Seaman Joseph Bursey

Reprinted from The Packet, September 6, 2018
(with additional photos)
by Lester Green

Joseph John and his buddy, Edward travelled to St. John’s and enlisted with the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve on January 9, 1918.

Seaman Joseph John Bursey. (Photo courtesy of Bursey family)

Naval Records list Joseph John’s birth date as December 1, 1897 and his birth place as Fox Harbour. His parents were recorded as John Charles and Eliza Jane. His baptism records, however, indicate he was born on September 27, 1898 to Charles and Patience Bursey.

He travelled to St. John’s with his friend, Edgar Soper, likely taking the train at the Northern Bight station. They both enlisted with the Royal Naval Reserve on January 9, 1918. Joseph spent three months before being sent overseas, unlike his friend Edgar who sailed on February 22.

Seaman Bursey’s orders for travelling overseas indicate that he arrived on April 25 and reported to HMS Pembroke I, an accounting base at Chatham, England. While attached to this base, he served on Defensively Armed Merchant Ships (D.A.M.S.). However, his naval records do not list the names of the vessels he sailed on.

Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve engagement papers. Source TRPAD_GN 182.14

He was then transferred to Pembroke III on August 15 and continued with the similar duties for an additional six months. He was ordered to report to Vivid III, Devonport on February 20. This base was used for the Royal Naval Division Trawler Section. He remained here until his final orders were received for his return home to HMS Briton.

His orders for returning home were received on April 11, 1919. Upon his arrival at St. John’s, he reported to the HMS Briton and remained until he received his shore demobilization orders on May 27. He was free to go back home to North West Brook.

Sarah Jane and Joseph Bursey. (Photo courtesy of Blanche Drodge)

He married Sarah Jane, daughter of Owen and Louisa (Reid) Soper of North West Brook sometime before 1925. They had four children that were born and raised at North West Brook. Joseph lived there until his death in 1993. He is buried at the United Church Cemetery, North West Brook, next to his wife who passed in 1985.

Seaman Joseph Bursey’s Naval Service Ledger. Source TRPAD_ GN 182.6







Early history of North West Brook

Northwest Brook. Source Decks Awash, Nov. 1986

During its earliest occupation, the community of Northwest Brook consisted of two areas – Point A Beach and Dark Hole. Early records for residents of Point A Beach list family names of Benson, Frost, and Bailey. All individuals are believed to be associated with the nearby community of Northern Bight. The surname of Snelgrove was also listed in 1904 and is believed to have arrived from Upper Island Cove.

The community of Dark Hole surnames included Baker, Norris, Bursey, Soper and Vivian.  Today, Dark Hole and Point A. Beach are collectively known as Northwest Brook.

The area was built mostly around lumbering and providing service to the train station at Northern Bight Station. The fishery played a minor role in the development of this community. The family of William Smith, who was born at Island Cove, moved to Northwest Brook and operated a schooner in the Labrador Fishery.

During the Great War four men are known to have stepped forward for service overseas. John Vivian was less than 16 years old when he caught the train to St. John’s to enlist with the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve, unknown to his mother. Naval records indicate that he successfully enlisted with the Reserve on May 16, 1916.

When his mother, Julia Jane, discovered that he had enlisted through a newspaper article that had published the names of men who had enlisted for that time period, she furiously walked to Clarenville from North West Brook. She demanded that the magistrate contact the Naval Commander and have her little boy sent home. She was successful but when John turned 18 years old, he again pursued his dream of joining the war efforts overseas. He travelled to St. John’s but this time he joined the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

Three other individuals Joseph Bursey, Edgar Soper and Isaac Soper joined the navy and served overseas from North West Brook.