The Avery Brothers of Fox Harbour

Reprinted from The Packet, July 26, 2018
by Lester Green

Seaman Josiah survives three German Torpedos while his brother served on the HMS Columbella.

Seaman Josiah Avery. (Photo courtesy of Elaine Stringer)

Josiah and Levi James were the oldest sons of William and Myria Avery of Fox Harbour.

In the spring of 1913, Josiah and two of his friends, Eucleus Lambert and Timothy Smith, enlisted with Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve. 

The Reserve provided them and many other young men with an opportunity to earn income, possible after failing to secure a berth on a sealing vessel. Seaman Josiah Avery competed 28 days of training and returned to the Naval Reserve in March of 1914 to complete another 28 days of training.

On August 4, 1914, Josiah was ordered by Royal Proclamation to report to the HMS Calypso and was sent overseas three months later aboard the SS Franconia. Onboard were 33 sailors from the Southwest Arm area. Upon arrival, he was assigned to HMS Vivid I, Devonport, England. He then reported to HMS Ambrose, an Armed Merchant Cruiser, where he served several months as part of the 10th Cruiser Squadron. Also onboard were Seaman Joseph Edward Smith and Seaman Caleb Cooper.

Naval log records of the HMS Ambrose indicate that the ship came under attack on March 11, 1915 by a German U-boat. The first attack occurred at 1:20 p.m. when a torpedo passed 20 yards from the bow, followed by a second torpedo at 2:05 p.m. that passed by the stern. The ship responded by firing on the submarine. The final attack occurred at 2:22 p.m. The ship responded with open fire and believed that they had successful sank the U-boat. The crew of the HMS Ambrose was to later learn that German submarine U-27 sank the HMS Bayano that resulted in the lost of Seaman Simeon Whalen of Caplin Cove earlier that morning. Seaman Josiah Avery and the rest of the crew had narrowly escaped the claws of death.

Josiah next assignment was to the Azores onboard the HMS Sutlej patrolling the waters of this region using both the port of St. Vincent and port of Sierra Leone as a base. After completing this assignment, he returned to the HMS Briton at St. John’s where he was granted leave.

Josiah returned from furlough and was assigned to the Royal Canadian Navy. He reported to the HMCS Niobe, a shore-based structure at Halifax and was immediately assigned to a Coastal Drifter CD 68 that was attached to HMCS Stradocona for five months. On May 1, 1918 his ship was sent to HMCS Seagull, the shore-based structure at Sydney, Nova Scotia to patrol the waters around the Straits of Belle Isle. He returned home to HMS Briton around December 20, 1918 and was demobilized on March 24, 1919.

Seaman Josiah Avery returned home to Southport and married Violet Frances, daughter of John Roberts and Pricilla Balsom, four months later. They raised their family in Southport, where Josiah passed away on October 26, 1967. His wife passed away in 1984 and is buried next to him at Bethany Cemetery, Southport.

Seaman James Levi Avery. (Photo courtesy of Melvie Balsom)

James (Jimmy) Levi Avery enlisted on May 21, 1918 and had a naval career lasting one year. He trained at the HMS Briton and was then attached to shore-base HMS Vivid III, Portsmouth, England, where he spent four months. He was then assigned to HMS Columbella, an armed merchant cruiser. He joined the ship at Portsmouth, England and travelled with a convoy from Portsmouth to Quebec between October 16- 28, 1918 returning to London on November 12, 1918. He was assigned to HMS Vivid III for a month and then returned to the HMS Briton where he spent his final two months with the navy at HMS Briton receiving his demobilization orders on April 10, 1919.

Seaman James Avery returned to Southport and spent the next several years fishing. He married Elsie, daughter of Edward and Mary Elizabeth (Piercey) Spurrell of Butter Cove on June 5, 1933. They raised their family at Southport, where Jimmy passed away in 1973 followed by Elsie in 1987.

Seaman Jimmy Avery’s ship/base service record.

Seaman Josiah Avery’s ship/base service record.


Melvie Balsom and Rita Phillips, daughters of Seaman Jimmy Avery, holding their father’s Royal Naval Certificate book.