The boys of Queen’s Cove

Reprinted from The Packet, July 11, 2018
by Lester Green

Seaman Caleb Cooper was saved several times from Davey’s Locker

Seaman Caleb Cooper’s medals.

Caleb Cooper enlisted with the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve on February 8, 1912 at the age of 20. He spent 28 days of training between 1912-14 aboard the HMS Calypso, St. John’s.

William John was the son of William George and Elizabeth Anne (Goobie) Butt of Queen’s Cove. William signed his application on March 20, 1914 and completed the 28 days of training before the outbreak of the war.

Both sailors departed for overseas aboard the HMS Franconia that was carrying 315 Royal Naval Reservist overseas. The Franconia departed St. John’s harbour on November 6, 1914. Onboard were 33 sailors from the Southwest Arm area.

The Armed Merchant Cruiser, HMS Virginian. (Credit

Upon arrival in England, both men went separate ways. Caleb was assigned to the navy barracks at HMS Vivid I, Devonport. William John was drafted to HMS Virginian, an Armed Merchant Cruiser, that was part of the 10th Cruiser Squadron responsible for patrolling the waters of the North Atlantic. Onboard HMS Virginian were seven sailors from the Southwest Arm area. Seaman Butt, along with all other Newfoundland Reservist serving on this ship, remained there until they were transferred at Swarbacks Minn, Scotland on Nov. 25, 1916.

Seaman Caleb Cooper. (Photo courtesy of his son, Ray Cooper)

Caleb was drafted to his first ship on Dec. 9, 1914, the HMS Ambrose, an Armed Merchant Cruiser. Onboard were two other sailors from the Southport, Josiah Avery and Joseph Edward Smith. He spent the next 10 months as part of the 10th Cruiser Squadron.

On March 11, the ship came under attack by what some naval historians believe was the German submarine U27. The U27 had successfully sank the HMS Bayano earlier that morning. The Bayano was carrying Seaman Simeon Whalen of Caplin Cove who lost his life that dreadful day. The submarine successfully fired three torpedo’s before HMS Ambrose returned fire. It is believed that the ship sank U27.

Seaman Cooper was then transferred back to HMS Vivid I where he spent four months before being assigned to the 4 funnel cruiser, HMS Sutlej on February 6, 1916. Again he saw the familiar faces of Seaman Josiah Avery and Seaman Joseph Edward Smith. This time their assignment would take them into action of the coast of British West Africa, along with Gibraltar and other Mediterranean missions for 15 months before returning to HMS Vivid III.

Seaman Cooper was granted leave during June 24, 1917. He returned home for a short visit to see his wife, Rachael Miriam, daughter of Robert and Sarah Miller. He could now hold his second daughter, Rachael Jane, who was born after he left for the war.

Seaman Caleb Cooper returned to the HMS Briton to receive his new orders on December. 10, 1917. He would not be returning overseas but was drafted to the Royal Canadian Navy. He arrived at HMCS Stadacona on December 4, the day of the Halifax Explosion and likely spent the first few weeks assisting with the devastation that had occurred in the city. He spent time aboard a Coastal Drifter known as CD20 while assigned to HMCS Stadacona. He was then transferred to HMCS Guelph at Halifax where the Coastal Drifter CD20 had now become the depot ship.

An article in the Western Star on January 10, 1917 entitled Naval Heroes on Furlough list Seaman Butt’s name among the sailors that were arriving by express train across Newfoundland from Port aux Basques.

Seaman William Butts ships/base ledger. Source TRPAD_ GN 182.4

Seaman William John Butt spent the fall of 1917 at the home serving at the HMS Briton. He returned overseas and reported to HMS Vivid III where he spent the next year likely serving on patrol ships and minesweepers. Records show that on October 15, 1918 he was assigned to the HMS Orbita, an Armed Merchant Cruiser. By January 1919 he was re-assigned back to the Vivid III and awaited his orders for returning home.

William John spent his final six weeks of his naval career at HMS Briton and was demobilized on April 16, 1919. He went to the Boston States to seek work after returning home and remained there until his death.

Caleb was sent home to HMS Briton on December 23 and was demobilized on April 2, 1919. He returned home and spent 34 years employed by Canadian National Railway. He remained at Queen’s Cove and raised nine children. Two of his children, Robert and Douglas, served during the Second World War with the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit. Caleb passed away on October 27, 1981 and his buried next to his wife, Rachael, who passed on October 2, 1970.