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.

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