New Recruits

There are a number of factors that may have contributed to higher enlistment rates from St. John's. In St. John's, manufacturing and trade employed almost half of the population. However, wages were often low and many men were unemployed. For these men, the opportunity to earn $1.00 per day with the Regiment was enticing.

In the outports, many families simply could not spare their men to fight. Most men were employed in the fisheries and were needed to help meet the needs of the family. In addition, people in isolated communities often felt distanced from both St. John's and the war.

These points were expressed in a 1917 letter from Dr. Harry Paddon, the Grenfell Mission's main physician from 1912 to 1938, to the St. John's recruiting office. Intending to brief them on the situation in Labrador, he wrote: "At the time the war broke out, Sir, you must know that a number of people down here literally did not know which side they were on!" He also added that "the lack of any resident administration, worthy of the name, on this Coast; and the constant chaos, neglect and injustice ... remain a constant deep resentment, and certainly add greatly to the difficulty of recruiting". He continued to say that there were a number of "natural snipers" in Labrador, but they would be hard to recruit.

Another reason that more outport men did not enlist in the Newfoundland Regiment was that many of them were drawn toward service on the sea instead of land. Of the 1964 men enlisted in the Royal Naval Reserve, 1628 (83%) were from outside of St. John's.

One of these was Alfred Le Valliant, an engineer from Port aux Basques. In his enlistment letter to the Recruitment Office, he voiced the feeling of many when he wrote: "...I am no slacker, my interest has always been with ... the Navy, because it's a part that I know most about..."


(Recruitment) The Rooms Provincial Archives NA 11029

(Fish flakes) The Rooms Provincial Archives A43-158/G.A. England
(Factory) Private Collection