Private Alfred Butler, A Blue Puttee

Reprinted from The Packet, March 5, 2016
by Lester Green

Alfred Francis Butler was born on the Northern Peninsula in the small town of Griquet on December 19, 1892 to Garland and Sarah (Reid) Butler.

His closest sibling was his brother, Rev. William Arthur Butler, and he lived with him after his parents’ deaths.Rev. Butler was the Anglican parish minister during the Great War at Hodge’s Cove. During the war, ministers were often required to deliver telegram messages about soldier’s injuries and sometimes their deaths before the telegraph was released to the next of kin.Alfred’s father, Garland, was an educated man and encouraged his family to pursue a higher level of learner. Alfred listed his occupation as that of a schoolmaster when he joined the army.

He enlisted on Sept. 2, 1914 and became the second individual from the Southwest Arm region to join the Newfoundland Regiment.

He began his training at St. John’s near Quidi Vide Lake. When the troop completed basic training on Oct. 14, they marched to the SS Florizel, a passenger liner that was the flagship of Bowring Brothers in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The ship sailed with a convoy overseas to Plymouth, England. They were transported by train to the Salibury Plains and continued their military training.

The Newfoundland Regiment received orders on Aug. 24, 1915, to join the British Forces as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Forces. The regiment departed England through the naval port at Devenport and proceeded to Abbassia on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. On Septr 15, 1915, the regiment departed Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Forces at Gallipoli. This would become the first of several historical battles in which the regiment would become active participants and Newfoundlanders back home would begin mourning the loss of their sons.

Alfred, along with many other soldiers, would come into contact with Pyrexia Enteric Fever. On Nov. 6, 1915 he was admitted to the 21st General Hospital at Alexandria. He was transferred to 3rd London General Hospital at Wandsworth, London two weeks later. His body would fight high fever associated with this disease for the next several months.

He returned to active duty on Aug. 21, 1916. He embarked at Southampton to rejoin 1st Battalion Newfoundland Regiment. He fought alongside his comrades until he received a gunshot wound to his abdomen on Oct. 12. He was admitted to the 26th General Hospital at Etaples, France on Oct. 18.

Two days later a telegram was received by Reverend Butler informing him of the following:

Regret to inform you that the Record Office, London, officially reports No 460 Private Alfred Butler at Wandsworth Gunshot Wound Abdomen Severe…”

This telegram was followed by one from Private Butler on Oct. 23.

He spent the next several months in 3rd General Hospital recovering from his wounds.

Private Butler was granted furlough upon his release between Jan. 30 to Feb. 8, 1917.

In July 1918, he was assigned to recruiting and other general purposes duties in England due to hearing loss that had existed upon his enlistment but had deteriorated during his exposure to the loud sounds in the battlefield. He was deemed to be unfit for military service by a medical team and removed from the strength of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

He returned from overseas on Aug. 8, 1918 and travelled to his brother’s residence at Hodge’s Cove. He spent the next six weeks with his brother, recovering from the horrors of war he had experienced.

In late November, he met with the second medical board at St. John’s and was declared medically unfit and recommended for discharge. He served approximately four years in the duty of his king and country fighting overseas in the Great War.

Private Alfred Butler received several medals including the Star, Victory Medal, and British War Medal. In addition, he received the Silver War Badge along with the King’s Certificate that recognized soldiers that were honourable discharges due to their medical conditions.

In the 1921 census, he was residing at Middle Bight, Killigrews, with his uncle William and Aunt Elizabeth Butler. He later moved to USA to join his sister Emma, where he died a few years later of cancer.

Next week I will relate the story of Private George Baker, the first son of Caleb and Theresa Baker of Gooseberry Cove to enlist and go overseas with the Newfoundland Regiment in April, 1915. Military history lists the Battle of Poelcappelle as being a successful military operation for the Newfoundland Regiment but descendents of the Baker family of Fox Harbour may not agree.

Royal Newfoundland Military Service Record

Private Alfred Butler #460

Sept. 2, 1914: Enlistment date based on letter from Militia, March 25, 1919.

Oct. 14, 1914: Embarked St. John’s on SS Florizel to England.

Apr. 7, 1915: Allotment signed at Edinburgh for 60 cents to be given to his brother, Reverend William Butler.

Aug. 20, 1915: Embarked at Devenport for active service.

Aug. 31, 1915: Disembarked at Alexandria and proceeded to Abbassia, Cairo.

Sept. 13, 1915: Embarked Alexandria for Gallipoli.

Sept. 19, 1915: Landed at Sulva Bay

Nov. 6, 1915: First diagnosed with enteric  (Pyrexia) fever severe.

Nov. 22, 1915: Letter to his brother, Reverend W.A. Butler.

Jan. 1, 1916: Admitted to the 3rd London General Hospital at Wandsworth.

Mar. 1, 1916: Transferred from 3rd London General Hospital to Addington Park Convalescent Hospital,

Croydon, London.

Aug. 21, 1916: Embarked Southampton for active duty with British Expeditionary Forces in France.

Oct. 18, 1916: Gunshot wound to the abdomen on Oct. 12, 1916. Admitted to 26 General Hospital                     Etaples, France.

Oct. 20, 1916: Letter to Reverend Butler concerning his brother’s wound from J.R. Bennett, Colonial


Oct. 23, 1916: Telegram from Private Butler to his brother, Reverend William Butler informing him of his gunshot wound to the abdomen.

Dec. 26, 1916: Cable message received by Reverend Butler from his brother informing him of                                improvement from his wound.

July 7, 1918: Assigned to recruiting duty and removed from active strength of the Royal                         Newfoundland Regiment battalion on July 31, 1918.

Aug. 8, 1918: Arrived from overseas and reported to military depot, St. John’s.

Nov. 30, 1918: Found to be medical unfit for service and recommended for discharge by medical board St. John’s due to hearing loss and war wound.

Dec. 14, 1918: Proceedings for discharge from the army.

Dec. 10, 1919: Received the Star 1914-1915 for active service in Gallipoli.

Sept. 15, 1921: Received Silver War Badge and accompanying  King’s Certificate for honourably                                                         discharged.

Sept, 16, 1921: Received Victory Medal and British War Medal.

(Note: No military records for time between Jan. 30, 1917 and July 7, 1918)

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