Consequences at Home

"Now at last, after four and a half years, it was over. Everybody’s thoughts turned to home and civilian life again." Recollections of Seaman Archer Peddle
Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve, ca. 1960

The end of the war brings joy, relief and a great reckoning. People speak with pride about “our boys,” of what they did and how they fought. But a heavy awareness of war’s cost blankets daily life—and the cost grows as time passes.

Many of those who return from overseas are wounded in body or in spirit. The focus at home turns to caring for them and honouring those who have died. We grieve, hold services and build memorials. People search for ways to heal, ways to make the world feel right again.

At first, energies turn to helping those affected by the conflict adjust to their post-war lives. But over time, troubles keep mounting and answers are few. Many people lay the blame for our failure to prosper in peacetime at the feet of the Great War.

Returning to Civilian Life

"I am not asking the Pension Board to support me, but I only want justice." Veteran Aubrey Wilson Loveys, Royal Newfoundland Regiment
in a letter to J. A. Clift, Chairman of the Board of Pension Commissioners, June 3rd, 1920

Slowly, those who have served overseas come home— but they are not the same and home is not the same. Many of the wounded cannot take up their old work or need care. They cannot cope with their haunting mem- ories or their next steps. Families are without fathers, brothers and sons.

Men and women who took on new roles during the war find it hard to return to their old ones. Churches and volunteer groups give help. But grief and unrest are widespread and a series of troubled governments cannot do enough to answer growing demands.

Coming Home

"It seems an impossibility . . . to get a position due, I believe, to my wound." Veteran Aubrey Wilson Loveys, Royal Newfoundland Regiment
in a letter to R. A. Squires, Prime Minister of Newfoundland seeking employment, March 15th, 1921

He eventually found work in the Courthouse.

Discharged in St. John’s, returning soldiers, sailors and foresters were given civilian clothes (or cash equivalent), pay for their months of service, help finding jobs and transportation home. But “home” had changed and so had they. Many could not resume old trades and needed care or new kinds of work.

The End of the War Brings New Challenges

"Cigars, cigarettes, bouquets of flowers even, were literally showered upon us." Recollections of Private Hubert Ridgley about the Regiment’s arrival in London in early 1919
Royal Newfoundland Regiment, 1960s

On November 11th, 1918, the fighting stopped. On June 29th,1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, officially ending the war. Soldiers, sailors and volunteers began arriving home. Relief that the war was over and pride in what our people had accomplished soon mixed with the question, “What next?”

War Brides

"I have known Miss L. Irvine . . . & believe her to be thoroughly straightforward & honest." Reverend Charles H. Coe, Rector of Offham, to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment office in London, September 30th, 1918.
This reference letter endorsed the fiancée of Sergeant Walter Jewer so she could become his “war bride.”

Soldiers and sailors far from home often became close to women they met overseas, and some married them. Even before peace was achieved, these “war brides” travelled here and set up homes in communities and circumstances that were often far different from those they’d known and what they’d been told.

Lily Violet Jewer ( née Irvine )

Cook with the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps

Lily Irvine, 18, from Offham, Kent, was serving in Britain’s Armed Forces when she met and married Walter Jewer, a Newfoundland Regiment soldier recovering in England. In 1919, Lily packed precious belongings, including this trunk, slip and bowl, and crossed the ocean to build a life in tiny Botwood, Newfoundland.

Signs of Service

All who served overseas had their efforts acknowledged by pins and certificates given to them when they were discharged from their units. Many veterans wore or displayed them proudly, to show they had taken part in the Great War. Others put them away and tried to forget a difficult time.

Great War Veterans Association (GWVA)

"[The] cementing together of the returned soldiers and rejected men." Purpose of the Soldiers and Rejected Volunteers Association (later the GWVA)
from its minute book, St. John’s, April 11th, 1918

Formed in April 1918, the Great War Veterans Association worked on behalf of all who’d served in, or been affected by, the war. It lobbied for job and educational opportunities and better pension benefits for sick, wounded or impoverished veterans—and raised funds for the families of dead servicemen.

Captain Gerald Joseph Whitty

Royal Newfoundland Regiment

Wounded twice, Gerald Whitty came home suffering from “shell shock.” He struggled, but found work in 1920 as Secretary-Treasurer of the Great War Veterans Association. He became an important advocate, helping raise money and awareness and editing The Veteran magazine. He was struck and killed by a car in 1924.

Sergeant Thomas Joseph Flynn

Royal Newfoundland Regiment

Thomas Flynn, wounded in 1917, came home “shell shocked.” Too nervous to work machines he’d previously operated in a St. John’s clothing factory, he moved to New York and worked three years at the butcher shop in this photograph. He returned to Newfoundland in 1932 to work with the railway.

Civil Re-Establishment Committee

"They did not have so much trouble to get me to join the army as I have got to get the few dollars that is due me." Private John C. Butt Royal
Newfoundland Regiment, ca. 1918

The Newfoundland government’s 1917 Militia Act created a “Civil Re-Establishment Committee” to assess, train and find work for returning servicemen—especially those unable to do their former jobs. Applicants were promptly interviewed but the paperwork that followed often resulted in long delays and inaction—or denial of assistance.

Caring for Families

"Mr. Baker . . . [lost] his two sons, upon whom he was depending for a livelihood." Letter to Prime Minister Richard A. Squires from William Halfyard, Member for Fogo, House of Assembly St. John’s, May 29th, 1920

Some men never returned and their families had to carry on without them. The government offered pensions but it often took years to sort out details. With reduced means, life became difficult for many families. Some impoverished widows even had to give up children they could not provide for.

Harry White

Son of Private Frederick White
Newfoundland Regiment

Harry White never knew his father—he’d gone overseas with the Newfoundland Regiment before Harry’s birth and was killed at Beau- mont-Hamel, France. Only 7 and living with his grandparents in Twillingate, Harry donated $1 to the campaign to build the memorial at the place his father died.

Beaumont-Hamel and the Trail of the Caribou