Plaques commemorating veterans from the Bay Roberts area who served in the World Wars were recently unveiled at a local museum.
The Bay Roberts Heritage Society spearheaded the projects, one of which involved updating an Honour Roll plaque to commemorate local combatants who were casualties of the First and Second World Wars. The same names are included on a replica plaque for the War Memorial in Bay Roberts. The second plaque stems from a concerted effort to find all the names of First World War veterans from the community.
According to Eric Jerrett, chair of the Heritage Society, four names of local recruits who died in the First World War were added to the Honour Roll plaque to address a discrepancy between how names were added to the War Memorial when it was first set up in 1928 and how additions from the Second World War were made.
Following the First World War, names were only included if the individual was born in Bay Roberts and living there at the time of enlistment. For the Second World War, standards were loosened. As a result, the Heritage Society felt it was only fair to add the new names uncovered through research.
Thomas Copley and Allan Mercer both lost their fathers early in life and left Bay Roberts in their youth. Copley lived in Salmon Cove when he enlisted to serve with the Newfoundland Regiment, while Mercer resided in South River. Willian B. Dawe and Leonard Evan were also born in Bay Roberts but saw their families move before the war – Dawe's to Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Evans' to St. John's.
For the First World War plaque, the society felt it was high-time to properly honour and remember all those who served so long ago. Jerrett, with the help of many others, worked to compile a list of names, eventually finding 188.
According to Jerrett, it was not an easy task to compile this list of names, as many moved away to Nova Scotia, Ontario and Boston as young men before enlisting with military forces other than the Newfoundland Regiment, such as the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, American army and Royal Navy. The society was able to confirm the names of 53 locals who registered outside Newfoundland.
"Additionally, computer searches naming Bay Roberts did not reveal the names of those correctly registering their home address as Bay Roberts East, French’s Cove, Mercer’s Cove, Beachy Cove, Crane’s Brook, Country Road, Shearstown or Coley’s Point," Jerrett said. "These were independent communities at that time and not a part of Bay Roberts until amalgamation took place in 1951.
"Private John Lyons gave his place of residence as Long Pond. At The Rooms, it was entered as Long Pond, Conception Bay South. Thus, the only record they had for a John Lyons was a Conception Bay South person. What was not known to them was that the pond between Coley’s Point and Bareneed was once referred to as Long Pond."
Of the 188 names collection, approximately one-quarter of them were teenagers at the time of enlistment. Jerrett views Bay Roberts' contribution to the war effort as a considerable one in light of the town's population at the time.
Jerrett is aware the database kept at the Road to Yesterday Museum of those who served in the First World War may still be incomplete and would welcome further input.
First World War connections in Bay Roberts
• John Barrett had three sons from Bay Roberts working away – two in Ontario and one in the United States. All three enlisted. Two survived.
• John Russell of Country Road was only 16 when he was killed on Oct. 20, 1918 – just three weeks before the war ended. He was one of the 10 local teenagers who made the supreme sacrifice. The others were Arthur Badcock, Herbert Belbin, Hugh Bowden, Harry Brown, Graham Crosbie, Percy Mercer, Maxwell Mercer and Robert North.
• David Butler was the first Navy causality of the war when he contracted pneumonia and died on Dec. 16, 1914.