Where Once They Sailed
Avery brothers contribute 19 years of naval service
James and Elizabeth Sarah (Spurrell) Avery of Long Beach had nine children, all born at Long Beach.
In April of 1903, James passed, leaving Elizabeth to raise the family. She married John Penney of Deer Harbour in August 1914 but by this time, two of her sons – Abraham and Robert – had joined the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve.
Records show Abraham was the first to enlist in January 1911, followed by Robert in November 1913 and Nicholas in December 1915. Nicholas listed Long Beach as his place of residence but his mother’s as being Deer Harbour, where she was now residing with her husband, John Penney. All three brothers served for several years.
Abraham married Phoebe Green of Hillview on June 13, 1911 and the couple gave birth to their first child in December 1911. He continued with his naval training each January and February until the Great War was declared.
He received a letter of Royal Proclamation from the British Admiralty of HMS Calypso to report to St. John’s on Nov. 3, 1914. He was sent overseas on RMS Franconia three days later and assigned to HMS Pembroke, a shore-based naval facility located at Chatham, England. He was transferred to HMS Carron, an armed boarding steamer, and spent the next two years patrolling waters enforcing wartime blockades.
He was re-assigned to HMS Pembroke in December 1916. He then received orders he was being transferred to HMS Briton at St. John’s.
He was going home. He purchased his ticket at Liverpool for the ill-fated RMS Laurentic on Jan. 24, 1917. His adventure onboard the Laurentic will be described in detail in next week’s special article on the survivors of RMS Laurentic.
Seaman Avery returned to Chatham after the Laurentic sank off Lough Swilly, Ireland and he remained there until March 1917. He never went overseas after his arrival at HMS Briton, St. John’s and remained with the naval base until he was demobilized on Feb. 13, 1918. He returned to Hillview, where his family had now grown to three children.
Abraham and Phoebe gave birth to one more child in 1920, named Nicholas. Nicholas followed in his father’s footsteps in WWII and joined the Navy. He returned with a war bride, Doreen Johnson. Abraham passed away on Nov. 6, 1969 and is buried at Hillview.
Robert completed 28 days of training during the months of November/December and returned to Hillview. In October 1914 he was ordered by Royal Proclamation to appear at the HMS Calypso. On Nov. 6, he joined his brother Abraham onboard the RMS Franconia and travelled to the HMS Pembroke.
He joined the HMS Fiona, an armed boarding steamer, on Nov. 19.
The next two years were spent patrolling the waters of the North Sea.
After completing this assignment, he was transferred to the HMS Victorious, a repair ship, where he spent the next year. In May 1917, he was posted to HMS Pembroke I, a naval barracks at Chatham, for two weeks before he returned to HMS Briton, St. John’s.
Six months later he was ordered overseas to HMS Vivid III and spent the next nine months onboard HMS Venerable, a depot ship for minelaying trawlers.
His final days overseas were spent attached to HMS Idaho, a depot ship, before returning to HMS Briton and receiving his shore demobilization on April 16, 1919, completing a six-year career with the Royal Naval Reserve.
He returned to Hillview and married Louise, daughter of James and Caroline (Price) Duffitt of Hillview. They settled in Hillview and raised their family next door to his brother Abraham. He died on Oct. 31, 1961 and is buried at Hillview.
Nicholas signed his application papers on Dec. 6, 1915. A notation on his application lists two brothers that were enlisted with the navy overseas. His age is listed at 19 years and he gave his birth date as Jan. 1, 1897. However, records belonging to the church indicate that he was born on Feb. 4, 1898.
He spent his years with the navy assigned to duties patrolling the waters of Newfoundland. Records reveal he was assigned first to the communication tower at Mount Pearl.
An article in the St. John’s Daily Star titled “Reservist Returning Home” mentions that he was among a crew of reservist returning home through the base at Halifax, indicating he may have spent time overseas, but no records could be located to confirm this.
He was demobilized on May 1, 1910 and returned home. He married Martha Ann, daughter of Jonah and Margaret Soper of Little Heart’s Ease, in October 1927. They lived first at House Cove but moved to Little Heart’s Ease when the community was abandoned.
The Avery brothers gave a total of 19 years of service to the Royal Naval Reserve. The people of Southwest Arm region are thankful for their service to King and Country.
Next week’s article will feature the contributions by the Smith brothers of Island Cove both overseas and patrolling Canadian waters. After serving their country, they returned home but remained for a short period of time before seeking employment in New York.
Seaman Nicholas Avery, courtesy of granddaughter Christine Drover.
Nicholas Avery’s application.
Robert Avery of Hillview.
Able Seaman Abraham Avery Service Ledger.