Armistice and Occupation
On 26 October 1918, due to being sadly under strength, The Royal Newfoundland Regiment was replaced in its front line positions and returned to billets in Harlebeke. On 9 November, the Kaiser abdicated. On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month the Germans surrendered and signed the Armistice.
The war was over.
The Regiment began a march with 9th Division to the German border. Their task was to provide part of the Allied occupation force in Germany. Setting out from Cuerne, near Harlebeke, Belgium, on 15 November, their route took the Regiment past Brussels , then to the Meuse River, and on to the German border at Rotgen. On 4 December 1918, after 14 days of marching an average of 13 miles a day, the Regiment reached the border, and on 8 December arrived in Cologne on the Rhine River.
On 13 December 1918, The Royal Newfoundland Regiment crossed the Rhine River and took up bridgehead duties near Cologne as part of the Allied occupation force in the Rhineland.
One of the highlights of this period was the news that Pte Thomas Ricketts had been awarded a Victoria Cross. On 23 Dec, the Regiment was formed into a hollow square, and the troops then heard from the CO that the King had granted this award. There was much surprise and celebrating in throughout the unit. Ricketts was called forward by the CO in front of the unit, congratulated him, and shook his hand. This was followed by the order ‘Remove Headdress, Three Cheers for Private Ricketts’. After Ricketts returned to the ranks, Capt Syd Frost marched over to Ricketts, saluted, and shook his hand. (There is speculation that Frost actually wrote the successful commendation in recommending him for the VC.) After dismissal the men rushed to shake Rickett’s hand or slap him on the back. Christmas Day was celebrated with much pleasure and enthusiasm.
In February The Royal Newfoundland Regiment were returned to Hazeley Down, England and took part in the victory parade in London. It was at this time that Ricketts visited Buckingham Palace where the King presented the VC, and announced that ‘here is my youngest Victoria Cross winner’.
On 26 August 1919, 9 months after the Armistice, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of The Royal Newfoundland Regiment were officially disbanded and the troops returned home to Newfoundland. Thus ended 5 years of service in the Great War, in which a total 6,241 Newfoundlanders had enlisted, of which 5,388 had served in a theatre of war.
1,306 were killed, and 2,314 were wounded. Of the First Five Hundred that left home in October, 1914, only 71 returned home unscathed.