Apaper-mill timekeeper in the company town of Grand Falls, George Goudie was 18 when he headed to St. John’s to enlist in the Newfoundland Regiment in March, 1916. By the following spring, just a few kilometres south of the fighting at Vimy Ridge, Corporal Goudie’s unit attacked the German lines in the Battle of Arras – and were met by a brutal counterattack. The regiment had gone to battle with 521 men; it suffered 487 casualties. Cpl. Goudie was reported missing.
A month later, a glimmer of bittersweet news arrived at his parents’ door: He had been captured – after being hit, in both legs, by shrapnel and bullets. According to later reports by other captured Newfoundlanders, injured prisoners were treated roughly, and sometimes even robbed.
And food was scarce. “We had just enough to keep us alive,” recalled Private
Fred Diamond, a fisherman from Flat Island, in Placentia Bay, who was taken to the same German hospital as
At the end
1917, Cpl. Goudie was among thousands of prisoners transferred to neutral Switzerland, under the auspices of the Red Cross, to wait out the war. Just after Christmas, he arrived at the resort town of Interlaken, and for the next 10 months he recovered enough from his wounds to take up sports, including rowing, with interned soldiers from across the Commonwealth.
By late October of 1918, hopes were growing that the war would soon end, when another calamity struck – the Spanish flu, a pandemic that would ultimately kill up to 100 million people worldwide. Interlaken was quarantined, and Cpl. Goudie and four of his rowing mates would succumb. The first was a private from New Zealand; then an Australian soldier; and soon after, the Newfoundlander.
In early November, a letter from a healthy Cpl. Goudie had reached his family in Newfoundland. Then, on Nov. 9, two days before Armistice, a telegram followed, announcing his death.