THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY, 04 Octboer 1914 – The convoy, having left the Gaspé Basin the previous day headed out through the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  As it passed the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, the steamer sealing-ship SS Florizel, with the first contingent consisting of 537 soldiers of the Newfoundland Regiment aboard, joined the fleet, falling into line at the tail end of the port-side column of ships.

“During the First World War Newfoundland was a largely rural Dominion of the British Empire with a population of 240,000, and not yet part of Canada. [1] The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 led the Government of Newfoundland to recruit a force for service with the British Army. [2]  Even though the island had not possessed any formal military organization since 1870, enough men soon volunteered that a whole battalion was formed, and later maintained throughout the war. [3]

The regiment was nicknamed the “Blue Puttees” due to a fabric shortage which saw the regiment wearing blue puttees (rather than the standard olive drab puttees) provided by a local group called the Church Lads’ Brigade, which exists to this day. [4]   The headquarters for recruiting and training was also supplied by the CLB, as was the nucleus of the command structure. In fact, the first man to enlist was also a member of the CLB. The regiment trained at various locations in the United Kingdom and increased from an initial contingent of 500 men to full battalion strength of 1,000 men, before being deployed.”

“On 4 September 1914, the Legislative Assembly of Newfoundland passed an Act authorizing the formation of a corps for war service. This is the official date of formation of The Royal Newfoundland Regiment of 1914-1919. The first contingent, consisting of a headquarters and two companies, embarked for Great Britain on 3 October 1914. Through the addition of a second contingent from Newfoundland, it reached battalion strength and was designated as the 1st Newfoundland Regiment in February 1915. It was re-designated as The Royal Newfoundland Regiment on 25 January 1918.”  [5]

Note:  It is worth observing that twelve members of the original 14th Battalion gave Newfoundland as their place of birth when completing their Attestation papers. [6]


[1]   J. Castell Hopkins, "Newfoundland's Position and War Policy - 1915", quoted in The Canadian Annual Review of Public Affairs, 1915 , Toronto, The Annual Review Publishing Company Limited, 1917, 880p., pp. 153-156.
[2]  G.W.L. Nicholson, “The Fighting Newfoundlander,” Carleton Library Series 209, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2007, pg. 98.
[3]  Ibid. pg. 88
 [4]  Jaipal Singh Facey-Crowther, “Lieutenant Owen William Steele of the Newfoundland Regiment: Diary and Letters,” McGill-Queen's Press. 2003, pg. 253.
[5]  Canadian Forces Publication A-DH-267-003 Insignia and Lineages of the Canadian Forces. Volume 3: Combat Arms Regiments.
Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5 as quoted by Wikipedia contributors, "Royal Newfoundland Regiment," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed July 29, 2014).
[6]  “Nominal Roll of Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Men – 14th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force,” Issued with Militia Orders 1915, Department of Militia and Defense, Ottawa.

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