When the war began,
Newfoundland was still 35 years from joining Canada. A British dominion, it raised its own regiment. In St. John’s, James
Moore, a 22-year-old longshoreman with a heart tattooed on his right arm, was among those who would be known as “The First Five Hundred,” and he joined the same convoy that took Pearl and Alistair Fraser to Europe.
After a year of training in England, the Newfoundlanders were sent as reinforcements to Gallipoli, in Turkey, where the Allies’ amphibious attack against the Ottoman Empire six months earlier had devolved into a quagmire. Arriving the night of Sept. 19, they came under immediate fire, and for the next three months endured shelling, intense heat and a shortage of drinking water. Unburied bodies drew clouds of flies. “A lot of our boys were stricken with dysentery,” Private Moore wrote in a letter to his mother.
In November, a three-day storm flooded their positions; then came snow and frost. “We were in a terrible state in the trenches and suffered untold hardship,” Pte. Moore wrote in his letter. The day after, while fetching water for dinner, he was hit by shrapnel “as large as grapes.” Severely wounded, he was sent to a hospital in Malta, where the British kept a base, and from there he wrote to his mother that he would try to send her the shrapnel from his leg as a souvenir.
In the spring, he rejoined the regiment as it prepared to join an offensive that became synonymous with slaughter: the Battle of the Somme. Attacking at Beaumont-Hamel on July 1, the Newfoundlanders were blasted by German fire. “The men were mown down in heaps,” reads the regimental diary. Through the night, the survivors crawled back to their lines. The next morning, of the 801 men who had gone into battle, 68 made roll call.
Although he suffered a shell wound, Pte. Moore remained on duty. His regiment, meanwhile, was pulled out, rebuilt with fresh troops and, in October, sent back to the Somme, where the battle continued to grind away. During an assault near Gueudecourt, a shell burst shattered Pte. Moore’s left leg and nearly severed his right foot. He managed to crawl into a trench captured from the Germans. Although in great pain, he was stranded by gunfire for two days before he could be rescued.
Surgeons would have to amputate his right foot and his left leg above the knee. “I have been wounded again. This time I am out of it for good,” he wrote to his mother. It would be two years before he was well enough to return home.
His great-granddaughter Stephanie Furey is now a corporal in the same regiment.