Thomas and Mary Ann Smith’s sons serve overseas

Reprinted from The Packet, August 2, 2018
by Lester Green

Joe and Jack grew up in Fox Harbour and enlisted with several of their cousins. They served their King and Country bringing honour to this small fishing village.

Seaman Joseph Edward and Seaman John Thomas Smith. (Photo courtesy of Gordon Lambert)

The Smith’s of Fox Harbour that served during WW1 were grandchildren of Thomas (Sr) and Patience Smith who arrived in the harbour around the 1850’s. Joseph (Joe) Edward and John (Jack) Thomas were the sons of Thomas (Jr) and Mary Ann (Pittman) Smith. They both enlisted with the Royal Newfoundland Naval Reserve and trained aboard the HMS Calypso at St. John’s.

Joe Edward initially enlisted with Royal Naval Reserve in January, 1913 completing 56 days of training before receiving orders by Royal Proclamation on August 4, 1914. He departed for overseas with 32 other men from the Southwest Arm area on the SS Franconia on October 6, 1914.

Thomas Smith and family circa 1900’s. Joe and Jack are the boys without caps. (Photo courtesy of Les Dean)

Joe Edward was assigned to HMS Vivid, Devonport, a shore-based Navy barracks before being drafted to the HMS Ambrose, an Armed Merchant Cruiser. Onboard were two familiar faces, Seaman Josiah Avery and Seaman Caleb Cooper. Seaman Smith spent 10 months protecting the Northern waters by patrolling for enemy ships and boarding vessels that were suspected of transporting contraband goods destined for enemy ports. 

On March 11th, 1915 the HMS Ambrose came under attack from the German U-boat, U27 at 1:20pm which fired a torpedo narrowly missing the bow. At 2:05pm it was again attacked by another possible submarine firing a torpedo that passed astern of the HMS Ambrose. The third and final attack came at 2:22 p.m. when a torpedo passed on the portside. The HMS Ambrose returned fire and suspected that they had sunk the u-boat. Later it was learnt that the submarine was likely U-27 that had successfully sunk the HMS Bayano. Onboard the HMS Bayano was Seaman Simeon Whalen, a fellow sailor from Caplin Cove, near Southport, who lost his life to the sea that day.

Joseph Edward shortly after his discharge from Royal Naval Reserve. (Photo courtesy of Gary Smith)

Joe Edward completed his time onboard the HMS Ambrose on October 20, 1916 and was transferred to HMS Vivid I, an Accounting Base at Devonport, where he spent four months. Naval records do not indicate that he received leave during 1917 but church records list his marriage to Olga Blanche, daughter of William Henry and Lydia Seward, on September 5, 1917.

Joseph Edward and his wife, Olga Blanche. (Photo courtesy of Gary Smith)

After his marriage, Joe Edward received orders on February 6 to report to HMS Sutlej. He was sent to Santa Crus, Azores, where he spent the next 14 months attached to the 9th China Station. His final two years overseas were spent at HMS President IV, London.  He returned to the HMS Briton, St. John’s on January 1, 1919 and was demobilized on April 2.

His brother, Jack, enlisted on July 15, 1915 and arrived overseas on September 23. He was assigned to HMS Pembroke for further training before being drafted to HMS Cormorant where he spent the next six months. He was assigned to the HMS President III on April 1, 1916 and remained there until May 11, 1917. He was transferred home to HMS Briton on May 12 and likely received furlough to attend his brother Joe’s wedding on Sept 5, 1917. He returned overseas and was assigned to HMS Vivid III for six months before being drafted to the HMS Venerable. During this time he was assigned to the dredging ship SS Edward Greenwood. He remained with this vessel for the next year but was placed on the accounts of HMS Implacable on June 8 and HMS Idado January 31, 1919. He was returned to HMS Vivid III where he remained until being sent home to HMS Briton on May 14, 1919. An article entitled “Are on Way Home” that appeared in the St. John’s Daily Star describes that Seaman Jack Smith was onboard the SS Cedric that arrived at Halifax and had left for home port of St. John’s. He remained at HMS Briton until demobilization on July 2, 1919.

HMS Cormorant

Seaman Jack Smith returned home and eventually made his way to the United States where he married Florence Gallant of Bay St. George. He moved back to Southport with his family for a short period of time but returned to the Detroit area after the 1935 census was completed for Southport.

Joe Edward passed away on January 4, 1972 and his buried next to Olga at Gooseberry Cove Anglican Cemetery. She had passed away 29 years earlier due to a tragic set of circumstances.