Into the inferno: John Donald Andrews and the Newfoundland Regiment

[John Donald Andrews at Pleasantville Camp c1914] Image from the Canadian Centre for the Great War photo archive 2015.02.20.00001
[John Donald Andrews at Pleasantville Camp c1914] Image from the Canadian Centre for the Great War photo archive 2015.02.20.00001
Since I had so much fun unpacking the photograph of George Rowe and his friends last week, I thought I would do the same with another photograph from our collection. This particular photo arrived as part of a set that was hidden in the front of G.W.L Nicholson’s The Fighting Newfoundlander, which I was cataloguing for our library. The former owner of the book, James Bradbury, had family in Newfoundland and he had placed this collection of photographs of his relatives in the front. The image above is of John Donald Andrews, who was Bradbury’s second cousin by marriage, who enlisted with the Regiment along with his brother Harold when the war broke out.

At the time, Newfoundland was still a colony of the British Empire and the regiment was raised as part of the British army and considered to be under British command. As such, the regiment was deployed to areas in the theatres of the First World War that the CEF and Canadian Corps did not see. One of these was Gallipoli. John Andrews (Jack to his relatives) enlisted on 6 September 1914 at age 22. He trained with the rest of the “first five hundred” at Pleasantville Camp and marched off to embarkation on the SS Florizel to England. The photo shows Andrews (on the left) at Pleasantville Camp in the fall of 1914; he is wearing a summer weight cotton twill tunic that was used for a short time by the CEF as well during this period and the distinctive “blue puttees”, which were the result of shortages of cotton khaki material. Only the very first members of the regiment would wear these as they were replaced when the men reached England.

Gallipoli began officially in February 1915 when the Allies bombarded the Turkish forts on either side of the Straits of the Dardanelles. By April, Churchill had made plans for a land invasion and sent the 29th Division, made up of regular regiments from India and the colonies (at this time including Australia and New Zealand) to the beaches at Gallipoli. The Newfoundlanders were to relieve the Royal Scots, who had been badly mauled in the early landings and could not raise sufficient reinforcements; Andrews, his brother and Dowden all sailed for Gallipoli via Alexandria in August 1915. John Andrews was one of the about 145 000 British and Empire soldiers who would suffer from illness during the campaign, he contracted enteretic fever and typhoid in October 1915, about a month after he arrived. It was serious enough that Andrews would be sent back to England to convalesce for nearly a year, first in 3rd London General Hospital and then 4th Scottish General Hospital in Glasgow. During this time, the Allies pulled out of Gallipoli during one of the best-run evacuations of the war and the Newfoundland Regiment was now posted to the Western Front to take part in the Somme Offensive. As is written elsewhere, during the first day of the Somme, some 800 members of the regiment were killed or wounded as they went over the top; Andrews, still in hospital in Glasgow, was not one of these.

Andrews was released from hospital and rejoined the regiment in January 1917 as a member of A Company. By this time, his brother Harold had also been release from hospital after a gunshot wound to the thigh, so both brothers were again together, on the Western Front. Andrews was seriously injured during a fall in July of that year and spent another two months in England recovering from a broken collar bone. His brother, Harold, would by this time have become a prisoner of war. Andrews survived the last year of the war and was discharged honourably in 1919.

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