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A look behind the registry of war veterans from the Bay Roberts area

The memorial plaque located by the cenotaph in Bay Roberts.
The memorial plaque located by the cenotaph in Bay Roberts. - Contributed
Robert J. Mercer, the first mayor of Bay Roberts, enlisted with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in 1918 and served as a cable operator for one year.
Robert J. Mercer, the first mayor of Bay Roberts, enlisted with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in 1918 and served as a cable operator for one year.

BAY ROBERTS, N.L. — The registry got its start with the restoration and upgrading of the Bay Roberts War Memorial.

The base of the cenotaph is inscribed with the names of those who paid the supreme sacrifice in the First World War and Second World War.

In keeping with available space and accepted protocol, only the surnames and initials were inscribed. This appears to be very cold and impersonal.

It did not, and could not, show that Graham Crosbie lied about his age in order to enlist, was wounded at Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916 and died on July 3 as a result of his wounds, age 17. He is commemorated at St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen, France and on a family headstone in St. John the Evangelist Cemetery at Coley’s Point.

As the co-chair of the Restoration Committee, I undertook to record similar information for all the names on the Monument. The results were etched into a brass plaque set in a native stone on the site near the Monument.

Many answered the call to duty, gave their all for King and Country, some for four full years, but survived. They returned scarred deeply mentally, and in the majority of cases, physically as well.

Some died soon after as a result of their injuries. Others had their lives cut short. Some suffered ‘survivor guilt’ and wished they had died.

Shown officially unveiling the memorial plaque in Bay Roberts on July 1, 2012, are, from left, Rev. Amanda Taylor, Anglican minister and chaplain for Legion Branch No. 32; Bay Roberts Mayor and Legionnaire Philip Wood; Margaret Rosse, former Branch 32 president; Earl Ludlow, honorary Lt.-Col. of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment; former Port de Grave MHA Glenn Littlejohn; and Eric K. Jerrett, who co-chaired the restoration committee.
Shown officially unveiling the memorial plaque in Bay Roberts on July 1, 2012, are, from left, Rev. Amanda Taylor, Anglican minister and chaplain for Legion Branch No. 32; Bay Roberts Mayor and Legionnaire Philip Wood; Margaret Rosse, former Branch 32 president; Earl Ludlow, honorary Lt.-Col. of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment; former Port de Grave MHA Glenn Littlejohn; and Eric K. Jerrett, who co-chaired the restoration committee.

Pte. Malcolm Bradbury was discharged on Sept. 12, 1916 for medical reasons and deemed unfit for further service. He died Feb. 18, 1918 as a direct result of his service. His name is not on the War Memorial in Bay Roberts because he wasn’t in service at the time of his death, even though he died during, and as a result of, the War.

The lifelong burdens veterans bore may have been shared by wife and children who, too, in some cases became scarred. One by one the veterans died off, remembered only by family. Their names faded into eternity. At memorial services they are referred to as “and all those who also served.” This is not good enough.

The least we can do is have their names recorded and displayed. Therefore, as chair of the Bay Roberts Heritage Society, I undertook to create a database of all the veterans associated with the Municipality of Bay Roberts and display the names in the Military Exhibit at the Road to Yesterday Museum housed in the Cable Building, Water Street.

Where possible, the database includes name, service division, service number, occupation, next of kin, and other relevant information. This has proved to be a time-consuming task. Some information was readily available, much more not so.

For example, it was common practice that able bodied young men travelled outside the province to get meaningful employment and fair wages to support their families. The most popular, but not exclusive, places in Canada were Sydney, Nova Scotia; Toronto, Ontario, and the lower mainland area of British Columbia. In the USA it was the “Boston States”.

When war broke out, many joined the RNfldR. Others went to the nearest recruiting station and joined the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF). A number enlisted with the USA forces.

We may never obtain all those names because the US military is reluctant to release service records to anyone who is not a relative.

and Labrador, being a seafaring nation, (and at the time a nation within the Commonwealth, the same as Canada and Australia and others) was sending sailors all over the world. In fact, a Royal Proclamation was issued on Aug. 4, 1914, that all Royal Naval Reservists, no matter where they were at the time, were to report for duty.

Earl Ludlow, honorary Lt.-Col. of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, and Eric K. Jerrett, who co-chaired the restoration committee, stand beside the memorial plaque in Bay Roberts following its unveiling five years ago.
Earl Ludlow, honorary Lt.-Col. of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, and Eric K. Jerrett, who co-chaired the restoration committee, stand beside the memorial plaque in Bay Roberts following its unveiling five years ago.

We have some names from the UK Registry of British Merchant Marines. There could be many more that we are unaware of registered in other jurisdictions.

Additionally, computer searches naming Bay Roberts did not reveal the names of those correctly registering their home address as French’s Cove, Mercer’s Cove, Beachy Cove, Crane’s Brook, Country Road, Shearstown or Coley’s Point. These were independent communities and not a part of Bay Roberts until amalgamation took place in 1951.

Currently, we have documented 192 names. Considering the area population in 1914, it indicates that a huge percentage of eligible males enlisted. This registry would not have been possible without the work of the past chair and local historian, part-time staff at the museum when they were not performing their other duties, plus outside sources such as The Rooms Archives and others. The Society is deeply grateful to all.

For the reasons given, this list may not be completely accurate. We invite input from anyone with additional information that can be incorporated into our database. The Society email address is bayrobertsheritagesociety@hotmail.com (include subject line Great War Project). Supporting documentation can be presented at the museum during operating hours.

Weblink: www.bayrobertsheritagesociety.com

Eric K. Jerrett is a founding member and current chairman for the Bay Roberts Heritage Society Inc.

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