article on September 28, 2017 entitled Laid Down His Life For His King.

Two brothers  joined the Royal Naval Reserve, married and died, all within a month of each other.                                                                                                                        

Eli and Albert Drodge of Little Heart’s Ease

Eleazer and Cassandra (Baker) Drodge had two sons who enlisted with the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve. Albert was the first to enlist on August 24, 1914. He completed his training at HMS Calypso and was sent overseas on the SS Franconia on November 6, 1914. He was assigned to HMS Virginian, along with five other young men from the Southwest Arm region, serving for the next 2 years. Naval logs for the HMS Virginian shows that on Nov 25, 1916, the Newfoundland sailors were dismissed at Shetland, Scotland. He spent the next six months at HMS Pembroke, a shore based structure. An article in the Evening Telegram entitled “Naval Heroes Return” on January 10, 1917 shows he returned home to HMS Briton, where he was granted one month furlough.

He returned overseas on November 14, 1917 and served nine months at HMS Vivid III, a shore-based Accounting Section at Devonport, England. He was then transferred to HMS Kosmos, a registered steel trawler converted to a minesweeper and used as a depot ship after 1917. The base ship operated  out of the port of La Harve, France. After completing three months, he was transferred back to Vivid III where he remained until he returned to HMS Briton, St. John’s. He completed close to five years of service with the Royal Naval Reserve and was granted his shore demobilization on April 2, 1919.

His older brother, Eli enlisted five weeks after Albert, on October 8, 1914. After just one month training, he was transferred overseas, aboard SS Franconia, along with his brother and 32 other sailors from the Southwest Arm area. He spent the next three years assigned to HMS Excellent and HMS President. During this time he was drafted to the HMS Motagua, an armed merchant battle cruiser that was part of the 10th Cruiser Squardon that formed the blockade in the North Sea. He was then transferred to the SS Cedric, a troopship, where he was assigned as a gunner. The ship was used to transport American troops to La Harve, France.

He returned from overseas on September 6, 1917. The Evening Telegram identifies Seaman Eli Drodge as one of several sailors returning from furlough on October 16, 1917. He returned from leave to HMS Briton where he was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy. He arrived in Halifax and witnessed the devastating Halifax Explosion on December 6, 1917. He spent the remainder of his navy career serving at the stone frigate, HMCS Stadacona where he served aboard the Coastal Drifter CD 18. He returned to HMS Briton on December 26, 1918 where his demobilization was granted on March 22, 1919.

Both brothers returned home. Eli was the first to marry on September 19, 1919 to Ethel May Snow of Clarke’s Beach, a Methodist teacher. Albert married a month later to Olive Florence Smith, the daughter of Jacob and Mirah Smith, of Hodge’s Cove.

Eli passed on September 22, 1976 followed by Albert’s on October 23, 1976. Both were buried in the Bethany United Church Cemetery (the point), Little Heart’s Ease. Both brothers had joined the war just one month apart, married within one month, and passed away within one month of each other.