An able sea­man, in­deed

Le­an­der Green was the first New­found­lan­der to be awarded Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Medal for brav­ery in First World War

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Editorial - BY SAM MCNEISH sa­[email protected]­gram.com — With files from Bar­bara Dean Sim­mons, Saltwire Net­work

It came as no sur­prise to any­one in the com­mu­nity of Sun­ny­side when they learned of a lo­cal man’s hero­ics.

Le­an­der Green, an able sea­man with the Royal New­found­land Re­servists, was quick to raise his hand when a ship’s cap­tain needed a vol­un­teer to try to save the lives of sailors in the North At­lantic just af­ter mid­night on New Year’s 1915 — an ocean that’s frigid at the best of times.

Le­an­der’s son, Everett Green, says his fa­ther was the third man from the ship to vol­un­teer to try to get a rope to a sink­ing ship in an at­tempt to res­cue those on board.

He had al­ready watched two men at­tempt it and fail. Still, he didn’t hes­i­tate when asked to go.

“I’m proud of my fa­ther for mak­ing the de­ci­sion to save the lives of those men,’’ said Everett, a re­tired in­spec­tor with the Royal New­found­land Con­stab­u­lary.

“His brav­ery just showed the kind of man he was, al­ways think­ing about some­body else and try­ing to do the right thing.’’

He said Le­an­der lived his life this way ev­ery day, not just when he was called upon.

Everett is one of nine chil­dren of Le­an­der and his wife, Mary Blanche. Times were tough try­ing to feed and clothe them, but they man­aged.

He said his fa­ther was a man of God who spent a vast amount of time in church pray­ing, read­ing or singing with his strong voice. When he wasn’t in church, he was try­ing to help his fam­ily or oth­ers in the com­mu­nity.

“I re­mem­ber my mother telling me one time, she awoke in the mid­dle of the night and asked him, ‘Le­an­der, what is wrong? Why can’t you go to sleep?’” Everett said.

“He an­swered her by say­ing, ‘You know aunt so-and-so, or un­cle so-and-so, they don’t have much, and I am wor­ried they won’t have any food when they get up to­mor­row.’ So up he got, went down­stairs and did up a pack­age of food and went to the home, opened the door and snuck it into the kitchen and left qui­etly. That is who he was all the time.”

Everett said in his en­tire life, he never heard a bad word said about his fa­ther.

Le­an­der was one of 87 men from the Sun­ny­side area to sign up to serve in the Great War. A fish­er­man from St. Jones With­out, he joined the naval re­serve in 1914, and was among the first group of re­servists as­signed to ac­tive duty.

On New Year’s Eve 1914, his ship, the HMS Hi­lary, went to the as­sis­tance of the SS Maryetta, which had been tor­pe­doed by a Ger­man sub­ma­rine and was sink­ing in the North At­lantic. The crew of the stricken ves­sel had no way off, since they had lost their lifeboat.

The only way to save any of them was to get a line from the Hi­lary to the Maryetta. And the only way to do that was to have some­one go over the side with a rope and swim.

Able Sea­man Green stepped for­ward.

In later years, re­count­ing the events of that night to his fam­ily, he would say, “I looked over the side and thought, what the hell am I do­ing out here?”

Then he jumped, with a rope tied around his chest, and the end of the rope in his teeth.

He swam to the sink­ing ship and — with the res­cue rope se­cured be­tween the two ships — crewmem­bers of the Maryetta be­gan mov­ing along the rope to the Hi­lary.

Green stayed with the rope, help­ing men across. Six men were saved by his hero­ism.

“Dad never talked about it, but he would go to the pa­rade ev­ery Ar­mistice Day,’’ Everett said.

“I would shine his boots for him.”

The Cadet mag­a­zine noted at the time that, “Le­an­der Green is a splen­did rep­re­sen­ta­tive of our Naval Re­servists — strong, sturdy and vig­or­ous, bright of eye and in­tel­li­gent — a type of man who sees his duty but to do it.”

When Le­an­der re­turned from the war, he bought two schooners and went fish­ing in Labrador. He would sail into St. John’s with his load of fish and then sail back to Sun­ny­side on his ship, the Dorothy Blun­dell. He’d pack­age the fish, and Everett would walk all over Sun­ny­side to en­sure those who needed some, got some.

Le­an­der Green died in 1966, the same year Everett joined the RNC, start­ing the next phase of the Green fam­ily’s life of ser­vice.

SAM MCNEISH/THE TELE­GRAM

Everett Green, the son of Able Sea­man Le­an­der Green, poses with the medals his fa­ther won, in­clud­ing his dis­tin­guished brav­ery medal for an act of hero­ism on Jan. 1, 1915, when he jumped into the frigid ocean and swam to a sink­ing ves­sel with a rope in tow.

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