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Newfoundland in Peace and in War [1914]


[Canadian Annual Review , 1914; for the full citation, see the end of the text]


This Island Colony, so near Canadian shores, held a position in the events of 1914 of considerable interest. Historically, the oldest of Britain 's colonies, it was notable at this juncture for the reason that the Con­vention of 1904 which settled its fiery disputes with France, was the first rung in the ladder of Anglo-French friendship and alliance. There were also strong under-currents of feeling visible in 1914 favourable to closer relations with Canada though they did not take public form and were caused largely by the existing financial depression. Following the Elections of 1913, Sir Robert Bond, the Opposition leader, retired in January from public life and the Hon. R. E. Kent was chosen as his successor; a little later the Hon. R. A. Squires, K.C., became Minister of Justice in the Morris Government upon the retirement of the Hon. Donald Morison and was appointed to the Legislative Council while Hon. S. D. Blandford was re-appointed Minister of Agriculture and Mines and was also placed in the Upper House. On Jan. 27th two of the best known men in the Colony, the Hon. J. S. Pitts, C.M.G., and D. W. Prowse, K.C., C.M.G., passed away.


The Legislature met on Jan. 14th and J. R. Goodison was elected Speaker of the Assembly. It was prorogued on Mar. 11th. Acts were passed regulating the exhibition of advertisements in public places, consolidating and revising the Protection of Animals Act, applying the law of England to the suppression of the White Slave traffic, providing for the investigation of Combines and Monopolies, chartering and aiding the Newfoundland Railway Tram-Ferry Syndicate, prescribing rules for the Inspection of Food and also for the operation of Saw-Mills, regulating the prosecution of the Seal Fishery, authorizing a Loan of £1,200,000 for Railway construction and the issue of Debentures for $360,000. In connection with the Railway Sir E. P. Morris, the Premier, left for England on Mar. 28th; on Apr. 2nd, news reached St. John's of the loss of the fishing steamers Newfoundland and Southern Cross, in a northern blizzard and with a loss of about 300 men. Much practical sympathy was shown in Canada. Parliament voted $10,000 for the families of those lost, St. John , N.B., raised a Fund of $1,500, Montreal 's Fund was $11,500, the Bank of Montreal and the Royal Bank sent $5,000 each in direct subscriptions. Other incidents of the year included the death of Archbishop M. F. Howley (Catholic) on Oct. 15th; the election by acclamation on Nov. 18th of Hon. A. B. Morine, K.C., (well known in Canada) to the Legislature from Bonavista; the suggestion in the Canadian Commons on Feb. 17th by O. Turgeon, M.P., that a Maritime Province Union be formed to include Newfoundland.


When War commenced the Island was anxious to help in every possible way. It had immediately available Naval Reserves numbering 600 trained sailors and fishermen. The population was only 240,000, with revenues of about $4,000,000, but Sir W. E. Davidson, the Governor, on Aug. 8th, cabled the Colonial Secretary that: "Authority is desired by my Ministers to enlist special men for service abroad by land and by sea. Ministers undertake to raise force of Naval Reserve by the 31st October to thousand efficient, available for naval service abroad for one year, and are willing to meet all local expenses. Several hundred efficient, local brigade training officers for enlistment for land service abroad. Five hundred could, I believe, be enlisted within one month. Propose to induce serviceable men between 18 and 36 years enlist; training home defence wherever corps' instruction available. Material for further draft would be formed by these." This was at once accepted. The Government also undertook to raise at once a Newfoundland Regiment of 500 men for land service abroad and to recruit a force for later despatch.


The first Newfoundland Contingent embarked with the first Canadian Contingent and reached England in due course where they trained with the Canadians on Salisbury Plain. In November 300 men of the Naval Reserve reached England and were assigned to duty at once; others were on the way and the 5th draft reached Glasgow on Dec. 26th, while 300 others were still in training. Besides this work of supplying men the Government at once undertook the important task of censorship of the 12 cables which landed on the shores of Newfoundland and of the important Wireless Stations established there; a Patriotic Association was organized and by the early days of December had collected $70,000; under the Presidency of Lady Davidson, a Women's Patriotic Association was formed for the making of garments, etc., to supply the men at the Front and also to help the Belgian sufferers. The cost of the Island's expenditure on Military and Naval forces was estimated at $1,000,000 per annum during the War and the loyal spirit of its people was well shown in various ways - in recruiting, contributing and by Government action.


In this latter connection a special War Session of the Legislature was held early in September which passed legislation enlarging the powers of the Governor-in-Council during the duration of war as to Censorship, alien residents, transportation, trading, and expropriation or control of property. Control over food-stuffs was given under specified conditions and a Moratorium permitted under Proclamation which should apply as a postponement of payment of debts during a certain period. Legislation was passed as to volunteer service at home or abroad, Wireless telegraphy on steamers, the raising of $250,000 for Volunteer maintenance and the establishment of revenue stamp duties. It may be added that Lieut. Commander B. M. Harvey, R.N., who went down with the Cressy on Sept. 22nd, belonged to a prominent Newfoundland family.


Source : J. Castell HOPKINS , " Newfoundland in Peace and War During 1914", in The Canadian Annual Review of Public Affairs, 1914, Toronto, The Annual Review Publishing Company, 1915, 803p., pp. 125-127.



© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College