Newfoundland and Labrador's first WWI casualty revealed

Samuel Hemmell of the British Royal Naval Reserve has been identified as Newfoundland and Labrador's first casualty of the First World War.
The tombstone of Samuel Hemmell in Coley's Point. (CBC)

David and Ean Parsons, amateur historians from St. John's, have discovered that Samuel Hemmell of the British Royal Naval Reserve was Newfoundland and Labrador's first casualty in the First World War.

David Parsons, a retired doctor, says he and his son found out about Hemmell and his unfortunate death from brain fever while they were doing research on the Royal Newfoundland Naval Reserve. 

David Parsons, amateur historian. (CBC )

They dug a bit deeper, and discovered that Hemmell was listed on a Labrador virtual war memorial website as Sampson Hamel, son of Edmund and Jane Hamel, of Muddy Bay, Labrador.

Further research revealed that Hemmell boarded the S.S. Kyle in Labrador on Aug. 24, 1914, for military training in St. John's. But he never arrived. 

"While he was on the ship, apparently he fell ill, was seen by one doctor, but told to continue on," explained Parsons. "When he got to Bay Roberts, he was ill enough that he came off the ship. And apparently [he] went to some friends in Coley's Point. That night he went unconscious, and he was dead the next day."

Tombstone of soldier remains in Coley's Point

Hemmell was buried in the St. John the Evangelist Anglican Cemetery in Coley's Point, Conception Bay.

But according to Parsons, Hemmell was never recognized as a casualty of war.

"As we researched it, we found out that once he boarded the S.S. Kyle in Labrador, he was considered to be on active duty," said Parsons.

Now, 98 years after Hemmell's death, Parsons and his son have ensured that Hemmell has been officially recognized as a casualty of the war he never got to fight, which has made Hemmell the first casualty of the Great War from Newfoundland and Labrador.