mobile banner



<<The H.M.S. Calypso/Briton •Back• Valentine Goodyear>>

1870 British garrisons are withdrawn from Newfoundland. A movement begins in both Britain and Newfoundland to continue some form of military tradition on the North American island.
1878 Captain Sullivan of the H.M.S. Sirius proposes that a Royal Naval Reserve Force should be installed, and a training ship stationed, at Newfoundland.
1881 British Naval Architect Sir Nathaniel Barnaby begins designs for the H.M.S. Calypso, an iron and wood third-class cruiser (235 ft length, 2770 tons) with a crew compliment of 300 persons.
1883 H.M.S. Calypso launches at Royal Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, England.
1898 British Admiralty allows Newfoundlanders to enroll in the Royal Naval Reserve.
1900 September: British Admiralty distributes a circular in St. John's inviting eight volunteers to join H.M.S. Charybdis on November 10, 1900 for a six month cruise. This and subsequent excursions over the next three years would demonstrate the capabilities of the Newfoundland seaman and eventually lead the way to a permanent training ship at St. John's.

The first Royal Newfoundland Naval reserve is established - a branch of the British Imperial Forces established more to train sailors for the Royal Navy than for the defence of Newfoundland.
1901 October: Duke of Cornwall (later George V) embarks on a Royal Visit to Newfoundland. Upon inspection of the first contingent of the Royal Newfoundland Naval Reserve, he is said to be "much impressed with their smartness".

December 12: Marconi receives the first transatlantic wireless communication - three dots of the Morse code letter "S" - at St. John's, Newfoundland from Poldhu, England. The age of long-distance wireless communication is born.
1902 September 3: H.M.S. Calypso is commissioned in Devonport to serve as a drill ship for the Newfoundland Naval Reserve. Commissioned by Commander Fredrick M. Walker. Alterations are made to the structure of the vessel and equipment is added to allow for the role of dockside training.

October 15: H.M.S. Calypso arrives in St. John's, Newfoundland under the command of Captain Walker, R.N. Though Governor Sir Cavendish Boyle had originally argued for an Argentia berthing, he agreed that a naval presence in the Colony's principal harbour would be generally appreciated by the citizens and crew.

October: Over forty Royal Newfoundland Naval Reservists participate in a naval blockade, bombardment, and rescue mission off the Venezuelan Coast on board the H.M.S. Charybdis, with the goal of securing several English and German foreign nationalists that were being detained in the country as part of an ongoing political dispute.
1912 April 12: R.M.S Titanic strikes an iceberg and sinks. Wireless radio plays a crucial role in the rescue of survivors of the doomed passenger liner.
1914 June 27: Royal British Navy proposes the construction of a wireless telegraph station in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, one of thirteen wireless stations to be constructed around the world during the beginnings of the First World War.

August 2: Royal Naval Reserve called for active duty. Posters placed throughout St. John's notifying Newfoundland reservists to report to the Calypso as quickly as possible. S.S. Kyle dispatched to pick up reservists in various outport locations on the way south from the Labrador fishery. Notification made to outport Magistrates that reservists are to report to St. John's - many do so via train. Mr. William Clance of St. John's is reported in The Telegram to be the first reservist to report for duty on board the Calypso, and is awarded a prize of £2. Upwards of forty reservists residing in St. John's report on board H.M.S. Calypso and as many more ex-reservists volunteer for service. Many more are expected to arrive in the city by train within the next few days.

August 4: Declaration of First World War. In response to the threat of German submarines in the Western Atlantic, the Calypso provided small, quick-firing guns to the Newfoundland-Labrador Patrol, a group of small crafts designed to protect shipping interests around Newfoundland Shores. A Squad of Naval Reservists from H.M.S. Calypso travelled to Cuckold's Cove (St. John's) at 10:30am and returned to the Calypso at noon.

August 10: 150 Newfoundland naval reservists attended 'Devine Services' at St. Mary's Church. A large squadron also attended last mass at St. Patrick's, where Reverend Fr. Pippy was the celebrant.

August 14: British Admiralty accepts an offer from the Newfoundland Government to raise the number of Newfoundland reservists to 1000. Eventually, over 1500 Newfoundlanders were trained in the Naval Reserve and sent 'overseas' during the First World War.

August 28: Many Reservists aboard H.M.S. Calypso are 'paid off' - temporarily relieved of duties - with no urgent need of their services. Many return to their work or go home on leave until recalled.

August 29: Lord Rothmere arranges a pipe and tobacco gift for 500 Newfoundland Contingent (with a value of $2.50 dollars) from Anglo Newfoundland Development Company.

September 4: Total number of volunteers reaches 774.

September 5-6: The first 100 Newfoundland Reservists board the H.M.S. Niobe in St. John's for active duty. Many of the men are from Trinity, Bonavista and Conception bays. Niobe arrives in the morning and departs that same evening.

October 5-6: Call for additional volunteers for the Newfoundland Naval Reserve. Advertisement in St. John's Evening Telegram calls for men 18-25 years of age (seamen and fishermen only). Commander MacDermott offers reservists 'a free pass to join the Calypso'. Departure of 500 reservists onboard S.S. Florizel for Europe.

October 16: Evening Telegram reports that crew of the S. S. Florizel has arrived in Plymouth, England.

October 27: Article published in Telegram by MacDermott appeals for former Newfoundland Reservists to consider rejoining the Reserve for a period of one year.

October: 30 Newfoundland Naval Reservists depart on S.S. Franconia for England.

November 4: Proclamation call by Colonial Secretary John R. Bennett for volunteers to join the Newfoundland Naval Reserve. Presently 600 volunteers, looking for 1000.

November 5: Garland Steele, a reservist onboard the Calypso, was transported to the General Hospital in St. John's for "an ailment he is suffering from".

November 11: Barge fire in St. John's Harbour. Reservists from the nearby Calypso respond, helping to reduce the damage to the barge.

November 12: Death notice of Commander Harold T. Atlay, former Commander of the Calypso, from complications involving an earlier accident.

December 1: Recruitment for the second contingent of the Royal Newfoundland Naval Reserve is begun at the CLB Armoury on Military Road. 335 men sign up within two days.

December 30: A squad from the Calypso were in 'the narrows' (St. John's Harbour) at firing practice.
1915 January 4: Jack Chaplin is listed as the first Newfoundland Reservist to die during the war (succumbing to an abdominal ailment).

January 17: Coded telegram from Secretary of State requesting that sand be prepared locally for construction of the wireless station in Mount Pearl.

January 20: Number of volunteers for the second contingent of the Newfoundland Naval Reserve now totals 871.

January 29: Lieutenant Henry Morton Burrows, the engineer in charge of construction of the Mount Pearl Wireless Station, is dispatched from Halifax.

February 17: 198 Newfoundland Royal Naval Reservists depart St. John's for Halifax on the S.S. Mongolian. Transferred to the S.S. Scandinavian in Halifax and depart for England.

March 9: Letter of sympathy published in the St. John's Evening Telegram from the British Admiralty regarding the loss of 23 Royal Newfoundland Reservists onboard H.M.S. Clan MacNaughton after its foundering.

March 10: Letter from the Governor to the Deputy Chief Censor about maintaining secrecy regarding the Mount Pearl Wireless Station.

March 12: At weekly St. John's Council meeting, a debate over the issuing of tenders for the construction of components for the building in Mount Pearl (presumably the Wireless Station). Companies who bid on the tender feel that it is unfair that the council's bid was the only one considered. The council's response is that, as the building was of great importance, it was necessary to facilitate the completion of the building as quickly as possible.

April 1: Number of volunteers for the Royal Newfoundland Naval Reserve now totals 1482.

May 24: Progress report to the Colonial Secretary indicating that the second mast (Marconi Pole) has been completed at the Mount Pearl Wireless Station and the third has been erected to a height of 130 feet.

September 16: Mount Pearl Wireless Station becomes operational. The crew of the H.M.S. Calypso provides armed guards for the wireless station.
1916 February 15: H.M.S. Calypso renamed H.M.S. Briton to free the name for a new cruiser.

April 12: Permission granted by the City of St. John's to run an underground cable from the General Post Office in downtown St. John's to the station. Completed the following month, despite protests by Anglo-American and Reid Companies. 7031 yards in length.

July 1: Battle of Beaumont Hamel, France. 57,500 British soldiers killed, wounded or missing in one day - the largest number of casualities ever suffered by a British army. Bravely fighting against overwhelming numbers, the Newfoundland Regiment was virtually decimated, with 733 wounded or killed out of a division of 803 men. July 1 in Newfoundland is still observed as a day of mourning and recognition for those Newfoundlanders lost at Beaumont Hamel.
1917 Winter: Unconfirmed story regarding a sabotage attempt on the Mount Pearl Wireless Station.

April 14: Battle of Monchy-le-Preux, France. 460 members of the Newfoundland Regiment were wounded, killed or taken prisoner.
1918 Marconi Company transfers control of the Mount Pearl Wireless Station to naval authorities.

February 23: Mount Pearl Wireless Station intercepts a distress call at 4:50 am from S.S. Florizel, a Red Cross Line passenger ship which ran aground off Cappahayden, Newfoundland. The distress call was sent by Cecil Carter, a wireless operator onboard the Florizel. Of the 137 passengers and crew onboard, 44 were rescued.

August 27: Detention of a man in relation to an ' attempt at the [Mount Pearl Wireless] station' - a shooting or attempted shooting of Lead Telegrapher Mooney.

November: Cessation of Hostilities - end of First World War.

Staff member Candy killed in the 'spark room' of the Mount Pearl Wireless Station, where high levels of electricity were used to amplify messages for transmission.
1919 June 14: Alcock & Brown attempt first transatlantic flight in 'Vickers Vimy', making radio contact with the Mount Pearl Wireless Station. Alcock and Brown are successful in their attempt.

July 4: British dirigible R-34 makes contact with the Mount Pearl Wireless Station, and makes the first successful transatlantic airship crossing.

September: Cyril Fenn, Commanding officer of the Mount Pearl Wireless Station, arranges for a press visit by the local media. Joseph R. Smallwood, future Premier of Newfoundland, is in attendance.
1920 June 7: Records of H.M.S. Briton show 1964 men had served in Royal Newfoundland Naval Reserve during the First World War, with 180 killed in action. Many remained in the reserve to assist in post-war duties, but by 1920, all had been discharged.
1921 Extension added to the wireless station and a general refurbishment of the site. Addition of a sick bay to the building.

Senior Naval Officer onboard the H.M.S. Calypso provides the first Newfoundland Sea Cadets with quarters onboard the ship.

Washington Naval Disarmament Conference calls for the Royal Newfoundland Naval Reserve to disband.
1922 April 27: Governor receives notice from the Commander-in-Chief that stations in Bermuda, Demerara, Jamaica and Newfoundland are to be closed.

H.M.S. Calypso (Briton) is sold by Newfoundland Government to the firm of A.H. Murray, who purchases her for the purpose of storing coal and salt.
1924 November: Vice Admiral at Bermuda informs the Government of Newfoundland that the Mount Pearl Station is to be completely disbanded.

Wireless station is sold at auction to the Parsons Family and incorporated into Bellview farm.
1925 Memorandum written by Chief Petty Officer Charles Scott outlining the potential of the Mount Pearl site as a radio broadcasting station.

One of the three transmitting towers (Marconi towers) is torn down. Eventually sold for scrap metal.

May: one of the station's Gardiner engines is sold to the Colonial Secretary in British Guiana.

June: Dismantling of the station is complete.
1952 H.M.S. Briton is towed from St. John's to Lewisporte.
1954 Second of three Marconi Poles is dismantled at Mount Pearl Wireless Station by George Summers.
1955 May: Last of three Marconi Poles is dismantled at former Mount Pearl Wireless Station by William Summers.
1966 October: Captain Tom Dower purchases the H.M.S. Briton, with the intention of using the 83-year-old ship for training sea cadets. Plan does not come to fruition due to lack of sufficient funds.
1969 H.H.S. Briton is towed to Troake's Cove, Embree, her final resting place.
1973 July: Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation takes over Parsons Farm, the location of the former Mount Pearl Wireless Station. Building converted to a marketing and sales office for the Land Assembly Scheme.
1997 Admiralty House Museum and Archives is opened, in the former wireless building.
<<The H.M.S. Calypso/Briton •Back• Valentine Goodyear>>
facebook top