CBC News Special: Lost Town

How the First World War destroyed a town 4000km from the battlefield. Lieutenant Stephen Norris was the son of a kingpin. His father owned the cannery, the schooners and the general store in the Newfoundland community of Three Arms. When the First World War broke out, the young man volunteered, against the wishes of his parents. He would be killed at Beaumont-Hamel in 1916. With no heir left, and a family gutted, the businesses would shut down. And that spelled the end for Three Arms. The death of officers like Norris, had far reaching effects on post war development because they were usually those sons who would likely become business or political leaders. Stories like it are lore in Newfoundland and have far-reaching implications in other towns across Canada. The best and the brightest were killed, resulting in some communities disappearing. Three Arms is still there - sort of. The ruins of the church. The outline of the cannery. The cemetery still stands, and Lt Norris has a headstone there. His body though was never found, even though a photo exists of his parents searching the French battlefield for their son’s remains. It’s even become a part of a locally-known musical: “A Call To Arms”. It was written by playwright Petrina Bromley. She is now one of the lead actors in the New York production of Come From Away. Petrinia’s people are all from Conche ( a nearby community). It’s also a small part of the key exhibit on at Newfoundland’s defining museum: The Rooms, where the loss of the island’s best and brightest is mourned for the pivotal impact it would have on successive decades. We can get to Three Arms by fishing boat. People are happy to take us, to tell us about how the war changed their island forever. Historians are pulling photos of the community, of Norris, of others like him.

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