Two eldest Smith brothers go to war

Reprinted from The Packet, June 28, 2018
by Lester Green

George and William were the oldest sons of Albert and Phoebe Smith of Island Cove. Their Dad was born in Island Cove but their grandfather, Isaac, moved there in the early 1850s from Bishop’s Cove, Conception Bay. In article entitled “North West Brook – Then and Now” published in the November-December, 1986 issue of Decks Awash, William describes how his grandfather came from England.

Seaman William Smith. Photo courtesy of Eugene Smith)

William was the oldest and first to enlist with the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reservist in November 1910 at the age of 18 years. He completed 28 days of naval training for the first year and returned over the next 4 years to complete an additional 72 days, making him among some of the top trained sailors from the Southwest Arm area.

Records indicate that William was sent overseas on November 6, 1914. He was assigned to the shore-based facility HMS Excellent and spent one month at the Gunnery school at Whale’s Island before being drafted to the Defensively Armed Merchant Ship, HMS Patuca. The ship was part of the newly formed 10th Cruiser Squadron based at New Glasgow, Scotland.

Onboard the Patuca there were 13 Newfoundlander Royal Naval Reservist. Two of them were from the Southwest Arm area, William Smith and Eliol Baker. For the next 26 months they were required to board and inspect ships that they encountered while on patrol for contraband goods in all kinds of weather and rough seas.

He transferred from the HMS Patuca on February 22, 1917 to the HMS Victory I. He spent the next year being transferred between HMS Excellent, HMS President III and Pembroke I before being assigned back to the HMS Briton on February 24, 1918.

He spent the next two month at home on leave visiting his family before returning overseas. His final eight months overseas was spent at the stone-frigates HMS Pembroke I and the HMS President III likely serving on smaller minesweepers.

Seaman George Smith. (Photo courtesy of Annie Smith)

His younger brother, George, signed his enlistment papers on May 22, 1917. A notation records that his brother, William, was serving with the Royal Naval Reserve. He trained at HMS Briton for eight months and went overseas on January 28, 1918.

Records indicate that he was drafted to the HMS Alsatian that was being used for patrol duty to watch for German raiders and assigned to the Second Cruiser Squadron. Out of the 33 Newfoundlanders who served onboard the HMS Alsatian, five had served from the Southwest Arm area. During the time period George was assigned both Albert Drover and Leander Green were onboard. He spent 12 months on this ship.

A photo, proudly displayed in the living room of his son’s family, confirms that he also served on the HMS Warsprite, a Queen Elizabeth class battleship that served in both World Wars.

He was assigned to HMS Vivid on February 1, 1919 and two months later he was transferred home to HMS Briton. He left overseas on March 28, 1919 and was demobilized on May 22, 1919. His brother, William, was demobilized on April 2, a week after George arrived at St. John’s.

Both brothers returned home to Island Cove with George being the first to marry. He married Amelia, the daughter of Jonathan and Emma (Tucker) Miller on December 11, 1920 at St. John’s. He moved after his wife’s death in 1965 to Long Beach where he remained with his family until he passed on November 29, 1978. He is buried at the new St. Mark’s Anglican Cemetery, Long Beach.

William married Sarah, daughter of Matthias and Hannah Baker, of North West Brook on June 3, 1925. They eventually settled and raised their family at North West Brook. He passed away on March 28, 1987 and is buried at All Saints Anglican Cemetery, North West Brook.

Seaman William Smith’s war medals.

Seaman George Smith’s war medals.


Island Cove

Island Cove (Photo courtesy of Annie Smith)

The abandon community of Island Cove was located in the Southwest Arm area between Hodge’s Cove and Long Beach. It was first settled by Isaac and Robert Smith of Bishop’s Cove sometime around the 1870s. It is believed that both were married to sisters Emily and Elizabeth Barrett. Church records, census and other documents show that this community was settled largely by the Smith’s of Bishop’s Cove with the surnames Holloway, Spurrell and others arriving through marriages to the Smith families. The community graveyard can be seen by the roadside between Long Beach and Hodge’s Cove as one drives down the scenic, winding road that offers several views of Southwest Arm.

During the Great War this small community with a population of only 41 residents contributed greatly to the war effort. Approximately 17% of its total population enlisted for service with the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve. The family of Lorenzo and Emma Smith had three sons enlist. Albert and his wife, Phoebe had two sons sign up for service, while his brother, Simeon and Maria had two sons enrolled. Simeon and Maria’s family made the supreme sacrifice when their son, Edgar Henry, did not return.