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Those Who Came After The Original 500

Poems about the two World Wars, written in the 1970-1980s,
by my Uncle John Allan Critch (1928-1995)
Linda Elkins-Schmitt

Bay of Islands War Memorial

There it stands both night and day, as it looks out o'er the bay
Giving all who care to look, a splendid view.
This memorial today, this monument of gray
Was erected there in 1932.
In memory of those sons, who died in World War I
From the Bay of Islands area of our land.
It's a lasting tribute from the not forgotten ones
Who remember them each year when'er they can.

I remember as a boy, on the first day of July,
Every year I would attend the service there.
And I often wondered why, these young men had to die
And leave behind the ones they loved so dear.
But, their deaths were not in vain, they died so you and I
Could once again be free and live in peace.
This monument so high, as it stands against the sky,
Is a reminder that says: All wars should cease.

At the end of World War II, when peace returned once more,
Two plaques were added in memory of the men
Who died in that Great War from Bay of Islands shores
Who left home never to return again.
So think of them my friends, whenever you pass by
The monument and all that it stands for.
And do not be ashamed, if a tear comes to your eye.
Just remember why they went away to war.

Written by John Allan Critch (1928-1995)
Linda Elkins-Schmitt

* * * *

Tommy Ricketts, Victoria Cross

The date was April fifteenth in nineteen hundred one
A loving mom gave birth to a bouncing baby son.
She named the baby Thomas of course not knowing then,
The name of Tommy Ricketts would be honored by all men.
The community of Middle Arm where he was born that day,
was just a tiny village, nestled in White Bay,
Where fishing was the way of life that everybody knew,
And everybody did their share, and that meant young boys, too.

But, trouble was a brewing in the lands across the sea,
That would affect the lives of men wherever they may be.
In Newfoundland, young men went forth as soon as war began
To fight for king and country at sea and on the land.
Young Tommy was but fifteen years when he left home that day
To fight in far off countries, so many miles away.
Though just a lad, he soon became a man like many more
Young Newfoundlanders of that age, who went away to war.

The Regiment was fighting in Belgium on that day,
When young Ricketts made his famous dash one hundred yards away.
The year was 1918, October fourteenth was the date
When Private Thomas Ricketts decided on his fate.
He and a group of comrades were manning a Lewis gun
Trying to outflank the Germans and get them on the run.
The ammunition soon ran out, which left them in a bind
But Tommy knew he could get more a hundred yards behind.

So taking to his heels, he ran back to the spot
To get the ammunition without getting shot.
With shellfire bursting left and right, he made his famous run.
Then swerving back and forth once more, he returned to his gun.
With ammunition ready, young Tommy went to work
With the help of Matthew Brazil, a Bell Islander by birth.
The other wounded comrades were of little help at all
So t'was up to Ricketts and Brazil to answer to the call.

With Lewis gun and rifle, they drove the Germans back
To the shelter of a nearby farm, which ended the attack.
It was a good days work as they would later see,
For Brazil won the DCM and Ricketts the VC.
His Victoria Cross was presented to him early the next year,
At Sandringham, young Tommy was invited to appear.
Before King George V and other honored guests.
For a lad not yet turned eighteen, it was a large request.

But, this modest lad was quite impressed with what went on that day.
He listened quite attentively to what the King did say.
The King was quite impressed as well with this young man,
And chatted briefly with him before the ceremony began.
He soon became a Sergeant, this modest shy young man,
And headed out for home on the S.S. Corsican.
The ship arrived in St. John's and anchored overnight,
When a reporter came on board his story for to write.

That writer was Joe Smallwood, who later came to fame
As Premier of our Province, a very well known name.
Young Smallwood wrote his story next day for all to see
About Sergeant Thomas Ricketts and his winning the VC.
Next morning when the ship docked at Furness - Withy Pier,
A crowd of people gathered, nearly all St. John's was there.
A hero's welcome he received from people far and wide.
Now Newfoundlanders had a man to whom they could point with pride.

But that was all behind him now, he had other things to do.
He thought about his future, the same as me or you.
His meagre education, interrupted by the war,
He entered university in order to get more.
He then worked at a drug store, McMurdo's was the name.
Then passed his pharmacy exam and a pharmacist he became.
He opened up his own drug store and served the public well,
Especially the kids to whom candies he would sell.

As years went by this quiet man shunned publicity.
He didn't boast about what he did in the land across the sea.
He lived a very quiet life, he wanted it that way,
This somewhat shy and modest man from Middle Arm, White Bay.
But, times got bad, his health was poor, his business couldn't last.
His time had come to leave this earth, this hero of the past.
He died on his own drug store floor, of a sudden heart attack.
This man who was a hero, but never did look back.

In 1967, February tenth the day,
Tommy Ricketts said good-bye and quietly passed away.
This quiet hero never understood why all the fuss.
He was a true blue Newfoundlander, just like one of us.
Premier J.R. Smallwood, who knew Tommy Ricketts well,
Proclaimed he lie in state, with a state funeral as well.
Dignitaries of church and state, from north, east, south and west,
Assembled there as Sergeant Tommy Ricketts was laid to rest.

In Middle Arm, where he was born, there's no one there today.
In the late 1940's all the people moved away.
But he is not forgotten, or ever should he be,
This gallant son of White Bay, who sailed across the sea.
Three miles away from Middle Arm, is Seal Cove, a small town.
A school there bears his name, which takes kids from all around.
Throughout the years the school kids there have slowly come and gone,
Remembering Tommy Ricketts, knowing they must carry on.

And think of him for what he was, a quiet, gentle man,
Who did his job and became a hero of our land.
He could have been a boastful type, but that was not to be.
Instead he chose to be a modest man like you or me.
And that is how I think we should remember him today,
A quiet man who was indeed a hero in his own way.
But heroes come in different moulds I'm sure you will agree,
And Tommy Ricketts lived the way he wanted it to be.

Author's note:
Thomas R. Ricketts
Born: Middle Arm, White Bay. April 15, 1901
Died: St. John's, Newfoundland, February 10, 1967
Enlisted in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment: September 2, 1916
Won the Victoria Cross: October 14, 1918 near Ledgehem, Belgium
Presented with the Victoria Cross: January 19, 1919
by King George V, at Sandringham, England.

Written by John Allan Critch (1928-1995)
Linda Elkins-Schmitt

* * * *

World War II Memories

I was but only ten years old when World War II began
On September third in 1939.
But looking back to me it only seems like yesterday.
Those days that are etched ever in my mind.

Those six long weary, troubled years were times you won't forget.
You were a part of history long since past.
Each day you heard the news casts on the radio
And wondered just how long would this war last.

Each day in school your teacher would quiz you bout the news
You heard last night on the radio.
These BBC news broadcasts were heard by everyone,
T'was talked by everybody on the go.

We all knew Winston Churchill, as if he were our own,
As well as his famous victory sign.
We listened to his speeches that boosted the morale
Of all the Allied soldiers on the line.

Meantime, a little closer home, we read the weekly press
To see who had enlisted for the war.
Sometimes a next door neighbour's name would be included there,
Soon he'd be overseas like many more.

And then the dreaded day would come, the day they would leave home
And say good-bye to all that they loved dear.
I still recall the troop trains that took our boys away
To fight for king and country over there.

I remember Sunday afternoons sitting by the tracks.
A crowd of people always would be there.
Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts and friends,
Waiting for the troop train to appear.

Although the war seemed far removed from us in Newfoundland,
Yet there were times when danger lurked next door.
The many merchant ships who sailed from ports in Newfoundland
Were hunted by the U-Boats near our shore.

The Humber Arm, the Livingstone, the Kitty's Brook as well,
Were sunk by submarines, to name a few.
But the biggest war time tragedy for all of Newfoundland
Was the sinking of the S.S. Caribou.

T'was times like that you realized the horror of the war
And how so many young men paid the price,
Especially when some of them were boys from your home town,
Boys who paid the supreme sacrifice.

However, there were happy times to lift your spirits up,
When boys came home on leave for a short rest.
What pride you felt to see them in their service uniforms,
They were your heroes, to you they were the best.

Oh how proud you felt when they walked down the road
In their Air Force navy blue or Army brown.
As they relaxed and had a ball, before they had to leave,
For now they were the heroes of the town.

But time was running out for Hitler and his gang.
T'was getting hard for them to stay alive.
The Allies were advancing, the Germans called it quits
On that fateful May day 1945.

As a school boy I can still recall that famous day in May,
When victory in Europe was attained.
Our school was closed that afternoon, when the flags around went up
To celebrate the victory that was gained.

Of course the war would still go on for another three more months.
The Allied still had to defeat Japan.
T'was then the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
The most powerful explosion known to man.

And so the war was over, the boys came marching home,
The terrible ordeal was in the past.
But the memories I have, the good ones and the bad,
Are memories that will forever last.

Written by John Allan Critch (1928-1995)
Linda Elkins-Schmitt

* * * *

The Troop Trains

On the third day of September in 1939
The start of what is known as World War II
The prime of Newfoundland's young men left home to volunteer
For country and the old red, white and blue.
But first they had to travel to St. John's or Halifax
From every town or village, cove or bay.
For this they left their homes by the Newfoundland Express
To travel cross the seas so far away.

The Troop Trains as they were so appropriately called,
Travelled all across our island home
Taking boys from home, and friends they loved so dear
To fight for king and country cross the foam.

These Troop Trains usually travelled on a Sunday afternoon
And crowds would gather waving them good bye.
It was a sad occasion for people gathered there
And many a time you'd see a tear dimmed eye.
But for the boys departing, it was a job to do,
A sense of duty making them feel proud
As they travelled to a far off land to make our nation free,
Whilst they made a final wave back to the crowd.

They'd be hanging out the windows of the train, as it went by,
Waving to the crowd of people gathered round.
Then the crowd would soon disperse with perhaps a silent prayer
Hoping they'd return home safe and sound.

These Troop Trains ran continuously until the war was won,
Taking soldiers, sailors, airmen to the fray.
They also carried men who were coming home on leave
Home with friends again, for a short stay.
For every train that passed our way, you were sure to see someone,
Coming home or going back to war,
And as they passed, they waved at you, with a happy smiling face
Even though you might not see them any more.

Not only have the Troop Trains stopped, but the railways are all gone
Yes, gone but not forgotten are the trains.
They've taken up the rail beds, they've taken up the tracks,
Memories are all that now remains.
Memories of waiting to hear the whistle blow
Knowing, that the train would soon be here.
It seems like only yesterday, when as a tiny lad,
I waiting for the Troop Trains to appear.

But, the war's been over now for over forty years
Some boys came back while some we'll see no more.
They paid the supreme sacrifice so we could all be free
As their forefathers did many years before.
They didn't get to come back home and ride the trains once more
But, we always will remember them with pride,
And think about them hanging out the windows of the train,
As they left their home and friends, on their last ride.

Written by John Allan Critch (1928-1995)
Linda Elkins-Schmitt

* * * *

The July Drive

When you think of battles won and lost in World Wars I and II
Which Newfoundlanders fought with so much pride,
Let's not forget July 1st in the year of 1916
When proud young Newfoundlanders fought and died.
We always will remember the fallen and the wounded
And thank the Lord above, some did survive
That terrible ordeal in the town of Beaumont Hamel
The famous battle of the July Drive.

I remember as a school boy, hearing of that famous battle
That happened oh so many years ago.
And I often wondered why, so many had to die
As they fell that July morning row on row.
But they were over there, they had a job to do
And the biggest job, was just to stay alive.
The enemy was waiting, they didn't have a chance.
They met their maker in the July Drive.

That early July morning, their orders they were given.
Leave your trenches, go over the top,
They did as was instructed but were met with heavy gun fire.
And one by one these brave young men did drop.
It was a human massacre, they didn't have a chance
With fallen comrades lying all around.
They just could not advance, the battle had been lost,
With very few survivors to be found.

The heroism they displayed, as described by General Haige,
On that July morn, has never been surpassed.
They lost the battle simply because dead men can't advance.
They fought and died right to the very last.
The bodies of the dead, on that day at Beaumont Hamel,
Were gently gathered up and laid to rest.
We always will remember them on every July first,
These brave young men were better than the best.

Today at Beaumont Hamel, a park has been erected,
To honor those brave men from Newfoundland,
Who on that July morning laid down their lives so others
Could live in peace and once more take a stand.
Now every July first across our island home,
Both men and women, boys and girls arrive
At every war memorial, to honor those brave men
Who were the fallen at the July Drive.

Written by John Allan Critch (1928-1995)
Linda Elkins-Schmitt

* * * *

My Father, Frank Critch

He was born September 19, 1899
Far different from how kids are born today.
Son of John and Lydia of Little Harbour Deep,
A tiny outport, nestled in White Bay.

In that small White Bay outport of Little Harbour Deep,
He quietly grew up with his family,
Which numbered ten including his mother and his father,
His sisters four and brothers which were three.

At his early age of fifteen, his mother passed away.
She was but thirty-seven years of age.
A sad blow to the family in those long ago hard times,
When families didn't make a decent wage.

Within a year his father had married once again
And in two years left Little Harbour Deep.
This time they moved to Springdale, a tiny Green Bay town,
Through trying times, his family tried to keep.

May 6th, 1918, in the City of St. John's,
He enlisted for duty in the war,
With the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, he journeyed overseas
Like many Newfoundlanders gone before.

However, by the time, he was sent to the front line,
The armistice was signed to end the war.
After serving eight more months, he returned to Newfoundland
To return to civilian life once more.

After a few years living in Springdale in Green Bay,
He went to the West Coast to have a look.
Construction there was starting on a brand new paper mill,
Situated in a place called Corner Brook.

Meantime, he got employment fishing on the Labrador,
With a fisherman from Mt. Moriah town.
The fishing season over, he returned to the west coast
And decided he'd like to stick around.

T'was there he met a lady, her name was Lucy Hunt.
She lived in Mount Moriah all her life.
On February sixteenth in 1927
He decided she would become his wife.

Now that he was married, he built himself a home
And decided to raise a family.
Though times were hard, they stuck it out and together they produced
In six years their children, which were three.

While working in the lumber woods, he caught a heavy chill,
Which forced him to seek medical advice.
His doctor then informed him he had tuberculosis of the throat
And to enter a sanatorium of his choice.

There was a sanatorium in St. John's where he could go.
St. Anthony had another one as well.
He chose the sanatorium in St. Anthony up north,
As he had a sister who in that town did dwell.

He left his home and family aboard a coastal boat,
Not knowing he would see them never more.
He only lived a few short months in the sanatorium.
He died August 6th, 1934.

His family was shaken when they heard the sad, sad news.
It seemed that nothing could ease the pain.
He had not yet turned thirty-five when he was called away
Never to return to them again.

He was buried in St. Anthony, many miles from home,
In the Church of England cemetery in that town.
He's gone but not forgotten after all these many years,
And many a year I'd wished he was around.

Written by John Allan Critch (1928-1995)
Linda Elkins-Schmitt

* * * *

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