Training Overseas: Beginning Chaos

"We got some good & hard training . . . walking with full equipment. 10 miles don’t seem hardly anything now." Lance Corporal Curtis Forsey
Newfoundland Regiment, Scotland, 1917

At last! The Atlantic is crossed and our boots touch English soil. But much work must be done before volunteers from Newfoundland and Labrador join the fight.

New roles must be learned and practised. In addition to training for land, sea or air service, some men are taught a trade: cook, signaller, sniper, stretcher-bearer. Women volunteers learn to care for the wounded.

Pride grows as people transform and leaders emerge. Everyone feels they are part of something shared, something big. They all look ahead to the real action—wondering what it will be like and how they will measure up.

For everyone who went to war, service overseas brought huge changes. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians found themselves in places and among cultures and languages most had never experienced before. Once in uniform, men and women had to adapt to unfamiliar ways, learn discipline and new skills. They had to endure both danger and boredom, and survive tough— sometimes unimaginable—conditions. Their experiences affected them profoundly.

Training Overseas

"Recruit drills began . . . and within . . . two months we were assuming the resemblance of soldiers." Recollections of Private Hubert Ridgley
Newfoundland Regiment, 1960s

The Regiment established a “depot” (headquarters) at Ayr, Scotland (and later Winchester, England), where they trained for front-line action. Route marches improved fitness, drills taught discipline and teamwork. The men practised with rifles, bayonets, Lewis guns, trench mortars and grenades and fought mock battles with other units—the great adventure continued.

Learning to use weapons was a crucial part of training. The Newfoundland Regiment was taught to use grenades, machine guns and rifles fixed with bayonets.

Unique within the British Army, the Newfoundland Regiment retained its identity throughout the war and recruited only from Newfoundland and Labrador—points of national pride.

The Newfoundland Regiment was initially equipped with blue puttees, Canadian greatcoats and Ross rifles. These were replaced with standard British army uniforms and weapons.

Officer Training

"The course . . . centred around abstract principles and theories . . . of limited practical application in the thick of a n all-out war of survival." Recollections of Captain Sydney Frost
Newfoundland Regiment, mid-1970s

Many officers of the Newfoundland Regiment were recruited in St. John’s and selected based on levels of education, leadership ability and previous military experience. They underwent standard British officer training once overseas. Training courses were meant to prepare officers to lead men and teach strategy and tactics, infantry formation, trench warfare and intelligence gathering.

Finished Training

"We turned in our Ross rifles . . . had our bayonets sharpened . . . ready for active service." Recollections of Sergeant Anthony James Stacey
Newfoundland Regiment, 1960s

By July 1915, the Newfoundland Regiment was still at Stobs Camp— fully trained, unassigned and available for action. The men eagerly awaited their chance to prove themselves on the Western Front. However, the Quintinshill rail disaster in Scotland unexpectedly sent them to fight in Gallipoli with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.

"By the time we leave here this will be a body of men ‘hard as nails,’ for we are hard at drill from 5:30 am to 4:30 pm, skirmishing, squad drill, company drill and physical exercise." Private Frank “Mayo” Lind
Newfoundland Regiment
Stobs Camp, Scotland, 1915

Women’s Service Overseas

"I was too busy rushing around . . . to even think of whether I had a heart." Recollections of Jeanette (Coultas) Wells
Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D.), 1954

Many women cared for the wounded, both in hospitals and near the Front. Professional nurses joined existing medical units. V.A.D.s were trained by the Red Cross and St. John Ambulance Brigade. They all worked long days wherever needed—cleaning, cooking, tending patients, driving ambulances— and saw war’s horrors up close.

Frances (“Fanny”) Cluett

Voluntary Aid Detachment

"Oh mother! If you could only see some of the patients. Talk of the war. It is a crime. If only you people would glimpse some of the suffering ones; so many of them so young, too."

Teacher Frances Cluett left Belleoram, Fortune Bay, in 1916 to volunteer. She learned to diagnose and stabilize injuries, to bandage and bathe patients. In Rouen, France, she nursed German prisoners of war. She found time to paint and photograph her surroundings. After the war, she returned to teaching in Newfoundland.

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