Where Once they Served … 100 Years Later

by Lester Green 

Royal Newfoundland Regiment  soldiers, Southwest Arm region. (Source Fred Shaw and Audrey Drodge)

These are some of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment soldiers from the Southwest Arm region. (Photo courtesy of Fred Shaw and Audrey Drodge)

As we celebrate and reflect upon 100 years after the Great War that occurred far from our homeland, we can only hope to learn from such a tragic loss. Young men made the ultimate sacrifice, others were scarred both physically and mentally, and those that returned to resume their former lives were tormented by what they observed. Bryan Marsh describes his great-grandfather, Eliol Baker insight after the Great War. Able Seaman Baker was often quoted as saying that “the war, was not fit to talk about!”

This perceptive statement explains why it is frequently difficult to obtain information from families of veterans about the experiences during these disturbing times. If we are going to learn and gain insight into the extreme cost of wars, not from a financial point but purely from a human tragedy view, we have to talk about these sacrifices and recognize the contributions of these young men.

Growing up in Little Heart’s Ease, I was made aware of people from our community that served in both World Wars but it is only now that I truly understand their commitment, dedication and sacrifices to a war that ravaged overseas. Men were recruited at a young age, during a time when their families needed them to contribute to the survival of the family at home. The prosecution of the cod fishery in coastal Newfoundland communities, required several healthy family members in order to meet with success.

Each individual had their own reasons for enlistment ranging from adventure, excitement, money or loyalty to King and Country.

This week’s Where Once They Served documents the individual journey of Andrew Shaw into the unknown. It take him overseas, away from his family. He would see action on the Western Front on several occasions. He was admitted to the hospital on at least three separate occasions with injuries sustained in battle, went missing in action and was later reported as a Prisoner of War in Hanover, Germany. His journey is based on military records, historical documents, published books on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and correspondence with family members.

When I first examined his military files in the summer of 2015, I was intrigued but yet confused. How was I in a small fishing community but yet never heard his story being told in the community, school or church?

The postcard sent from Hanover, Germany was so compelling that I knew his story had to be told. His story eventually led me to 24 other soldier’s stories from the Southwest arm region that served in Royal Newfoundland Regiment. I have barely scratched the surface of 85 sailors who enlisted in the Royal Naval Reserve from our area but someday I tell their stories.

As you read his account and that of his parents, take a moment to reflect and remember the sacrifices made by our young men across this province who served in the fields of Europe 100 years ago. Remember their flower Forget-Me-Not.

Lest We Forget.