When Great Britain declared War on Germany on August 4, 1914 Newfoundland’s Governor Sir Walter Davidson, Prime Minister Edward Morris and his Executive Council of Government committed to raise a 500 man land force and increase the Naval Reserve to 1,000.
On August 10, 1914 Governor Davidson and the Colonial Secretary, John R. Bennett, met with representatives of the church youth groups: Church Lads’ Brigade, Catholic Cadet Corps, Methodist Guards, and Newfoundland Highlanders (collectively known as the ‘brigades’); along with the Legion of Frontiersmen, the St. John’s Rifle Club, the Commanding Officer of Royal Naval Reserves training ship, HMS Calypso, and the Inspector General of the Newfoundland Police Force. This meeting resulted in the first steps to fulfil the promise of raising an army battalion and increasing the Naval Reserve to 1,000.
Newfoundland had not had a military presence since 1870 when the British Government withdrew the garrison in St. John’s, there was no local militia and certainly no men trained in army tactics. There was a Royal Naval Reserve presence in St. John’s at the outbreak of war. Its members trained to be able to join the Royal Navy moreso than to protect Newfoundland. These became the first Newfoundlanders to join the war effort. Within days of the call for volunteers was issued in the newspapers, 335 had signed up and two thirds were from the city church-affiliated brigades.