Willie George Bishop enlist and serves overseas

Reprinted from The Packet, September 27, 2018
by Lester Green

Willie George grew up at Hatchet Cove and spent his early years working in the woods harvesting for the local sawmill at Hatchet Cove. In 1917, he joined the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve and was deployed overseas.

Seaman William Bishop (Photo courtesy of Ron Stone)

Seaman William George Bishop was more commonly known in the community as Willie George. He was the oldest son of Samuel and Leah (Lambert) Bishop.

He heard many stories about the war raging overseas from his two sisters, Julia and Susannah. Both sisters had married sailors from Hodge’s Cove that enlisted with the Royal Naval Reserve before the war and were now serving overseas.

His son, Russell Bishop, relates how his father was cutting logs in the brook near Hatchet Cove in late April of 1917. He was frustrated that day thinking about the hard work which did not provide much income for a young man.

While returning to the community with this on his mind, he encountered his close friend, Benoni (Ben) Robbins. They talked about the war overseas and how the navy pay was much higher. They both reached a decision to join the Navy like Ben’s older brother, Eliab, had done in 1915.

In early March 1917, both Willie George and Ben caught the train at Northern Bight and headed to St. John’s.

Partial list of Naval Recruits. Source Evening Telegram, March 26,1917

A newspaper clipping from the Evening Telegram on March 26 entitled “Naval Recruits” records both the enlistment of William G. Bishop and Benoni Robbins of Southwest Arm, Random as being new recruits during the month of March.

Willie George’s signature on his Royal Naval Reserve application dated March 6, 1917 confirms his enlistment.

Willie George completed seven months of training at HMS Briton and was assigned to the HMS Vivid III when he arrived overseas in November 1917. He completed further training and was drafted to the newly launched trawler, HMT William Flemming.

He served 10 months aboard the trawler performing minesweeping duties. During his service aboard the HMT Wm Flemming, he was attached to the depot ships HMS Venerable and HMS Idaho.

The Evening Telegram records his name as one of the reservists arriving at Halifax aboard the SS Baltic on March 22, 1919. From Halifax he travelled home to HMS Briton. He spent approximately six weeks waiting for his release papers which records his demobilization orders on May 1.

Ship’s ledger for Royal Naval Reserve. Source TRPAD_ GN 182.7

He returned home to Hatchet Cove and according to church records he married Effie Gertrude, daughter of John Roberts and Bertha (Kelly) Avery of Long Beach, on June 22, 1921. They had five children, all of whom were raised at Hatchet Cove.

Willie George spent most of his life involved with the schooner fishery. He supplemented his income with work in the woods as a teamster using a team of horses to transfer logs from the cutting sites to frozen ponds and river banks for the river drives.

Noah, their oldest son followed in his father’s footsteps and enlisted during the Second World War, first with the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit and later with the Royal Newfoundland Artillery 59th Filed Regiment.

Willie George passed away on June 13, 1986 and is buried at Anglican Cemetery, Hatchet Cove next to his wife who died in 1975.


Hatchet Cove

Watermill operated by Blundon and Robbin families of Hatchet Cove.

Nestled in a small horseshoe cove on the west side of Southwest Arm, Trinity Bay lies the community of Hatchet Cove. It is located directly across from Long Beach and Hodge’s Cove which likely accounts for  the marriages that have occurred between individuals from these communities. The area was initially visited by individuals from Grates Cove and Hant’s Harbour who harvested the vast wood resource behind the cove during the winter months. These products were sent back across the bay and used for boats, houses, stages, flakes, and firewood.

By the early 1900’s, the community was settled by families from across Trinity Bay and Conception Bay. The settlers were supported by the fishery during the summer months but their local watermills and later sawmills provided the bulk of employment.

Water powered sawmills, similar to the one operated by Blundons and Robbins, were commonly used on brooks because the constant flow of water provided renewable energy to power their mills.