Distraction, Comforts and Care

"[We] sang all the old Newfoundland songs . . . shells never ceased bursting around us . . . the concert still went on." Major Lamont Paterson, Newfoundland Regiment, in an address to the Women’s Patriotic Association, November 16th, 1918

Many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians help the war effort, at the front and far from the fighting. In hospitals and rest camps, nurses, clergy and ambulance drivers care for exhausted, broken and injured men. Away from the action, others organize familiar Newfoundland-themed events, like a “fish and brewis” dinner, to comfort the men. Reminders of common bonds and shared camaraderie strengthen morale.

At home, people recognize the challenge of fuelling the will to fight. They raise money and prepare packages, sending local treats to those who serve. Thoughts and gifts from home are gratefully accepted—welcome diversions from war’s brutal realities.

Nurse Mary Zela Clinton Watts

British Red Cross

A trained nurse, Mary Watts from Harbour Grace served primarily at a hospital in Haute-Marne, France, where mostly French soldiers were treated. Her treasured autograph book, displayed in the centre case, is filled with patients’ sketches and heartfelt words of thanks. After the war, she returned to Newfoundland.

Thinking of Home

Welcome moments of escape came with letters and packages from home. They kept spirits up with words of love and moral support, food and gifts.

Entertainment

Away from the front, entertainment provided escape and relief from war’s harsher realities. Tasty food, wine—plus other pleasures—were bought at estaminets (small “cafés”). Comic relief was produced in postcards, magazines and newspapers. Concerts, storytelling and songs— reminders of home—were popular with the Newfoundland Regiment.

Faith and War

Whether religious or superstitious, soldiers often turned to unseen forces to guide them through war’s difficulties. Many were buoyed by religious services and carried their pocket-sized prayer books into battle. Some men also carried religious statues, others took lucky charms. Chaplains of all faiths gave counsel or a sympathetic ear.

Pastimes

Diversions kept soldiers busy and out of trouble while away from the front lines. Organized sporting events were popular and built morale. Men also turned to games and collecting—cigarette cards (“silks”), postcards, battlefield debris. Some transformed found objects—producing “art” like this letter opener—to keep, trade or sell.

Beaumont-Hamel and the Trail of the Caribou