Ongoing efforts to compile a database of First World War veterans from the Bay Roberts area have hit a snag when it comes to one particular branch of the Canadian military.
As it stands, Bay Roberts Heritage Society Inc. has 194 names of locals who served in the war with a variety of groups, including the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF).
“We’re trying to compile a list, and we’ve been at it for a while, because records were pretty hard to come by,” explained Eric K. Jerrett, chairman of the society and a founding member of the group. “But because of The Rooms celebrations (honouring the centennial anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel), I guess they updated and digitized most of their records, so that’s pretty good.”
But one branch of Canada’s military that hasn’t been so easy to crack so far has been the Royal Canadian Navy. According to Jerrett, records are available to search through in Ottawa, but they are not indexed.
“For example, I can’t say, ‘Can I have all names for Newfoundland? Can I have all the names for Bay Roberts?’ You have a name, and then you can do a search for that name.”
Jerrett discussed the matter with Ean Parsons, a medical doctor who co-authored a book about the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve, to get his thoughts on paying someone in Ottawa to do some digging on the society’s behalf, but Parsons did not believe it would be worth the effort.
“He said the only way you’re going to get it is through somebody letting you know – relatives or friends,” Jerrett said.
Sure enough, the only way he has managed to get names of locals with ties to the Royal Canadian Navy is through relatives of veterans aware of the society’s project. It only has the names of two members collected so far.
“I don’t want to do this up as an official plaque and everything and then as soon as it gets posted, someone says, ‘Oh, you never had my grandfather in there’ … And then I end up with four or five more names that can’t go on the plaque.”
Anyone aware of someone who served in the Royal Canadian Navy during the First World War can pass along information to the society in person at the Road to Yesterday Museum Wednesday afternoons from 2-4 p.m., via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Box 760, Bay Roberts, A0A 1G0.