Gary Browne reflects on the terrible price paid by teenagers in First World War
© Photo by Terry Roberts/The Compass
Gary F. Browne is seen speaking during the annual remembrance dinner hosted by the Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 32) in Bay Roberts on Nov. 3.
Editor's note: the following was first publishd in the Nov. 13, 2012 print edition of The Compass.
Those attending the annual remembrance dinner hosted by the Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 32) in Bay Roberts on Nov. 3 were reminded of the terrible price paid by young teenaged boys who served with the Newfoundland Regiment during the First World War.
Author, researcher and retired deputy police chief Gary F. Browne of St. John's painted a dark picture of how the so-called "war to end all wars" exacted such a heavy toll on these young men and their families, including many from the Trinity-Conception region.
Browne, who was guest speaker at the event, is the author of "Fallen Boy Soldiers: Royal Newfoundland Regiment, World War One."
Through his years of research, Browne discovered that some 272 teenagers from this province lost their lives while serving with the regiment between 1914 and 1918.
His book includes an appendix that provides a comprehensive list of those boys. Some 29 of them came from the Trinity-Conception region (see related fact box), and includes familiar family names such as Crosbie, Dawe, Badcock, Crane, Mercer and Thorne.
"These are the teenaged sons from your area who left this beautiful place, and whose youthful remains lie deep in the far off fields of France and Belgium," he said.
Browne was inspired to write the book while researching an earlier novel. He was especially moved by the powerful and heartfelt letters written by grieving mothers.
"It deeply affected me and I wanted to tell the never-before-told story of these boy heroes and their loving families," Browne told the roughly 130 people in attendance.
Browne made special mention of George Graham Crosbie of Bay Roberts, who was just 16 years-of-age when he enlisted with the regiment. He was killed two years later in France from wounds received during the Battle of Beaumont Hamel, which resulted in the near annihilation of the regiment.
Crosbie was buried in France, but there is also a gravesite at the Anglican cemetery in Coley's Point.
"They were heroes. Make no bones about it," added Browne, who has been a Legion member for 25 years.
He said they deserve to be "celebrated and commemorated" because "they were our people ... they were ours.
"They walked the streets of our cities, towns, villages and hamlets of our then heroic little independent nation of Newfoundland. They walked and played in the same places where you walked and played as you grew up in Newfoundland. They toiled in our tough North Atlantic environment and truly they loved and were loved."
Meanwhile, Browne also urged the Legion to begin planning in earnest to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
"I truly believe we have a strong moral obligation to commemorate, and yes celebrate the lives of those who fought and died, and those who came home from the Great War, and their families," said Browne.
Browne has also been waging a personal campaign to have the forget-me-not flower brought back into widespread use during remembrance ceremonies.
The forget-me-not was adopted as a remembrance flower in Newfoundland three years before the poppy in 1921.
"I sincerely ask you personally, and your Legion and your community, to have our little forget-me-not front-and-centre in all you do related to the First World War, and please educate our children on its history."
The following is a list of teenagers from the Trinity-Conception region who were killed while serving with the Newfoundland Regiment in the First World War:
• Arthur Badcock - son of Richard and Susie Badcock, Bay Roberts, died March 3, 1917, age 19;
• William Benson - son of Samuel and Emma-Jane Benson, Harbour Grace, died Oct. 29, 1918; age 19;
• Henry Brown - son of William Henry and Emma Brown, Bay Roberts, died Aug. 12, 1916, age 19;
• George Clarke - son of John and Lydia Clarke, Brigus, died Nov. 24, 1915, age 19;
• John Crane - son of John and Susannah Crane, Tilton, died Sept. 29, 1918, age 19;
• Job Crocker - son of John and Honora Crocker, Heart's Delight, died April 14, 1917, age 19;
• James Matthew Cron - son of James and Emma Cron, Harbour Grace, died April 14, 1917, age 18;
• George Graham Crosbie - son of Walter and Mary Crosbie, Bay Roberts, died July 3, 1916, age 17;
• Christopher Dawe - son of George and Elizabeth Dawe, Cupids, died May 31, 1918, age 19;
• Stephen Fallon - son of John and Susie Fallon, Harbour Grace, died July 1, 1916, age 17;
• Silas Hilliard - son of Alexander and Martha Hilliard, New Harbour, died Aug. 24, 1917, age 18;
• Richard Hutchings - son of George Henry and Providence Hutchings, Whitbourne, died March 30, 1918, age 17;
• Harold Jacobs - son of David and Evelyn Julia Jacobs, Northern Bay South, Bay de Verde, died April 19, 1917, age 17;
• Henley Arthur Martin - son of James Henry and Phoebe Martin, Harbour Grace, died Oct. 14, 1916, age 19;
• Maxwell James Mercer - son of Isaac and Anastatia Mercer, Bay Roberts/Harbour Grace, died July 1, 1916, age 19;
• Percy Mercer - son of John and Lizzie Mercer, Bay Roberts, died April 14, 1917, age 18;
• John Moores - son of Arthur Moores, Bay de Verde, died Oct. 5, 1918, age 18;
• Walter Leonard Murphy - son of John Jos. and Alice Murphy, St. John's (born in Harbour Grace), died Sept. 29, 1915, age 19;
• Victor Perrin Newell - son of Nathan and Priscilla Newell, Dock Bareneed, died July 17, 1917, age 19;
• Robert North - son of George and Fannie North, Bay Roberts, died Nov. 20, 1917, age 19;
• Samuel Reid - son of Solomon and Alvina Reid, Heart's Delight, died Jan. 5, 1917, age 16;
• Ernest Rendell - son of Fred and Naomi Rendell, New Harbour, did Oct. 12, 1916, age 19;
• John Russell - son of John and Annie Russell, Country Road, Bay Roberts, died Oct. 20, 1918, age 16;
• Patrick Ryan - son of Patrick Ryan, Marysvale, died Nov. 20, 1917, age 19;
• Henry Sheppard - son of Henry and Naomi Sheppard, Bishop's Cove, died June 8, 1918, age 19;
• Josiah Smith - son of Matthew Smith, Hopeall, died July 1, 1916, age 19;
• Josiah Squibb - son of Charles and Jane Squibb, Carbonear, died Oct. 19, 1915, age 19;
• James Thorne - son of William and Jessie Thorne, New Harbour, died Feb. 21, 1916, age 18;
• Reuben Wheeler - son of John and Mary M. Wheeler, Lower Island Cove, died Oct. 14, 1918, age 19;
Source: Fallen Boy Soldiers, Royal Newfoundland Regiment World War One, by Gary F. Browne