Grand Bank Soldier: The War Letters of Lance Corporal Curtis Forsey.


168 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 978-1-897317-15-0
DDC 940.4'81718





Edited by Bert Riggs
Reviewed by Geoffrey Hayes

Geoff Hayes is an associate professor of History and the Director of
International Studies Option at the University of Waterloo.


Historian Jay Winter has argued that the continued commemoration of wars long past highlights the continued strength of local family ties. Librarian Bert Riggs would agree. His careful annotation of Curtis Forsey’s war letters to his parents details his bond to his family and community of Grand Bank, Newfoundland.


Riggs’s detailed introduction emphasizes Forsey’s deep Newfoundland roots, but Forsey was working in the United States when he and a friend returned to the island to enlist in May 1917. He went overseas in the fall, and in February 1918 joined the Newfoundland Regiment. After some heavy fighting, the Regiment was withdrawn to guard Douglas Haig’s headquarters through the summer. Soon after the unit returned to the front near Ypres, Forsey was wounded in late September 1918. When the war ended, he was in a hospital in Surrey.


Except for a few detailed descriptions, the 51 letters here reveal little about his time in the fighting. But they do confirm a remarkable web of support that reached out from a small Newfoundland outport. Forsey’s polite pleas for money are relentless. He appreciates the parcels sent by Millie Dunford and Hilda Woundy, as well as the letters written by Uncle Len. These people and dozens more are detailed in Riggs’s footnotes.


Some 35 Grand Bankers served with the Regiment, so Forsey kept the family informed of those he knew, and those who died. There is little sentimentality here. In May 1918, he wrote his mother that his friend Max Clarke had been killed by a sniper. He was philosophical when he wrote again of Clarke in June: “I suppose it takes men to carry on the racket and you’ve got to expect such things.”


Forsey returned home to become both a respected businessman and local politician, but he was not a “modern” Canadian. He thought Newfoundland joining Confederation was folly. After 1965, he avoided walking beneath the new Canadian flag on his daily walks to the post office. But Bert Riggs understands that Curtis Forsey’s experience in remarkable events provides a strong link to family and community that is worth commemorating.


Forsey, Curtis., “Grand Bank Soldier: The War Letters of Lance Corporal Curtis Forsey.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024,