Root­ing out the so-called en­emy within

A will­ing sol­dier in Pla­cen­tia is snubbed be­cause of his Ger­man an­ces­try

The Compass - - NEWS - BY LEEEVERTS

When the procla­ma­tion was sent out on Aug. 22, 1914, a few weeks af­ter the United King­dom had de­clared war on Ger­many, the re­quest was sim­ple yet in­tense — “King and Coun­try Need You.”

And it was men such as Franz Lüttge, then a res­i­dent of Pla­cen­tia, who re­sponded un­hesi­tat­ingly. He had been a mem­ber of the Cana­dian mili­tia and given this ex­pe­ri­ence, he knew he must an­swer the call. How­ever, Lüttge’s well-in­ten­tioned of­fer to po­ten­tially give his life for the Em­pire would bring him face-to-face with grow­ing fear and un­cer­tainty. It was a sign of the times.

Franz Lüttge, a Cana­dian of Ger­man ori­gin, was from Man­i­toba. A man of “means and leisure,” he had de­cided to set­tle in Pla­cen­tia near the ma­rine ca­ble sta­tion that was sit­u­ated along what is now known as the Or­can River (see The Rooms Provin­cial Ar­chive GN 1/1/7). It is en­tirely pos­si­ble that his mother was his con­nec­tion with Pla­cen­tia. She was a Smith.

When Lüttge de­cided to vol­un­teer, rec­og­niz­ing how his name might be a prob­lem, he en­listed us­ing the name of his mother. He no doubt also opted to ex­change Franz for Fran­cis. It was best to avoid any un­nec­es­sary and un­wanted scru­tiny. Af­ter all, the ori­gins of his name were linked to the coun­try whom he would be fight­ing. Re­gard­less, his loy­alty to the Bri­tish Em­pire was un­ques­tion­able. He was Cana­dian and like New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans, he wanted to sup­port and fight for the “Mother Coun­try.”

Lüttge could not have known that just one day af­ter the dec­la­ra­tion of war on Aug. 4, the United King­dom had taken mea­sures to en­sure its safety and that of its colonies. The threat of spies was con­sid­ered to be great. Thus, on Aug. 5, 1914, the Aliens Re­stric­tion Act 1914 was passed. This gave Bri­tish gov­ern­ments leg­isla­tive power to deal with “en­emy aliens.” One of the clauses in this Act pro­hib­ited en­emy aliens from chang­ing their names. This would prove to be a prob­lem for Lüttge.

Although he had sought to join the first con­tin­gent of the New­found­land Reg­i­ment, fears and in­crim­i­na­tions would ul­ti­mately block his at­tempts. The fact that he had changed his name was the pri­mary con­cern. While Lüttge was Cana­dian, his name spoke oth­er­wise and threw open the door to the fears and para­noia that had come to de­fine the pe­riod. Af­ter dis­cov­er­ing his true name, his fel­low re­cruits ob­jected to his pres­ence.

Ger­manopho­bia was wide­spread in Bri­tish so­ci­ety and it was only nor­mal for this to have spread to colonies such as New­found­land. De­spite his at­tempts to join the reg­i­ment, he was asked to re­sign.

Mean­while, the lead­ers in Pla­cen­tia were strongly urg­ing the young men of the district to fight for their King and Coun­try and iron­i­cally, fol­low the lead of men such as Lüttge. Early in Novem­ber, a meet­ing, “packed with a loyal and en­thu­si­as­tic au­di­ence,” took place at the Pla­cen­tia court­house. In at­ten­dance were in­di­vid­u­als such as the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Rear­don, F.J. Mor­ris, Sec­re­tary of the Pa­tri­otic Nom­i­nat­ing Com­mit­tee of St. John’s and a mem­ber of the re­cruit­ing com­mit­tee.

As re­ported on Nov. 5, 1914 in The Evening Tele­gram, F.J. Mor­ris made a pas­sion­ately pa­tri­otic speech, ex­claim­ing how the time had ar­rived for New­found­land to stand shoul­der to shoul­der with Bri­tain. He was sure that the young men of Pla­cen­tia-St. Mary’s district would be more than will­ing to an­swer the “call to the Moth­er­land.” Mor­ris ex­pressed his faith in the young men of the re­gion. He spoke fer­vently, stat­ing how “it could never be said of a New­found­land fish­er­man that he was afraid to go to sea.”

Lead­ing com­mu­nity mem­bers re­sponded with a res­o­lu­tion that was unan­i­mously passed, en­cour­ag­ing all “young fish­er­men” to en­list in the naval re­serve and “rally round the old flag.”

Men such as Franz Lüttge be­lieved whole­heart­edly in this sen­ti­ment.

So much so that in De­cem­ber 1914, he reap­plied to be a part of the sec­ond con­tin­gent. Although, on Dec. 7, 1914, the Right Hon­ourable Lewis Har­court in­formed Sir Wal­ter David­son, the gov­er­nor of New­found­land, of Franz Lüttge. He ex­plained how Lüttge had “taken up his res­i­dence at Pla­cen­tia.” Har­court in­formed David­son how Lüttge had been “in­for­mally watched since his ar­rival in New­found­land.” How­ever, nei­ther the cor­re­spon­dence or the be­hav­iour of Lüttge sug­gested any­thing of an “in­crim­i­na­tory na­ture.”

Nonethe­less, the at­tempt of Lüttge to join the sec­ond con­tin­gent was not to be. The spy fever and dis­trust would re­main an in­sur­mount­able bar­rier. Lüttge was kept un­der po­lice ob­ser­va­tion and still on July 22, 1915, he was con­sid­ered a “sus­pect at large.” Then, twoand-a-half weeks later, Franz Lüttge was or­dered to leave the colony of New­found­land.

Like thou­sands of other New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans, the men of the Pla­cen­tia area will­ingly gave years of their young lives to “King and Coun­try.” Too of­ten, it was life it­self they freely gave. There were 34 from Ar­gen­tia, Dunville, Jersey­side, Pla­cen­tia, and South­east Pla­cen­tia who did so. And no doubt, if given the chance, men such as Franz Lüttge would have done like­wise.

Lee Everts writes from Pla­cen­tia, and can be reached by email at the fol­low­ing: lee.everts@nf.sym­pa­tico.ca

Photo courtesy of Memo­rial Univer­sity’s ar­chives and spe­cial col­lec­tions

An image of Pla­cen­tia dat­ing back to the early part of the 20th cen­tury.

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