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at War



A Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site Partner Project. Created under contract to Canada’s Digital Collections, Industry Canada.

Fraternal Organizations

At the start of the First World War, Newfoundland was home to several fraternal organizations - societies of men, who came together under a shared interest, cause, or background, and often engaged in some form of community service. Many of the groups also served as mutual benefit societies. Members paid a monthly or annual fee, and in return had access to insurance, pension, or savings plans. Fraternal organizations played an important role at a time when the government provided few social services.

Orange Society members, St. John’s, ca. 1913.
Courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL A-36-152), St. John’s, Newfoundland.
(31 Kb)

Some societies were branches of larger organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus, which formed in the United States in 1882. Others were unique to the dominion, such as the Society of United Fishermen, which formed at Heart's Content in 1862.

Most were affiliated with a religious denomination. The Knights of Columbus and the Newfoundland Fishermen's Star of the Sea Association both had ties to the Roman Catholic Church, while the Loyal Orange Association, the Society of United Fishermen, and the Sons of England all had Protestant connections. Some groups, like the Freemasons, were not affiliated with any church.

Fraternal organizations and their women's auxiliaries actively participated in Newfoundland's war effort. They supplemented the recruiting and fundraising activities of the Newfoundland Patriotic Association (NPA) and the Women's Patriotic Association (WPA), and they contributed resources to both groups.

For example, the Star of the Sea Association announced on August 31, 1914 that it would give the NPA free use of one floor of its building in downtown St. John's. It also donated $100 to the NPA and promised that other instalments would follow. Other fraternal groups were similarly supportive.

The organizations also helped their own members in the Armed Forces. They paid the membership and insurance fees for their enlisted men, and kept in contact with troops serving overseas and their dependents at home.

Orange Society parade in St. John’s, ca. 1913.
Courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL A-36-155), St. John’s, Newfoundland.
(34 Kb)

The following letter, written by the Society of United Fishermen to Naval Reservist Ruben Laite, was a typical example of the letters sent to members overseas.

Letter from the Society of United Fishermen, ca. 1916.
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The associations also played an active role in consoling bereaved families. In 1917, the Loyal Orange Association sent sympathy letters (shown below) to the family of Captain Rupert Bartlett of the Newfoundland Regiment. He died in action at France on November 30, 1917 at the age of 26. Other groups wrote similar letters in the case of a member's death.

Courtesy of the Bartlett Family.
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Courtesy of the Bartlett Family.
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Courtesy of the Bartlett Family.
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Finally, fraternal organizations were active in raising memorials to preserve the memory of their fallen members. The following images of the memorials erected by the Knights of Columbus in St. John's and the Orangemen in Trinity are examples of fraternal commitment to remembrance.

The Loyal Orangemen’s Memorial, Trinity, Trinity Bay, 1998.
Enlarge to read inscription.

Photo by Jason Churchill.
(46 Kb)

Knights of Columbus Memorial School, St. John’s, 1998.
Photo by Lisa Dwyer.
(17 Kb)