Unusual War Stories from Central Newfoundland

There were once scores of Veterans from World War One and Two in Central Newfoundland. There were less from the Korean Conflict, and to quote Tommy Makem and Liam Clancey: “Year after year their numbers get fewer.”

For many the units which they served were pretty homogeneous. Most of the Army veterans from World War One were with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. They served in Gallipoli and France/Belgium. The few Navy veterans in the area were with the Royal Naval Reserve, and mostly served anywhere from the North Sea, to Gallipoli, to the Trans-Atlantic Convoys. There were smatterings of men who served with various British and Canadian units, there were also a large number who served with the Newfoundland Forestry contingent. The son of Harry J. Crowe lost his life while flying with the Fleet Air Arm, and is memorialized in Botwood, but I am not sure if he ever lived there.

In the World War, on land, many of the area’s young men served in one of the two Artillery Regiments sent from Newfoundland, the 166th which served in North Africa and Italy or the 59th which served in France, Northwest Europe and Germany. There were also substantial numbers that served with the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Air force and Royal Canadian Air force. Most served in the war against Germany.

But when you dig down, there are some unusual service records for some local people.

There had to have been veterans of the Boer War among the early residents of the area, they would have been British, as only a very small handful of Newfoundlanders were involved in that conflict.

Sir Vincent Jones served in the Border Regiment around the time of the Boer War and this Regiment had gone to South Africa, but it is not known at this time if Jones saw service in that conflict. Jones rejoined his regiment in 1915 to take part in the First World War. Though awarded for service during the War, he was posted to India, so it is a little unsure if he saw any action against the Germans, Austro-Hungarians, or the Turks. But because he was in India, he did see service along the Northwest Frontier and in the Third Anglo-Afghan War of 1919, and finished his Army career as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Mr. Frank Shapleigh of Grand Falls was originally from the United States and was a veteran of the Spanish-America War. Link

Many of us know the story of the Goodyear family, which sent five sons (and had a daughter serve as a nurse) to serve during the Great War. Three of them were killed, the surviving brothers Josiah (Joe) and Kenneth were both wounded. After being discharged from the Newfoundland Regiment on medical grounds both Joe and Ken (both experienced in supervising logging operations) joined the Newfoundland Forestry Companies! The Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company was actually very heavily involved in the formation of this unit, a number of the officers were AND Company supervisors and managers.

Joseph Pomeroy, one of only three Newfoundlanders known to have fought in the Spanish Civil War (https://spanishcivilwar.ca/volunteers/joseph-wilson-pomeroy)

One of the very few men from Newfoundland to fight in the Spanish Civil War grew up in Grand Falls. Joseph Pomeroy was from originally from Fogo but he grew up in Grand Falls. I believe he made his way west during the Great Depression, found himself in British Columbia. He joined the Canadian Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion which was part of the famed International Brigades that fought against General Franco’s Fascists in this 1936-39 conflict. He was wounded in action at the Battle of Ebro, the largest battle of the war, in 1938. He came back to Canada in February of 1939, and died in 1963. (Source)

I have covered Charlie Edwards, who as an RAF aircrewman was taken prisoner by the Japanese in 1942. But Charlie wasn’t even the first mayor of Grand Falls to serve against the Japanese. Believe it or not the first two mayors of Grand Falls had both fought on the Asian/Pacific Front.

Walter B. Tucker went overseas with those who volunteered for the Artillery. Somewhere during training he must have showed he was officer material and he was sent to officer training school. Where did he end up after his commission? The British Indian Army Service Corps. He ended up serving against the Japanese on the Burma Front.

Mr. Lloyd Seward of Bishop’s Falls served in the Royal Navy, and was taken prisoner after the HMS Exeter was sunk in 1942. A number of Royal Navy vessels were in the pacific during fighting the Japanese, especially at the beginning of the fighting there. As the War with Germany was ending more and more British ships were transferred to the far east, and considering the large number of men from Central that served in the Royal Navy during World War Two, there are undoubtedly other Pacific veterans that I have missed.

I do believe there were some residents that served with the American forces during the Second World War, and if I am not mistaken, one of Charlie Edward’s brothers might have been one of them.

Then there is the story of Bill Knight, who was originally from South Africa. Knight reportedly joined the South African Army at the age of 14, and remained in the South African Army after the war. He ended up working as a miner at Tilt Cove and Gullbridge, and settled in Grand Falls. Most every year he would lay a wreath at the cenotaph in honor of his former regiment.*

A number of men from the Central Region went to fight in the Korean War. Included in their number were some that had served in World War Two, including Frederick William Conway. For many years Conway bore the distinction of being the only person listed on the Grand Falls Cenotaph as a Korean War casualty. Though he survived World War Two, Conway was killed in a tragic train wreck at Canoe River British Columbia, en-route to Korea.

Besides the one Spanish American War Veteran and the one man who fought in the Spanish Civil War, there are some connections to other wars that did not involve Newfoundland or Canada.

I personally know one Vietnam Veteran who has lived most of his adult life in Grand Falls-Windsor. He was in the US Navy, and was on a cruiser that saw action during the Tet Offensive of 1968. There are a few other Vietnam War connections from the area as well. There is also little doubt that Captain Tom Dower would have made trips over to South Vietnam as an officer on various merchant vessels.

Captain Walter J. Bell of the United States Marines was born in Grand Falls. His father was listed as the “late Captain Walter D. Belle” of Rochford, Texas. His mother was Jeanette Powell, daughter of Hedley and Elizabeth Powell, from Beaumont Avenue.(1935 Census) She most likely married a US Serviceman (Captain Bell Senior) during or shortly after the Second World War. Bell may have been born in Grand Falls, but I am doubtful if he lived there for very long.*

Former Resident Vietnam 1969 Grand Falls

There was another Vietnam Marine from the area, and he definitely was born and raised here. Corporal John Evely won the Bronze Star for actions undertaken in I Corps in May of 1968. I Corps was the designation for the area of South Vietnam closest to North Vietnam. At the time of his enlistment Evely and his family lived in Las Vegas, Nevada; but they had lived on Main Street, Windsor for a number of years before moving to the states.

John Evely Vietnam 1968

I know there are surely others from the region that served with United States Armed Forces in Southeast Asia, though accounts are difficult to substantiate. Even odder is the possibility that some local soldiers served in Vietnam as peacekeepers between 1973-75, attempting to enforce the Paris Peace Accords. Any additional information would be welcome.

*Gullbridge is probably worth a story of its own, as it relates to the history of the area. It actually had a townsite, with a bowling ally and a curling rink; but was effectively wiped off the face of the map after the mine closed. Bill Knight probably deserves a story of his own if more information was available. I do recall that he may have been the caretaker of the Gullbridge site for many years after the closure of that mine. (Gullbridge pictures)

**As an interesting aside, his mothers brother was Harry Powell, a Royal Navy veteran of the Second World War, who was very involved in the Legion and the Central Newfoundland Naval Association. I also believe he was fairly involved (with Captain Tom Dower) with getting the 12 pounder naval gun mounted in front of the Legion in Grand Falls.

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