Nfld. & Labrador

A tragic Newfoundland love story from WW I and a child left behind

It's like a Cinderella story, except this tale is set in wartime Newfoundland and doesn't have a happy ending.
Edward John Brown and Elizabeth Rose met in Rose's mother's boarding house in Bell Island prior to the start of the First World War. (Submitted by Coleen Jones)

It's like a Cinderella story, except this tale is set in wartime Newfoundland and doesn't have a happy ending.

It started off all right; a young woman, Elizabeth Rose, meets a gentleman named Edward John Brown in a boarding house her mother owned on Bell Island.

Brown was a miner in Wabana, and as the story goes, was saving up money for the two to marry. 

He, like so many others, answered the call when the First World War broke out. Brown traded his miner's pick for a rifle, and vowed to return and marry his love.

"Little did they know, when he left, she was pregnant," said Coleen Jones, the granddaughter of Brown and Rose. "He would never meet his daughter."

Brown was killed on July 1, 1916 in the Battle of the Somme in Beaumont-Hamel.

Edward John Brown's name is among the casualties listed on an inscription in Beaumont-Hamel, France. (Veterans Affairs Canada/Marg Liessens)

'Sad situation'

Young and ashamed, Rose made the choice to marry a man who did not want to raise her daughter, Blanche.

"It wasn't his child. It was a solider's child. A hero's child," Jones told CBC's CrossTalk.

"There was a private war waged. Who did Elizabeth love the best? Was it the man who was killed in Flanders Fields or was it the man she married?"

Orphaned, Blanche lived with her maternal grandmother, while her mother and stepfather had another child — a daughter. 

"She learned that she wasn't wanted, and unloved," said Jones of her mother.

"While she saw her stepsister growing up in a nice household with a mother and a father, with pretty dresses, who was sent to school — she had none of those things."

Edward John Brown of Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, was killed in action at Beaumont-Hamel on July 1, 1916. (Veterans Affairs Canada)

It was that set of circumstances which followed Blanche throughout her life, and were passed down to her two children, who grew up hearing their mother's bitterness.

"At 89 years of age is when she passed away and I have to say at 89 she was still as angry, hurt, sorrowful as she was as a child," Jones said.

"It was really a sad situation for her and consequently for us."

With files from CrossTalk