Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The First Five Hundred

Another gem in the Chicksands Collection is this regimental history, published in New York in 1921:

The first Five Hundred; being a historical sketch of the military operations of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in Gallipoli and on the Western Front during the Great War (1914-1918) together with the individual military records and photographs where obtainable of the men of the first contingent, known as "The First Five Hundred", or "The Blue Puttees", by Richard Cramm

The Royal Newfoundland Regiment was established in 1795 and, as a loyal Colonial unit, responded quickly when the British declared war on August 4, 1914. By the end of September, nearly 1000 volunteers had signed up; however, only half of these passed the medical examination, much more stringent in 1914 than later in the war. The First Five Hundred volunteers were composed of fishermen, loggers, clerks and more than 50% were from the city of St. John's cadet brigades. Officers came from the upper class and equipment and uniforms from various organizations, including the "Blue Puttees" which gave rise to the regimental nickname. By the end of the war, 6,241 Newfoundlanders had served in the regiment.
This book, ornately illustrated with photographs and maps, tells not only the story of the Regiment but also of each individual, one through five hundred. The Royal Newfoundland Regiment was the only North American unit that took part in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. From there, the Regiment travelled to the Western Front, where the Battle of Beaumont Hamel (July 1, 1916) resulted in 733 members of the regiment either killed or wounded.

This particular copy of the book was acquired by the Ministry of Defense Library (Central and Army) in 1972; however, it was originally a presentation copy to somebody (or some office), and is inscribed "With the compliments of R.A. Squires". Sir Richard Anderson Squires was the controversial Prime Minister of Newfoundland from 1919 to 1923 and again from 1928 to 1932. It is likely this copy was an official presentation made during his first term of office.

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