100 Years Ago: Royal Naval Recruiting Meeting, 257th Railway Construction Battalion, Welcoming Our Boys Home

The Intelligencer January 26, 1917 (page 1)

“Commodore Jarvis Asks for Recruits—Canada Has Promised Five Thousand. Though not a large audience, it was a very appreciative one, that was present at the Royal Naval Recruiting meeting in the City Hall, last evening, over which Mayor Ketcheson presided.

Before delivering his address, Commodore Aemilius Jarvis, the speaker of the evening, exhibited some very interesting slides and moving pictures. …  After the pictures, Commodore Jarvis launched into his address, which was a plea for recruits for the British Navy, which is quietly and effectively protecting Canada’s shores. It is through the protection of our mercantile marine by the British Navy, that Canada has been able to enjoy her present prosperity. …

Canadian soldiers go to and from Europe in safety, not one life having been lost, and letters pass between the men in the trenches and friends at home, thanks to the Navy that keeps the German navy off the seas.

Owing to a large increase in the tonnage of the British Navy, an increase must be made in the personnel, stated Commodore Jarvis and through Capt. Guinness, a call has been issued for 5,000 Canadians to assist in manning the larger ships. These men need no previous training in order to enlist in the Navy. They will be man-o’-wars men, a sort of soldier-sailor. Every class of trade is needed on these ships, so that the vessel may cruise from place to place, self-sustained.

Men, who have a particular calling, such as a mechanic, etc., will receive promotion. The men wanted are those from 18 to 30 years of age, and will be signed on as seamen, and the pay will be the same as that of a soldier in the expeditionary forces. Seamen with previous experience are also wanted, for duty on the North Atlantic Fleet, with stations at Halifax and Bermuda. …

An appeal was made for recruits for the Naval Service. Belleville and Hastings County had done well in sending men to the front, and Commodore Jarvis was convinced, they would do equally well in providing men for the navy. The speaker also stated that Lady Guinness would award a medal to every Canadian woman who secured a recruit for the Navy. …  The singing of the ‘National Anthem’ closed the entertainment.”

The Intelligencer January 26, 1917 (page 2)

“Men who have been turned down as being unfit, now have a chance to serve their country by enlisting in the 257th Railway Construction Battalion. The medical standard of this battalion is reduced from that demanded for service in the trenches, while the age limit is extended to 48 years.

The battalion is being organized by Lieut.-Col. L. T. Martin, who is himself a well-known railway constructor from Renfrew, and has engaged in many large enterprises. The headquarters of the battalion is stationed in Ottawa and the officers are all practical railway construction men, who have volunteered to form this corps for railway work in France, or wherever it is needed back of the front.

Though the battalion has been authorized for only two weeks, one company of men have already been secured. As soon as the battalion is up to full strength it will without further training be sent direct to France, where it will be employed on Railway construction work. The following is the list of the class of men wanted for the battalion.

Foreman. General foremen, walking bosses, excavation, rock work, drilling, track-work, steel bridge, timber trestle, concrete, master mechanics, shovel, pile driver, rigging, etc., etc.

Mechanics. Carpenters, timber farmers, pipe fitters, mechanics, hoist runners, dinkey skinners, firemen, shovle runners, drillers, driller helpers, powder men, blacksmiths, steel workers, riggers, all kinds of handy men, laborers, etc.”

The Intelligencer January 26, 1917 (page 6)

“Welcoming Our Boys. Belleville, Jan. 26, 1917. Dear Sir,—In reference to the reception given to Pte. Manchester Gifford, one of Belleville’s returned heroes, who has sacrificed his one leg to help protect the women and children of our Dominion, and save the honor of our country; and then to think there was not a hearty welcome awaiting him.

As far as rank is concerned, I think one soldier deserves it as well as another. It certainly must have been neglect on behalf of the citizens of Belleville in not showing their appreciation of the hero. The best welcome we could give, would be small in comparison to what this young man has given up. Is he downhearted? NO! He says he would give his other leg if he could but get one more shot at the Kaiser. From a Soldier’s Wife.”