Where Once They Sailed
Newfoundland Naval Reserve: 1902-1914
In fall of 1902, the British Royal Navy gifted to Newfoundland, a third-class cruiser named the H.M.S. Calypso. The ship was to be retro-fitted and used as a stationary drill ship for training of naval reserve personnel.
The ship was initially anchored in Placentia Bay while repairs were completed. It was then moved to St. John’s Harbour and used extensively as a naval training base for new recruits to the Royal Naval Reserve prior to the Great War. The ship had 28 instructors from the British Royal Navy and could accommodate up to 300 volunteers.
The newly formed Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve accepted men who had experience with the sea, in good health, and were between the ages of 18-30 years. By 1909, the upper age limit was dropped to 25 years.
Between 1904-1912 hundreds of young men enlisted from both the St. John’s region and outports around Newfoundland coast. The men were paid a daily wage and received a retainer fee of six pounds per year legally binding the recruits to report to the Navy if called upon during a war. The pay received for their service was a welcome addition to many families during a period when times were difficult.
Training occurred between the months of November and April, a time period after the cod fishery ended and before the beginning of the seal hunt. It usually involved 28 days of training per year. Naval records indicate that the men handled ammunition and were taught how to properly discharge three types of guns-the big gun (3mm), rifle and pistol and were graded on their marksmanship. In addition, recruits completed daily drills, safety training and other navy practices.
Men from Random started to appear in Naval Reserve records starting around 1906. Some of these men never served in the Great War for various reasons but others received orders by Royal Proclamation and enlisted in August, 1914.
There were at least 10 men from Southwest Arm area who did not serve overseas but trained at the H.M.S. Calypso. There were other names in naval records that may have been from the area but without evidence of their birthdate/ birthplace are difficult to confirm.
The Calypso, St. John’s, N.L.
Warship Calypso — Evening Telegram, 1901-03-04.