Bay Roberts historian tallying lists of local people who served in world wars

By Patrick Newhook/February 24, 2022

The Bay Roberts Heritage Society is helping people remember the past by preserving a local part of it.

Eric Jerrett, the chairman of the Bay Roberts Heritage Society, has put together a list containing the names of soldiers from Bay Roberts who fought in World War 1.

Jerrett actually compiled the list ahead of the 100th year anniversary of the Great War, which ran from 1914 – 1918.

“We know the devastating effect that war had on Newfoundland in general,” said Jerrett. “We lost some of our most able and brightest people who would have been around to develop the country.”

Like most of North America and Europe, Newfoundland was devastated by the First World War. The conflict saw some 1,281 of her sons killed and many more wounded, leaving families and communities on the island and Labrador deeply impacted.

Jerrett’s list has 180 names, which is all the more remarkable given the population of Bay Roberts in 1914 was probably less than 2,000.

Finding the names was a challenge, he admitted. With Newfoundland soldiers serving and training in different parts of the world, tracking down names was not easy. Some Newfoundlanders actually left the colony to join the Canadian army. And there were others who had emigrated to the U.S. prior to the war and ended up joining that country’s military service.

“Newfoundland didn’t have an army, it had a naval reserve program and that’s where people, mostly fishermen, could sign up for that and go in for training,” said Jerrett. “When war broke out and newfoundland had to do its part, all members of the naval reserve, no matter where they were at the particular time, had to go to the nearest recruiting station and join up. Some of them were able to join up with the Newfoundland Regiment.”

The men who became part of the Navy ended up serving in various places throughout the world.

“I’m 100 percent sure I don’t have 100 percent of the names,” said Jerrett.

Since compiling the list, Jerrett has moved on to creating a similar tally of Bay Roberts soldiers who fought in World War Two. His hope is that the lists will help researchers as well as families who are interested in learning more about their relatives.

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