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When Newfoundland agreed to raise a regiment to fight in the First World War, the term of enlistment was for "the duration of the war, but not exceeding one year." Many expected the fighting in Europe would be over by Christmas.
This notion may have been foremost in the minds of the 74 young men who were the first to join the Newfoundland Regiment on Aug. 22, 1914. Would they even get a chance to participate, if the war was going to be over so soon?
The first recruits were, for the most part, members or recent graduates from the various church brigades which operated in St. John's: Church Lads Brigade, Catholic Cadet Corps, Methodist Guards and Presbyterian Highlanders. Within two weeks, the numbers had swelled to more than 700, as men came to St. John's to enlist.
Leading the crew
The first recruit, assigned regimental no. 1, was Leonard Tretheway Stick. He was born in St. John's on Feb. 7, 1892, the son of Emma Knight and James Robins Stick. After completing his schooling, he joined the Bank of Nova Scotia.
Within a few weeks of enlistment, he was made sergeant. He was one of the First Five Hundred who left St. John's aboard the SS Florizel on Oct. 4, 1914 for Great Britain, where the regiment underwent training in Scotland before being sent to Gallipoli in the eastern Mediterranean in August 1915.
Stick saw action at Gallipoli before the regiment was relocated to France in the spring of 1916. He was wounded at Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916, and promoted to lieutenant on the battlefield that same day. On Oct. 11, 1917, he transferred to the Indian Army and fought in India, Afghanistan andBeluchistan before retiring in 1920 with the rank of captain.
Back in Newfoundland, he joined the British Import Company Ltd. as an accountant. He lost a bid for election to the House of Assembly in Bonavista in 1924. A lifelong Liberal and supporter of Confederation in 1949, he was asked by Joseph R. Smallwood to become the party's candidate in Trinity-Conception in the first federal election held in Newfoundland on June 27, 1949.
Stick won that election with 78 per cent of the votes cast, and would represent the area in the House of Commons until 1958, when he retired from politics. He died on Dec. 9, 1979.
Regimental no. 2 was assigned to George Beverley Tuff. He saw action at Gallipoli and was wounded at Beaumont Hamel. He returned to the regiment after a period of recuperation and rose through the non-commissioned ranks from lance corporal to corporal to sergeant. He was demobilized at St. John's on June 29, 1919.
Regimental no. 3 went to Hubert Clinton Herder, the son of William J. Herder and Elizabeth Barnes. He was born in St. John's on July 28, 1891. The elder Herder was founder and publisher of The Evening Telegram.
Hubert was educated at the Methodist College, St. John's and at the Agricultural College in Guelph, Ont. Enlistment prevented completion of his studies, but like so many of his comrades, he felt it his duty to answer the call to arms.
Shortly after enlistment he was made a lance corporal. On April 6, 1915, he was one of 12 members of the ordinary ranks promoted to the officer corps as 2nd lieutenant. He shipped out with the regiment for the eastern Mediterranean in August 1915, but upon arrival was assigned to the transport division and spent the following months in Cairo and western Egypt.
In March 1916, he accompanied the regiment to France, where he took part in the July 1 assault at Beaumont Hamel. A member of B company, when his commanding officer, Captain Joe Nunns, was wounded, Herder took command and led his men forward. Within minutes he was hit by enemy fire and died from his wounds, one of 14 officers and 219 soldiers of the Newfoundland Regiment killed that day.
Regimental no. 4 was assigned to William Maxse Churchill. Born in St. John's in October 1894, he was the son of Sussanah Hiscock and William Churchill. After graduation from the Methodist College, he apprenticed as an engineer, working with the Angel Engineering Co. and the Reid Newfoundland Co. before enlistment in the regiment.
Sick in the trenches
Churchill went to Gallipoli with the regiment but was one of many who became seriously ill from the unsanitary conditions in the trenches. He was invalided back to England on Jan. 3, 1916 and after recovery was assigned to depot headquarters at Ayr, Scotland. He received the rank of 2nd lieutenant on April 15, 1916 but did not see action at Beaumont Hamel. On Aug. 23, he returned to Newfoundland, where he retired from the regiment the following year.
On April 1, 1918 Churchill rejoined the regiment; he saw action at Keiberg Ridge in the fall of 1918. He retired from the regiment a second time on Feb. 19, 1919.
Churchill spent time in New York in 1920 where he worked as an auto mechanic and tester. He returned to Newfoundland in 1921 and established Churchill's Engineering Works.
Stick, Tuff, Herder and Churchill were the first of more than 6,000 men who enlisted in the Newfoundland Regiment and saw action in the First World War. More than half of those who enlisted did not return home, and many who did died as a direct result of wounds received on the battlefields of Europe.
Any additional information on George Tuff or William Churchill would be greatly appreciated. Please contact Bert Riggs c/o The Telegram, Box 5970, St. John's NF, A1C 5X7.
Bert Riggs is an archivist with the Centre for Newfoundland Studies at Memorial University. ...
This page transcribed by Barbara McGrath (September 2000)
REVISED: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)
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