Newfoundland Reserve, 1902-1914

Reprinted from The Packet, 22 September 2017
by Lester Green

In fall of 1902, the British Royal Navy gifted to Newfoundland, a third-class cruiser named the H.M.S. Calypso. The ship was to be retro-fitted and used as a stationary drill ship for training of naval reserve personnel.

The ship was initially anchored in Placentia Bay while repairs were completed. It was then moved to St. John’s Harbour and used extensively as a naval training base for new recruits to the Royal Naval Reserve prior to the Great War. The ship had 28 instructors from the British Royal Navy and could accommodate up to 300 volunteers.

The newly formed Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve accepted men who had experience with the sea, in good health, and were between the ages of 18-30 years. By 1909, the upper age limit was dropped to 25 years.

Between 1904-1912 hundreds of young men enlisted from both the St. John’s region and outports around Newfoundland coast. The men were paid a daily wage and received a retainer fee of six pounds per year legally binding the recruits to report to the Navy if called upon during a war. The pay received for their service was a welcome addition to many families during a period when times were difficult.

Training occurred between the months of November and April, a time period after the cod fishery ended and before the beginning of the seal hunt. It usually involved 28 days of training per year. Naval records indicate that the men handled ammunition and were taught how to properly discharge three types of guns-the big gun (3mm), rifle and pistol and were graded on their marksmanship. In addition, recruits completed daily drills, safety training and other navy practices.

Men from Random started to appear in Naval Reserve records starting around 1906. Some of these men never served in the Great War for various reasons but others received orders by Royal Proclamation and enlisted in August, 1914.

There were at least 10 men from Southwest Arm area who did not serve overseas but trained at the H.M.S. Calypso. There were other names in naval records that may have been from the area but without evidence of their birthdate/birthplace are difficult to confirm. A list of men who enlisted but did not join up for the Great War is provided with this article. If you know of anyone from the Southwest Arm that does not appear in this list, please contact the Southwest Arm Historical Society.

A series of articles will be presented over the next several months under the heading Where Once They Sailed. 85 young men from the Southwest Arm region enlisted and served overseas on various ships carrying out duties ranging from boarding parties to gunnery on battleships.

The stories featured will reveal the experience of these men who served in the Great War from the Southwest Arm region. It will speak of the sacrifices made by these men and the hardships that they endured during this troublesome times in our history.

The first series of articles will speak about the ultimate sacrifices made by seven sons of our region who lost their lives when the ships they served on were sunk. Next week’s article will speak about William Thomas and Mary Ann Stringer’s son, Seaman George Stringer. He was the first sailor to lose his life and was among the first group of causalities suffered by Newfoundlanders in either the Regiment or Naval Reserve. He lost his life when the H.M.S. Viknor sank on January 13, 1915.


Southwest Arm men enlisted but did not serve during First World War

Name Years Served
Llewellyn Balsom 1907
Alfred John Barfitt 1908-1912
William Flynn 1905-1907
Absalom King 1907-1911
Bartholomew King 1906-1910
George Lambert 1905-1908
Reuben Martin 1905-1907
Josiah Peddle 1905-1910
Caleb Peddle 1907-1912
Richard Seward 1908
John Vivian 1916 (discharged after mother informed Navy of his age)

Chart based on Drill Register Royal Naval Reserve 1904-1913 and Drill Register Royal Naval Reserve 1913-1915