Newfoundland had not had a military presence since 1870 when the British Government withdrew the garrison in St. John’s. The British Admiralty wanted its colonies and dominions to help with financing and organizing the Naval Reserve.  Discussions were held with the Governor, Sir Herbert Murray, in 1898 and two years later, 50 men were recruited to sail and train on HMS Charybdis in the West Indies. More recruits sailed the following two years. So successful were these training cruises, the Bond Administration committed to contribute £3,000 ($5,500) annually if the Admiralty maintained a force of 600 men, and thus the Royal Naval Reserve Newfoundland Division was formally established in June 1902.

Reservists had to commit to 28 days of annual drill as part of their five year contract, as well as a three month training cruise on one of His Majesty’s ships. The pay was good at a time when most Newfoundlanders did not receive a cash wage. They were paid a retaining fee annually, depending on their qualifications, of between slightly over three and six British pounds ($5.00 – $11.00). Accepting this pay also meant that they were bound to report for duty if called by Royal Proclamation. They received 13 pence ($0.10) a day while on a drill ship and a whopping 15 pence ($0.11) a day when on a naval ship. Additionally, they received one pound ($1.80) for each month they were on a cruise and two pounds ($3.60) at the end of a three month long cruise. Local Magistrates received a $2.00 bonus for each new recruit they signed up. Reservists had to be in good health, have seafaring experience (as outport fishermen surely did), and between 18 and 30 years old. After 1909 the upper age was dropped to 25 years old.