Nfld. & Labrador

A thick WWI uniform, a trip back in time

Parks Canada is offering a unique opportunity to history buffs this summer: a chance to sample what life was like in the Newfoundland Regiment in 1917. The CBC's Adam Walsh took advantage of the offer.
Adam Walsh spends a day on Signal Hill, learning about military life in 1917 1:37

The woollen uniform is a lot thicker than I imagined it would be.

Throughout my life, I've seen grainy black and white photos of young men wearing a uniform like this. The uniform of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment from the Great War.

Now, in a room in the Queen's Battery Barracks on Signal Hill, I'm putting one on myself.

It's not easy to get on, by the way: there are buttons everywhere, and then there are the puttees I have to wrap around my shins.

With a little — a lot — of help from Parks Canada staff, I manage to make myself half-presentable.

The point of this exercise is to get a taste of Parks Canada's new program called Camp of Instruction. On select days this summer, you can sign up and experience a small sample of the training of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment around 1917.

After enlisting, you train in callisthenics, you drill, and later in the day you even get musketry lessons.

Corned beef and crackers

There's also a lunch of corned beef and crackers. If you play your cards right, there's a chocolate bar or two kicking around.

For those not into a training day, the Signal Hill Tattoo will — for the first time — this summer don the regiment's uniform from the First World War era, in order to re-enact training and drills. There will even be a machine-gun crew and 75mm field gun.

All of this, of course, is to mark the centennial of the start of the First World War.

Adam Walsh joined other volunteers for a Parks Canada program that lets participants learn about daily life in the First World War. (CBC)
As for my day, I don't know if I’m allowed to call it fun. But it is. I eat with the other soldiers. We chat history, we make a scattered joke about the food, and then we head out into the rain for drill and training.

All the while, the thought of The Great War is in the air but it's not something that's tangible.

One hundred years on, though, I don't know if the real camaraderie that the real Regiment members felt would have been that dissimilar.

About the Author

Adam Walsh

CBC News

Adam Walsh is a CBC journalist. He works primarily for the St. John's Morning Show, and contributes to television and digital programming.