"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
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.
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.
"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.