Documentary to examine what became of the Blue Puttees

Diane
Diane Crocker
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CORNER BROOK  Much is known about the history of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and that fateful day in World War One when nearly the entire unit of soldiers was wiped out at Beaumont Hamel during the Battle of the Somme.

But what happened to the survivors of the regiment, the men known as the Blue Puttees?

That’s the history that Michael Wert hopes to fill in through a documentary project he’s working on titled “When the Boys Came Home: The Blue Puttees After the Great War.”

Wert, a writer and researcher, moved to Newfoundland from Ontario in 2009. And while he doesn’t have a connection to the Blue Puttees, he’s always had an interest in World War One.

“Because my grandfather was a World War One veteran,” said Wert. “He died before I was old enough to ask him about what he went through in the war.”

While in university, Wert’s interest in the war manifested itself in an undergraduate thesis.

After moving to St. John’s, Wert said, he was looking for a project and happened upon a dinner menu from a 1920 Blue Puttees reunion.

Ninety men showed up for the event and Wert said knowing what the regiment had gone through during the war got him wondering what happened to the men after.

“That kind of set me off on a trail to explore what happened to those guys,” he said. “To finding out what became of them.”

At first he planned a book project, but the more he delved into it, he thought it could be an interesting documentary.

He approached producer Mary Sexton, who agreed to get involved, and is also getting help from actor Andy Jones. CBC Television has signed on to air the documentary which Wert hopes to have completed by summer 2014, in time for the 100th anniversary of the break out of the war.

To find out the stories of the surviving men, including their attempts to re-adjust to civilian life, Wert is talking with their families and later this week plans to travel to Corner Brook.

He’s inviting anyone who had a relative in the Blue Puttees to drop by the Royal Canadian Legion on Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m

“Basically what I’m trying to do is just to gather any kind of memories or stories that these families have of what those people were like as individuals,” said Wert.

He said the aim is to try and imagine what these men went through in the war and how they came back and picked up their lives and carried on.

“Many of these guys lost friends,” said Wert. “Many of them lost brothers. Many of them suffered horrible wounds so they couldn’t work or they couldn’t work enough.”

Wert said he’s talked with about 30 families so far and has found that all are interested in sharing their stories and memories with him.

He said the families have the most amazing memories of their fathers or grandfathers. He said the men were very thankful to have their family around them and were loving individuals who desperately wanted to keep their families safe.

“And a lot of the families have a tremendous amount of pride in what their ancestor went through,” said Wert.

“And for someone like myself to come along and show interest, they’re only too happy to open up and share,” he said.

“The stories that these people have are often things that you won’t find in history books. Little tidbits of colour that add to the story.”

To contact Wert call 579-0662 or email him at michael.wert@bellaliant.net.

Organizations: CBC Television, Royal Canadian Legion

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Ontario, Corner Brook

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  • J Sands
    June 30, 2013 - 04:17

    My Grandfather came from St. Johns Newfoundland and was a Blue Puttee, he fought at The Sommne, Gallipoli and in Egypt. He married my Grandmother had 2 children and lived the rest of his life in Scotland. We have great respect for all who fought in The Great War from Newfoundland.

  • selby pygas
    February 13, 2013 - 00:12

    michael ,so good to see that the real stories of members of the royal nfld regiment (blue puttees)will be told by surving families . my grandfather was cpl . ralph wellon tulk / part of the transportation company /blue putties my grandfather and i spent many hours talking after he became ill, he said i was able to understand parts of the war ,being i was a transport sgt ,only thing was he handled horses ,and i drove big trucks. i was able to spend time at beaumont hamel ,and all the other battle sites ,during my 5 year posting in germany . i have decided to forward my grandfathers medals to the legion in corner brook if they would accept .you will be interviewing my relatives at this legion shortly . thanks from a new generation veteran wo.s pygas cd retired

  • Joseph Arthur Jesseau
    February 12, 2013 - 21:16

    My GrandFather Lance Corp Arthur Francis Jesseau served as a Blue Puttee Reg# 249 with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. He served as a Sniper with The Blue Puttes. Was wounded in Action ( shot in the back) and captured as a POW with 3 other Soldiers. Would very Much like to see The documentary. Joseph Jesseau

  • Toni Warren
    February 12, 2013 - 05:09

    I can not wait for this documentary Thank you.

  • Joan Shaw
    February 12, 2013 - 02:38

    I, too, am obsessed with WW1. Years ago I actually had the honour of living next door to a veteran and remember hearing his first hand account of the angel of Mons. Sadly, being only 7 at the time, that's the only story that stuck! This sounds like it's going to be an amazing documentary and I'm only sorry I probably won't get to see it, unless there are plans to air it in the UK?