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Where Once They Sailed: Sailor's wife dies one month before the Great War

HMS Diana.
HMS Diana. - Submitted

Joseph Martin was born at Little Heart's Ease to Samuel and Lydia (Stringer) Martin on Dec. 11, 1895. He enlisted with the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve on Nov. 22, 1913.

On February 9, 1914, he married Sarah Selina, daughter of George and Jessie Drodge of Little Heart's Ease. She gave birth to a son that they named Eli John, on June 22, 1914, but sadly Sarah passed away a week later.

Patrol Vessel VII.
Patrol Vessel VII.

Eli John was raised by his grandparents, Samuel and Lydia, because war was declared shortly after Eli's birth and his father received orders by Royal Proclamation to report to the HMS Calypso on Aug. 3. Records indicate that he was one of the 32 sailors from Southwest Arm area that were among the first draft of sailors to be sent overseas on Nov. 6, 1914 aboard the SS Franconia.

Joseph must have spent time reflecting on his new born son, but war is a cruel thing and it requires all enlisted personal to concentrate on the job at hand. He was assigned to the HMS Vivid and drafted to HMS Diana three weeks later.

The HMS Diana was a protected cruiser with a covered deck offering protection to the machinery from exploding shells above. The ship was first assigned to protect the British Expeditionary Forces of the Army crossing English Channel to France but in November 1915, the HMS Diana was transferred to the China Station where she remained until August 1917. While in the China Station, he helped patrol waters between the ports of Singapore, Hong Kong, Colombo and Penang.

Naval records indicate that he was transferred from the HMS Diana on Sept. 27, 1917 to the HMS Briton, St. John's, where he received leave and visited his young son, Eli John. His son was now three years old and living with Joseph’s parents. He spent several weeks at home before his furlough expired and returned to the base at St. John's. His new orders would send him to HMCS Niobe of the Canadian Royal Navy at Halifax.

Joseph Martin’s ship ledger.
Joseph Martin’s ship ledger.

He felt fairly safe and secure with new assignments that allowed him to be away from the extremely dangerous waters off Europe. However, within the first week he witnessed devastation that was just as dreadful as anything that he experienced while crossing the English Channel transporting troops to the Dardanelles.

On the morning of Dec. 6, 1917, he was awakened by an explosion that clearly reminded him of war overseas. His thoughts must have revolved around enemy attack on Canadian soil. However, he was to learn that two ships had collided in the harbour, one carrying munitions destined for overseas. Damage caused to homes, ships and people were forever etched in his memory but being a trained sailor, he had to gather himself and lend assistance wherever possible.

Seaman Martin was transferred from the Niobe to the HMCS Seagull where he served on the Patrol Vessel VII and Trawler TR31 at Sydney. He received orders on Dec. 22 that he was returning to HMCS Niobe where he spent 3 days and was sent home to HMS Briton. His final orders for demobilization was granted on April 7, 1919. He could finally go home and be with his son.

Joseph Martin’s application to become a Royal Naval reservist.
Joseph Martin’s application to become a Royal Naval reservist.

Six months after returning, Joseph remarried in October 1919 to Anora, daughter of Stephen and Catherine Jacobs. They adopted Anora's niece, Beatrice. Tragically, Anora died of consumption 10 years later. His final marriage was to Hannah Piercey of Winterton. They raised their two children, along with his adopted daughter from his second marriage. Joseph died on June 13, 1955 and is buried at the Mount Zion Pentecostal Cemetery at Little Heart's Ease.

The once inhabited community of Loreburn was home to families of Price's and Meadus but was abandon in the 1960s under the government's resettlement program. During the Great War, Elijah Price stepped forward and became the only World War 1 veteran to serve. He returned and spent his life in the community and was buried there upon his death in 1953. Read about his journey in next week's edition of Where Once They Sailed.

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