‘I have no strange news to tell you’

Barb Sweet bsweet@thetelegram.com
Published on August 2, 2014

It’s a letter that The Rooms manager of collections and projects Larry Dohey has not seen before, found in a home in Broad Cove, Bay de Verde, by Joseph King’s great, great nephew.

Dinah King, like many mothers, had sent her son’s letter he wrote home to a newspaper for publication. It was often the only means of giving updates to family and friends who weren’t nearby.

The Daily News editor rejected the letter, saying it was too personal.

“I thank you very cordially for forwarding the letter and congratulate you on the honour which is yours having a soldier son, ready and willing to defend the Empire we all, so greatly love,” J. A Robinson wrote Mrs. Silas King in 1915.

It’s one of the invaluable artifacts that have come to The Rooms since it embarked on a project to commemorate the First World War overseas and on the homefront.

The project included a road show, but donations continue to flow in, such as a collection of letters from Joseph King, 22, Newfoundland Regimental No. 1356

“I have nothing strange to tell you. … You said when your year is up to come home but I am going to see the end,” King wrote from Suez in January 1916.

 “By the time I come back he (Father) will have the old house fitted up, a  bit,  tell him I am not sorry for enlisting, if ever I comes back, for I have seen something  worth coming out for…”   

In June 1916, King was somewhere in France when he wrote, “Sometimes it is a bit rough but I comes out of it unharmed I believe that the prayers that are descending on behalf of the young me at the front has a lot to do with it… ”

Later that month, he wrote “I have no strange news to tell you, only the same old story.”  

But King said he was wounded in his arm.

“Mother it is no good to cry about me I am all right I will be back soon, so don’t worry,” he said.

King never got to live in that house that was being built for him, the one where the letter from the Daily News was found.

He was believed to have been killed in action July 1, 1916 at Beaumont Hamel.

The collecting project of The Rooms called “Answer the Call: Collecting the Great War” brings together professional archivists who work primarily with paper based documents and professional museum curators who work with artifacts or three dimensional objects.

Just about everyday, items come in and thousands of documents and hundreds of items have been collected.

But history curator Maureen Power said The Rooms wants to hear from any and all who may have First World War artifacts they’d like to share.

Many are motivated to contribute by a fear of paper documents fading without proper preservation.

Others fear medals, uniforms, photos and personal items perishing in fire.

The Rooms preserves the items, but they are public so the contributers can request to see them.

Among the remarkably preserved artifacts that have come in through the road show is a uniform belonging to Sgt. William Driscoll.

It was left behind in a Bay Roberts attic. It is complete with helmet, canteen and sword. Driscoll was a tailor who mended and reinforced his own uniform.

“Many of the individuals or families that are considering donating their material are emotionally invested in the material that they hold.  

“For many, they can tie the material directly to an ancestor who signed up to fight for ‘King and Country,’ for others they connect the material to a parent who passed the material to them for safe keeping,” Dohey said, adding now it’s time to give the soldiers and nurses who served and the those who contributed to the war effort back home a voice.

The information gathered will be used to develop a new permanent exhibition on The Great War — telling the story of the war effort and the impact it had on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador —  to open in 2016.

Anyone with artifacts — including songs, photos, postcards, letters, soldier’s outfits and gear, items from the homefront and diaries — can call Dohey at 757-8036 or email larrydohey@therooms.ca or Power at Mpower@therooms.ca.