Southwest Arm historian turns First World War columns into a book

Reprinted from The Packet, November 15, 2019
by Jonathan Parsons

Lester Green with his book at the Chapters book store in St. John’s.

SOUTHWEST ARM, N.L. — To see all of his research and writing compiled in a book brings great pride to Lester Green of Southwest Arm, but nothing near the amount of gratitude and debt he feels towards the veterans he wrote about.

Green told The Packet his book, “Where Once They Sailed: Stories of Our Boys who Served in the Royal Naval Reserve” and the stories of bravery, heroism, recognition and hardship is the least he could do to honour them and their families.

It is certainly his passion.

“It’s a sense of accomplishment to have their stories recorded in one place and make that available to the people,” said Green in an interview with The Packet.

He says he loves being able to present the book to family members of those who served and seeing how much it means to them.

“It’s that emotional (feeling) to say, ‘Wow, Dad’s story is being told’,” explained Green.

And for younger folks, he says he hopes his book will keep the names of these veterans in the minds of people for generations to come so they are not forgotten.

Compiled from a series of columns previously printed in The Packet beginning in 2017, Green says he was able to turn the stories of 87 men from the Southwest Arm area who served with the Royal Navy in the First World War into a book published by DRC Publishing.

“I asked myself, if I were picking up this book, what is something I’d like to know right away? I’d want to know who did not come back, the supreme sacrifice.”

Green pored hours upon hours of research with the provincial archives, maritime history at Memorial University, along with information and photos from families — and support from the Southwest Arm Historical Society.
He lovingly crafted the material into the final result, his first book. Green says this process was easier than when he did the initial work, having more access to information.

He discovered copious amounts of information on the men who enlisted, along with their families and the relationships they had. Green says over half of the 87 men had brothers or step-brothers to another person in the war.

“Say, if you enlisted and I enlisted, that’s how I told the story … I had that pattern.”

The book also includes many different photos collected by Green from family members and archives.
When he was able to see the book sitting on the store shelf, he says he felt pride knowing his years of work had been completed.

Green is already planning a similar style book for his first column series, “Where Once They Served,” which focused on the men of Southwest Arm who served with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the First World War.
And he is also rearing to go on brand new research as well. He’s looking to find stories of those who served with Newfoundland’s Overseas Forestry Unit in the Second World War — work to be completed in conjunction with Levi Churchill of Hodge’s Cove.

“We were surprised to learn that there were at least 65 of our boys who served with this unit from our area alone.”


Transcribed by Wanda Garrett, November 2019

These transcriptions may contain human errors. As always, confirm these as you would any other source material.