There are fifty five names inscribed on the Cenotaph in Grand Falls-Windsor. One for each of the men and boys from the town who lost their lives in the First World War, The Great War. These names serve as a testament to the tremendous sacrifice made by the infant town of Grand Falls in that bloody conflict.
There are fifty five names on the memorial, but the true toll may be much higher. Grand Falls Windsor: The Place and Its people lists 58 and a recent publication from the Royal Canadian legion came up with 62 and there were no doubt people who lived at Grand Falls and Grand Falls Station that were listed under their places of birth when they were killed. It is a staggering number when one considers that the population of Grand Falls was only a little more than 2000 when the war began.
When the war started the men and boys volunteered in droves. This was true for all of Newfoundland and it is said that for each successful volunteer at least one was rejected due to hearth reasons. From what I have read and observed over the years just about every man between the ages of 15 and 30 in the Dominion tried to do their part. Grand Falls would have been a young town, young in its physical age and young in the ages of its inhabitants. There would have been scores of military aged men that had come to the new town to work in the mill and then there would have been the sons of the early families-these first pupils of GFA and NDA.
Most of the volunteers from Grand Falls signed up for the Newfoundland Regiment, the Cenotaph does not bear the name of a single Royal Naval Reservist even though close to 200 were killed in the war and aftermath. They would have left town on the train, headed to St. John’s for rudimentary training and then shipped to England. From England the first volunteers went to Egypt and from there to the Dardanelles to fight in the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign. In the hills and scrub of those windswept straits the Newfoundlanders received their baptism of fire. They would be some of the last to leave that front when the Allies snuck out in early 1916. To the best of my knowledge nobody from Grand Falls was killed at Gallipoli.
From Gallipoli the Newfoundlanders were posted to the western front, in France. It was here on July 1st 1916 the regiment was devastated during the first day of the Battle of the Somme near the town of Beaumont Hamel. A number of men from Grand Falls lost their lives that day.
Not all of the names etched into the granite were members of the Newfoundland Regiment. Many residents of the town were Canadian or British and joined or rejoined units in these countries. Notable examples being Vincent Jones-the mill superintendent at the time and Hedley Goodyear. Jones was an officer in an Indian Army unit and Goodyear left a promising career in academia in Canada to enlist as officer with the Canadian Army.
Hedley Goodyear was one of five brothers that enlisted, four of whom became officers[i], three of whom died in the mud of France and Flanders.[ii] A tragedy that is well known in Grand Falls and immortalized by David McFarlane in his book the Danger Tree.
The bloodletting did not stop at Beaumont Hamel. A quick analysis of the records indicates that at least as many, if not more, men from Grand Falls were killed or wounded at the Battle of Monchy Le-Preux in 1917.
The Great War impacted Grand Falls to a huge extent, if the conflict as seen as the event that solidified Canada as a nation, to Grand Falls it was a weathered storm that forged a town.
Not only were many of the able bodied men gone in the regiment and other fighting units but dozens if not hundreds were had enlisted and gone to the United Kingdom as part of the Newfoundland forestry Corps. Amongst them were many that were or would become the upper echelon of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company’s woods staff. They Included: Harry S. Crowe and Bryan Potts both of whom would become superintendent of Millertown Division at different times; Hugh Wilding Cole, future Badger Superintendent, Kenneth and Joe Goodyear of J. Goodyear and Sons which was the biggest private contractor for AND Co.[iii]
It has been noted that some 600 men from the area served in the Great War.[iv] The mill was left with a skeleton crew. I have read that boys as young as 11 and women were pressed into work at the mill. Significant numbers of men from the outports also found temporary employment there. Even with the measures taken, production had to be curtailed due to shortages of both labour and shipping. Shipping problems became so bad that AND resorted to building its own large Schooners at Botwood; The Sordello and Bella Scott.
The war ended in November of 1918 and those that survived began to arrive home. Those who had left their positions with the AND Co were guaranteed their old jobs back. The Company made good on the promise. One of the first Branches of the Great War Veterans Association was formed, spearheaded by the likes of L.R Cooper and George Hicks, the former headmaster of GFA who had left teaching gone to war and come back a Captain with a Military Cross.
In 1922 a memorial park was designated, where the old mill managers house (Wood House) once stood on Station Road. At its centre there was a Granite Cenotaph erected to honor the 55 men from the town who lost their lives in the Great War.
A hundred years on they are still remembered, though it is hard to make a connection, all of the Great War Veterans are gone, most of their children are now gone as well. Some of the family names on the memorial are gone, maybe the son on the cenotaph was the only son, and maybe they left after the war. They came from all over to Grand Falls and from there they offered to serve.
Most were mere boys, teenagers like Eli Abbot killed in action on the Somme and Mackintosh Frew killed at Monchy. Some were older and left families like 2nd Lt J Roy Ferguson and Company Sgt Major Robert Porter ages 27 and 29 respectively both of whom like so many others were cut down at Beaumont Hamel, Michael Joseph O’Flynn killed at Beaumont Hamel. Some we even know the address Private Thomas Southcott of 4 Riverview Road, 18 Year old Herbert Wills of Exploits Lane,[v] just a couple of minutes’ walk from the memorial that bears their names.
[i] Though it should be noted that two of them became officers in the Newfoundland Forestry Corps, having re-enlisted in this unit after being discharged from being deemed medically unfit due to wounds that they had received.
[iv] Grand Falls the Place and It’s People. 2005