This year’s Remembrance Day will have very special significance because it was 100 years ago, on Nov. 11, that the First World War officially came to an end.
On this solemn day every year we remember and pay tribute to all those who have died in all armed conflicts as well as those who served and are serving today.
The First World War, 1914-1918, was supposed to be “the war to end all wars” but as we know, that was not the case.
Our province, which at the time was an independent country, suffered so much from the loss of so many of our young men as well as the tremendous financial cost to our treasury that in the end it was only a matter of a few years and we were bankrupt, resulting in losing our independence and subsequently being governed by an appointed Commission of Government.
Our province suffered its gravest military loss ever on July 1, 1916, at Beaumont Hamel when some 800 of our men of the Newfoundland Regiment “went over the top.” The next day only 68 men answered the roll call, with more than 700 killed, wounded or missing.
More than 6,000 men served in the Newfoundland Regiment during the First World War including 4,668 who were volunteers. The total casualties were nearly 3,500 with roughly 1,300 dead.
Try as we might when quoting numbers killed in both World Wars, it is impossible for us to get our heads around the conditions our soldiers and sailors, as well as their families, had to endure, and the suffering from injuries and post-traumatic stress that went with it.
When the First World War broke out in August, 1914, the young men of Grand Bank, as in many other communities around this island, willingly answered the call of the Motherland.
During the war 37 Grand Bankers enlisted in the Newfoundland Regiment, with others seeing service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, the Royal Air Force, the Royal Medical Corps, the Newfoundland Forestry Corps and the British Borders Regiment.
Archivist and Grand Bank native, Bert Riggs, has identified at least 74 men of this town who saw service in the First World War.
Both World Wars took a huge toll on Grand Bank, with 14 of our young men losing their lives in each conflict. A total of 28 young men, in the prime of their lives, paid “the supreme sacrifice for King and Country”.
It is interesting to note that the population of Grand Bank in 1914 was approximately 1,700 and during the Second World War roughly 2,300 people lived there.
One of the Grand Bank soldiers who lost his life in the First World War was my uncle, Private Lyman G. Stoodley. He was a member of the 1st Battalion Newfoundland Regiment #2160. He volunteered for service and enlisted in February, 1916, when he was 19 years of age.
It was only 17 months later on Aug. 16, 1917, that he was mortally wounded in the Third Battle of Ypres, commonly referred to as Passchendaele. He and his comrades were being pounded by “a combination of heavy artillery fire from the Germans and also machine gunfire from low flying enemy aircraft.”
During the battle Lyman received a fatal shell wound to his abdomen. He died two days later and is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery at Dozinghem, Belgium.
He was only 20 years old when he was killed.
Lyman’s belongings including his gun, sash and letters were sent back to his mother and father in Grand Bank, Ann and Thomas Stoodley.
Years later the letters he had written home and the letters he had received from his family and girlfriend while overseas were discovered in a faded cloth sack “under the stairs.”
Several traits are obvious from his letters and his war records. Lyman, like other volunteers no doubt, didn’t always take kindly to the rigid discipline expected of soldiers during his time overseas. While on leave in Scotland he was charged with “disobeying an order and for drunkenness and gambling.”
Several times Lyman was hospitalized suffering from an array of ailments including diphtheria, scabies, trench fever, influenza, dability and bronchitis.
After the war a Memorial Plaque was sent to the next of kin of all servicemen or women who died while serving with the British and Empire forces in that conflict. This bronze plaque, which has been referred to as “the Death Penny”, measured five inches in diameter. The commemorated serviceman or woman’s name was cast in raised relief on each plaque. Around the edge of the plaque are the words “He died for Freedom and Honour”.
A “Death Penny”, bearing Private G. Lyman Stoodley’s name, along with “a scroll” was sent to his parents in Grand Bank, Ann and Thomas Stoodley.
Allan Stoodley is a long-time resident of Grand Bank. He welcomes comments on this or any other article he has written.