First Nelson Streetcar Head Frank Peters Had Fateful Golf Game with a U.S. President

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by Sam McBride

It was Friday, June 1, 1900, a day before the official public opening of the new eastern line of the fledgling streetcar system in Nelson, British  Columbia.

To publicize the event and build support for the new service, Francis White “Frank” Peters, founding president of the Nelson Electric Tramway Company, organized and led an advance tour of the new line and its stops for a group of Nelson businessmen, including Nelson Daily Miner newspaper editor Donald J. Beaton.  They knew Peters well from his day job in Nelson as assistant freight agent, Kootenay district, for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).

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F.W. Peters, c. 1916, City of Vancouver Archives

According to Beaton`s report in the next day’s paper, the businessmen greatly enjoyed the tour, and were impressed by improvements the streetcar company made to the park facilities so as to increase passenger numbers and generate much-needed revenue for the fledgling company.

During a break in the tour, Peters playfully pushed a couple of the men on children`s swings to relive their youth, while the rest of the group enjoyed relaxing in a shady spot with a cool breeze.  Upon Peters’ return, a spokesman of the group announced they decided to name the park Petersville in his honor.  While the naming was essentially in jest, they stipulated that the beach area known as Lake Park would retain its name.

As it turned out, the beach and green space would become solidly, and affectionately, known as Lakeside Park.

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Nelson’s streetcars were replaced by buses in the late 1940s, but today Streetcar 23 on a section out of Lakeside Park operates seasonally for tourists and locals.  I took this photo July 1, 2017 when the streetcar was free as part of the Canada 150 celebrations.

But the unauthorized Petersville naming reflected the high regard they had for Peters.  Two books on the history of Nelson streetcars – “Streetcars in the Kootenays” by Douglas Parker and “Hanging Fire and Heavy Horses” by Art Joyce – both note that F.W. Peters was popular and well-respected in the community.

His railway connection was valuable in getting the new service off the ground, as British investors, wary of investing in Nelson because its population of less than 7,000 was much less than that of other communities with streetcar systems, admired the CPR as a company and approved of a long-term CPR man being president of the local operating company.

The previous December Peters was among the dignitaries who dutifully deposited a dime in the fare box to commemorate the official launch of the first stage of the new streetcar service, which would be a big part of life in the city until the aging system was replaced by buses in 1949.  But the romance and nostalgia of Nelson streetcars did not end there.  Thanks to the work of local volunteers in the Nelson Electric Tramway Society, a section of the streetcar line from Lakeside Park to the Prestige Inn has operated Streetcar 23 seasonally as a popular tourist attraction since 1992.

In the late 1890s Peters and fellow Nelson boosters pushed for a streetcar service as something Nelson as a booming mining town deserved, and particularly needed because of its many steep streets.

In late 1900 Frank Peters faded away from Nelson histories when his employer transferred him to Vancouver with a promotion.  He had lived in Nelson since 1896 when the CPR transferred him in from Winnipeg.  Though just 36 years old when he arrived in Nelson, he had 23 years of experience in railroading.

One of Peters’ jobs with the CPR while in Nelson was to organize and lead a three-day excursion of West Kootenay VIPs (council and board of trade reps) commemorating the start-up in December 1898 of the company’s new Crowsnest Line that connected the Kootenays with southern Alberta and points east for the first time.

On December 7, 1898 about 100 invited guests – including well-known names in the region’s history such as J. Fred Hume, Colonel E.S. Topping, John Kirkup and J.S.C. Fraser — boarded the new sternwheeler S.S. Moyie at Nelson and travelled up the West Arm and down Kootenay Lake to Kootenay Landing (near Creston).

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The S.S. Moyie, safely preserved in Kaslo, B.C. in October 2017. Almost 120 years ago Frank Peters organized a special excursion of the new Moyie sternwheeler to transport local dignitaries on an excursion to commemorate the CPR`s new Crowsnest Railway.

From there the group boarded rail cars east to receptions and tours in Cranbrook and then Fernie, where they witnessed the first shipment of coke to the Trail smelter (which the CPR purchased along with mines and rail rights earlier that year from mining magnate F. Augustus Heinze).  Next stop was a banquet at Wild Horse Creek, and then return voyage on the Moyie from Kootenay Landing to Nelson, arriving on December 9th.

In his four years in Nelson Peters made many friends and business contacts – particularly fellow members in the Nelson Club — who kept in touch with him in years ahead when he rose to executive rank in the CPR.   He was a talented raconteur, with many stories and jokes to tell from the historic construction of the CPR main line across Canada. The Daily Miner would publish some of them, prefaced by the phrase “Here`s another one from Frank Peters…“.

His goal in his CPR work in Nelson was to increase freight tonnage – and resulting revenues — for the company. He met regularly with boards of trade, as well as companies and individuals in industries like mining and fruit ranching to see how they could work together for mutual benefit in getting their products to markets.

Peters was born March 25, 1860 in Saint John, New Brunswick, the same port where his great-grandfather James Peters arrived in 1783 leading a group of United Empire Loyalists who fled their homes in Long Island, New York after the American rebels won the Revolutionary War.

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James Peters (1746-1820), United Empire Loyalist from New York

The Peters family in the 19th century was prominent in the Maritimes as lawyers, judges and government administrators, but young Frank was fixated instead on the exciting new industry of trains and railways.

In 1873 at 13 he started work as a telegraph operator with the Intercolonial Railway in his native province.  From there he went to the U.S. where he worked for the Chicago and Grand Trunk Railway in Michigan before joining the CPR in Winnipeg as a billing clerk in 1881, the year of CPR’s incorporation.  For his part in the history of Manitoba, the Manitoba Historical Society includes Peters in its online gallery of Memorable Manitobans. http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people/peters_fw.shtml

After Nelson, Peters became general freight agent and then assistant to CPR vice president William Whyte.  On behalf of his company, he responded to questions the Nelson Board of Trade and the Nelson Daily News had regarding construction of the CPR`s Kootenay Lake Hotel at Balfour, which opened in 1911.  It was in line with the CPR vision in the early 1900s of building tourist resorts in the Kootenays along the new “southern line” through B.C. in similar fashion to resorts near the CPR main line that included world famous destinations such as the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise.

In 1912 Peters received his biggest and last promotion, becoming CPR`s general superintendent, B.C. division.

In 1916 the Canadian government, worried about shortage of facilities to care for the injured and sick soldiers returning from Europe, established a national Military Hospitals Commission, with Frank Peters one of two B.C. businessmen appointed as directors.  Peters, who lived with his wife Gertrude Hurd in the prestigious Shaughnessy neighborhood in Vancouver, was a driving force behind the construction of the Shaughnessy Veterans Hospital which opened in 1917 and served as a care facility for veterans until the 1990s.  At the same time, the CPR offered its luxury hotel in Balfour – virtually dormant due to lack of tourism in wartime — to the Commission, and it was used as a sanatorium for soldiers recovering from tuberculosis until 1920.  Unfortunately, the hotel had little appeal for tourists after serving as a sanatorium, and it was dormant for several years before torn down for building materials in 1929.

As the top CPR man residing in Vancouver, Peters was active in local and provincial business groups, serving as president of the Vancouver Club as well as the Canadian Club.  A keen golfer, he was president of the Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club in 1921.  His involvement with sports administration began in 1896 when he was president of the Manitoba Curling Association.  Three years later while in Nelson he was president of the B.C. Curling Association.

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CPR B.C. superintendent Frank Peters (with handlebar moustache) greets President Warren Harding and wife Florence in Vancouver on July 26, 1923. Photo courtesy of City of Vancouver Archives

As a loquacious CPR executive, Peters was often approached by newspaper reporters for comments on CPR operations and the economy in general, particularly during and after his periodic inspection tours of the interior of the province.   In interviews in the 1920s he often commented on the success of the subsidiary company Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company Canada Limited (future Cominco and now Teck) having the world’s largest lead-zinc mine (the Sullivan) in Kimberley and the world largest smelter of its kind in Trail, while generating huge amounts of traffic between them on CPR lines in the Kootenays.

Peters had a memorable brush with U.S. presidential history in 1923.  President Warren G. Harding was in Alaska as part of a West Coast tour, and decided to stop at Vancouver, B.C. for a quick visit on July 26, 1923 on his way to Seattle.  Vancouver residents were proud their city was chosen as the site for the first visit to Canada of a sitting American president.

Like many U.S. presidents, Harding enjoyed golfing.  Authorities decided that Frank Peters would be a good host for Harding, particularly in organizing a golf game at the Shaughnessy Club, renowned as one of the best 18-hole courses in North America.  Arrangements were made for a golf foursome including Harding, Peters, a Vancouver judge, and the club pro to play in the afternoon, accompanied by caddies and presidential security staff.  This followed a speech by Harding to a crowd estimated at 50,000 in Stanley Park.

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President Harding prepares for a tee shot at Shaughnessy Golf Club, hosted by Frank Peters, on July 26, 1923. City of Vancouver Archives.

After just six holes, Harding, 57, told his golf companions he was extremely exhausted and could not continue playing.   However, knowing that reporters and cheering fans would be beside the 18th green to greet him and he did not want to be questioned about his health, he suggested they rest for a while and then walk over to play the 17th and 18th holes, and his health problem would not be mentioned.

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news story in Ottawa Journal with comments by F.W. Peters on the late president Harding caption

It would be Harding’s last round of golf.  Exactly a week later the world was shocked to hear of the president’s death from a stroke in San Francisco, with vice president Calvin Coolidge succeeding him as president.

As the Vancouverite who spent the most time with Harding during the visit, Peters was contacted by reporters for comments on his passing.   In an August 3, 1923 article in the Vancouver Daily World (as well as other newspapers across the country through wire services), Peters praised Harding as a determined golfer and good fellow who was courteous to spectators, including a one-legged veteran who he invited within the security ropes, assisted in setting up his camera equipment, and posed for a photograph.  “Kindness and consideration for other people — that was the keynote of the president`s personality,” Peters said.

After the death of Harding’s wife Florence in 1924 there was speculation she may have poisoned him in revenge for his affairs with mistresses.  She was with him when he died, and insisted he be immediately embalmed, not allowing for an autopsy.  In 2014 Harding’s end was the subject of a PBS documentary “The Strange Death of Warren G. Harding”.

Peters retired from CPR in 1926, but stayed on as a member of advisory groups and as a director of the CPR subsidiary Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railroad.  One speaker at his retirement event said Peters could not possibly retire completely because he was the only person in the county who understood Canada’s incredibly complex freight rates.

In 1927 his older brother Col. James Peters, who had been District Officer Commanding, British Columbia in the early 1900s , died in Victoria.  As a major in November 1887, James Peters was in command of a contingent of 100 men, accompanied by wives and children, who travelled on the new CPR line across Canada from Montreal to Vancouver, and then by ship to Victoria, where they served as Canada’s first West Coast defence force.

The death of Frank Peters in Vancouver after a short illness at age 73 on May 13, 1933 was front page news across Canada, including the Nelson Daily News, which mentioned his freight work in Nelson but not his long-overlooked role in getting streetcar service off the ground.    Noting his 60-year connection with trains, he was dubbed “The Grand Old Man of the CPR” and “The Grand Old Man of Canadian Railroading”.

In a tribute to Peters, CPR vice president D.C. Coleman said “Genial, kindly and approachable, he knew how, without loss of dignity, to gain the confidence and affection of the western people.  He played the game of life to the end with boyish zest, but always with an honorable respect for the rules“.

There are some interesting connections between Frank Peters and his famous CPR boss, Sir William Cornelius Van Horne (1843-1915).  Van Horne also began in the railroad business as a telegraph operator, starting at age 14 in 1857.  Van Horne and Peters both joined the CPR in 1881 after working for Chicago-based railroad companies.  Their wives had the same surname of Hurd.  Van Horne married Lucy Adeline Hurd in 1867 in Joliet, Illinois and Peters married Gertrude Wynyard Hurd in 1884 in Winnipeg.  Census data shows they were not sisters, but could have been cousins.

Sources:

Memorable Manitobans (http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people/peters_fw.shtml)

City of Vancouver Archives

“Streetcars in the Kootenays” by Douglas Parker, 1992.

“Hanging Fire and Heavy Horses” by Art Joyce, 2000.

Shaughnessy Golf Course web site – history

Newspapers.com (Vancouver Daily World, Ottawa Journal and others)

Nelson Daily Miner

Nelson Daily News

Warren G. Harding & Stanley Park – History of Metropolitan Vancouver

A Peters Lineage, 1896

Ancestry.com

Knowles, Valeries, William C. Van Horne: Railway Titan, Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2010

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The pioneer Foote and McBride families of Nelson B.C.

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By Sam McBride

My great-grandfather John James “Jim” Foote of Perth, Ontario (about 50 miles southwest of Ottawa) arrived in Nelson , B.C. in 1899 at age 38 to work as a blacksmith at the Silver King Mine.  A year later, in 1900, his family came from Perth to join him, including 35-year-old wife Wilhelmine Edith James (known to all as Edith) and daughters Winnifred Mae Foote, 11; Lillian Maud Foote, 9; Gladys Edith Foote, 7, and Isobel Bessie Foote, 3.

Born and raised on a farm in upstate New York close to the Canadian border, Jim Foote of Perth, Ontario came west to Nelson, B.C. in 1899 to work as a blacksmith at the Silver King Mine, He later worked for the City of Nelson as a carpenter, sidewalks foreman and superintendent of works.

The family lived in a rented cabin on the Silver King Townsite, and the girls attended a makeshift school there.  In 1902 the family moved to a house at Cottonwood Creek and Hall Mines Road, about a mile from downtown Nelson.  The move may have coincided with Jim Foote moving from employment at the mine to a job with the City of Nelson.  Another big event for the family that year was the birth in Nelson on Feb. 9, 1902 of a fifth daughter Marion Louise Foote (there were never any sons in the family).

Jim Foote was born Sept. 18, 1861 in Morristown, New York (near Ogdensburg) in a family farm on the south bank of the St. Lawrence River.  The land he saw on the other side of the river was Canada.   A couple of months before his first birthday, his father, John Foot (who tended to spell his name without the “e” at the end more often than not), went off to fight in the Civil War as a private in the 142nd New York Regiment of the Union Army.    Private John Foot contracted malaria while in army service, and was wounded in the buttocks in the Battle of Appomatox in April 1865 – one of the last North casualties in the war, prior to the surrender of South General Robert E. Lee at Appomatox Courthouse.   Foot’s injuries would cause him to live in pain for the rest of his life, and his many written requests for financial compensation went unheeded.  John Foot (1825-1903), who married Elizabeth Graham (1828-1871),  was a son of John Foot (1802-?) and Isobel Bovie (1805-?) who lived in upstate New York.   While their ancestry is not known, many of the Foote population in New York is known to descend from Nathaniel Foote who came to America from England in the 1600s.

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Win Foote, keen photographer  c. 1907

When he was about 24 in the mid-1880s, Jim Foote ventured into Canada in search of better prospects for his life ahead.  He arrived in Perth (about 70 miles northwest of Morristown) and met Edith James (1865-1941).  Her parents, Thomas G. James (1829-1902), and Sarah Best (1836-1888), both children of Protestant families who emigrated to Canada from Ireland (likely County Cavan) soon after the end of the War of 1812, were among the most prosperous farming families of Lanark County in North Elmsley, a small agricultural community outside of Perth.   Jim Foote and Edith James fell in love and married, despite the opposition of her parents, who thought she could have made a better choice, and only gradually came to accept the itinerant Yankee Jim Foote as a son-in-law and father of their granddaughters.

The five Foote daughters, from left: Lil, Isobel, Marion, Glad and Win

Jim Foote is listed in the 1913 city directory as Sidewalks Foreman with the city of Nelson.   The obituary in the Daily News after he died April 24, 1921 in Nelson said he was “for a number of years in charge of construction work of the city”.   My first cousin, once removed, R. Blake Allan (who was my dad’s law partner in Nelson for 20 years before his appointment as a judge in 1968, and was an enthusiastic genealogist in retirement years before his death at age 92 in Victoria in 2009) told me he remembered his grandfather Jim Foote well, and that he held the title of superintendent of construction with the city when he died.

The eldest of the daughters, Winnifred, married Roland Leigh McBride in Nelson on Dec. 21, 1914.  It was his second marriage, as he married Eva Mackay Hume (niece of Lydia Irvine Hume who she and husband J. Fred Hume adopted after her parents died) on Sept. 6, 1911 at the Hume property known as Killarney-on-the-lake across the lake from where the Chahka Mika Mall is today.  She died of childbirth complications on Nov. 23, 1912, and the baby daughter Gertrude died a few days later.   Winnifred Foote and Eva Hume were close friends, and the story in the family is that Eva on her deathbed encouraged Win to get together with R.L.

ornate wedding certificate for R.L. McBride and Win Foote.

In the community, the couple was known as Win and Leigh (he was never known by his first name Roland).

After son Leigh Morgan McBride was born on Oct. 31, 1917, the family always called the father “R.L.” to avoid confusion with the son.  Their only other child was son Kenneth Gilbert McBride born Jan. 20, 1920, and died in action in Italy on Sept. 16, 1944.  Win and R.L. moved into a house at 708 Hoover Street soon after their marriage, and remained there until R.L.’s death at 78 on May 14, 1959.  Win died at 71 on July 10, 1960.  I talked to Edna Steed Whiteley recently, and she agreed that Win never recovered from the shock and despair of losing son Ken in WW2.  My childhood memories of my paternal grandparents is that they were both in poor condition in the late 1950s, particularly Win, who had great difficulty speaking, and only wanted to play bingo with her grandchildren.  My father Leigh died in Trail August 5, 1995 after battling Parkinsons Disease for a decade.

R.L. McBride was born and raised in London, Ontario, where he worked as a ticket agent for the CPR for two years after finishing school at age 16.  His grandfather Samuel McBride (1819-1905) had come to Canada on a crowded emigrant ship from Northern Ireland at age 12 in 1831.  As a teen-ager in Brantford, upper Canada, he learned the tinsmithing trade, and joined his much younger brother Alexander McBride (1833-1912) in a retail business selling wood stoves and other metal items.   Alexander moved west to Calgary in the mid-1880s in search of cleaner air for his wife Lucy’s asthma, and established Calgary’s first hardware store under the name A. McBride and Company in the late 1880s.  By 1896 he was mayor of Calgary, and had branched out from Calgary with other hardware stores, including one in the gold-mining boom town of Rossland, British Columbia, which he hired his nephew G. Walter McBride to manage.

Within a couple of years, Walter McBride was successful enough with the store to pay off his uncle and take ownership of the Rossland store under his own name as G.W. McBride Hardware.   In 1900, 19-year-old R.L. McBride came west from Ontario to work for a few months for his great-uncle Alexander in Calgary, and then further west to work for his uncle Walter in Rossland.   He moved on to Sandon in 1903, where he worked for a year (including the winter of 1903-1904) for the Hamilton Byers Hardware store, which was one of three Byers stores in the West Kootenay.  A year later, Byers sold out to the Winnipeg-based Wood Vallance Hardware company, and the Nelson operation was managed by G.W. McBride, assisted by his nephew R.L. McBride, who succeeded to head the Nelson operation in 1924 when his uncle retired and moved to the coast.

Foote sisters in about 1905.  From left: win, Marion, Glad, Isobel and Lil

Lil Foote married Wilfred Laurier Allan (1891-1938) in Nelson on Dec. 22, 1915.  For a couple of years Wilfrid had been working at Wood Vallance Hardware in Nelson under manager George Walter McBride, who was an uncle of R.L. McBride, who would succeed his uncle Walter at top Wood Vallance man in Nelson after Walter retired in 1924.  Lil and Wilfrid’s first child, Robert Blake Allan, was born in Nelson in 1916. A year or so later, the Allans moved to Stavely, Alberta, where the Allan family had a general store.  Son James Henry Grant Allan was born in 1919 in Stavely, daughter Margot Francis Allan was born in 1922 in Stavely, and son Alexander Arthur Allan was born in 1925 in Stavely.   In 1931 Wilfrid moved his family back to Nelson as he took on the position of secretary-treasurer with Wood Vallance.  After he died in Chicago at age 47 his brother Alexander Hamilton Allan came from Stavely to Nelson to succeed Wilfrid as secretary treasurer of Wood Vallance.  In 1950 A.H. Allan would succeed the retiring R.L. McBride as Manager of Wood Vallance, continuing to lead the operation until his own retirement in the 1970s.  He died in Nelson in 1988.

Blake Allan died in Victoria in 2009, Jim Allan died in West Vancouver in 2010, and the third brother Alex Allan died in Toronto in 2010.

R.L. McBride in abt 1902 in Rossland, where he worked at his uncle’s G.W. McBride Hardware store.

After schooling in Nelson, Lil attended normal school in Vancouver and became a teacher.  She taught at Shoreacres, Renata and Harrop before joining the Central School staff in Nelson in 1912 until her marriage in 1915.  During World War Two she returned to teaching at the Lardeau district, Argenta, Kaslo, Central School in Nelson, and finally at Renata where she retired in 1953.  Daughter Margot died at age 19 in 1932.

Gladys (known as Glad in the family) Foote married Colin Argyle Moir, originally from Manitoba, in Nelson on Sept. 29, 1920.  They moved to Medicine Hat, Alberta where he worked in the farm supplies distribution business.   She died in Medicine Hat in 1966, and Colin died in 1972.  Several Nelson directories list Glad as working as a stenographer for Nelson businesses in the years after the First World War.

Dick McBride of London, Ontario visiting his son R.L. and grandson Leigh in Nelson in about 1919. Dick worked as a tinsmith, and was part of the early hardware business established by his father Samuel in partnership with Dick’s uncle Alexander McBride, who established a thriving hardware store operation based in Calgary in the late 1800s.

Isobel Foote married Arthur Edward “Eddie” Murphy (1893-1950) on Nov. 16, 1921 in Nelson.  They built a home across the lake from where the Prestige Inn is today.    Through the years there were many extended family gatherings on the beach and dock of the Murphy residence across the lake.  Both Isobel and Eddie were expert rowers who won rowing competitions on Kootenay Lake.  Even though she was the shortest of the four sisters (less than 5 feet), she was one of the best basketball players at her school.   Isobel and Eddie had several successful businesses in Nelson, including contracting, interior decorating and signage.  They did not have children.  Like her mother Edith (who died in Nelson at age 76 in 1941), Isobel was a longtime member of the Nelson Pioneers group which was for Nelson residents who had been in the city since the 1890s.  I recall her once saying she felt a bit guilty because she arrived in 1900 rather than the 1800s.  She lived until 1988 (when virtually all of the 1890s pioneers would have died), but after 1974 she had serious dementia and resided at Mount St. Francis care home.

R.L. McBride with his sons Ken (left) and Leigh in about 1936.

The four Foote sisters remained close through the years, and there were many trips back and forth between B.C. and Medicine Hat.  While Glad and Colin and Isobel and Eddie had no children of their own, they were keen aunt and uncle to five nephews.

Jim and Edith Foote’s fifth daughter – and final child – Marion Louise Foote, was born in Nelson in 1902.  A popular young lady in Nelson, Marion died of tuberculosis in 1921.  Nelson’s city directory of 1919 has Marion listed as a clerk employed by the Hudson Bay Company in Nelson.

Jim and Edith Foote and their daughters are buried at Nelson Memorial Park, except for Glad who is buried with Colin in Medicine Hat.

R.L McBride and wife Win Foote McBride are buried at Nelson Memorial Park, next to the gravestones of Eva Hume McBride and the daughter Marjory, who lived just a couple of days after her mother died in childbirth in 1912.  Right beside the McBride graves are those of R.L.`s longtime friend and next-in-command at Wood Vallance, Roy Sharp, and his family.

The four Foote sisters in mid 1950s. From left: Glad Moir, Lil Allan, Win McBride and Isobel Murphy

 

 

Letters home from Canadian hero Capt. Frederic Thornton Peters, VC, DSO, DSC and bar, U.S. DSC, RN

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by Sam McBride

This posting includes a biography of my great-uncle Fritz Peters, followed by transcription of his handwritten letters mailed home to Canadian relatives between 1914 and 1942.

Canada`s most decorated naval hero, Captain Frederic Thornton “Fritz” Peters, VC, DSO, DSC and bar, DSC (U.S.), RN, has the rare distinction of receiving multiple awards for valour in each of the world wars.

He was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island in 1889, but lived in Victoria, BC from age eight until joining the Royal Navy in January 1905 at 15. The Peters family lived in Oak Bay and later Esquimalt before moving to Prince Rupert in 1911.

Peters was nicknamed Fritz by his family because he was obsessed with all things military from his earliest years – like a stereotypical Prussian. In P.E.I. he was keen on a career as a soldier like his grandfather, the Father of Confederation Col. John Hamilton Gray, but in B.C. his interest changed to navy as a result of watching warships of the Royal Navy pass by within sight of his home.

The navy further caught his interest when he joined others in his family in visits to his cousin Col. James Peters and his family in Esquimalt, including tours of the naval base and British warships. Col. Peters, who like Fritz’s father Frederick was a great-grandson of Loyalist James Peters from Hempstead, New York, was District Officer Commanding in BC until transferring to Toronto in 1899. Col. Peters, whose military career began in 1872 and included mention in dispatches in the Riel Rebellion of 1885, transferred back to Esquimalt in 1909, retired the following year, and went on to be one of the new municipality of Esquimalt’s first councilors.

In Victoria Fritz Peters was a student of Rev. William Washington Bolton, former rector of St. Paul’s Church, who ran a small school out of his home on Belcher Avenue. In his schools Bolton emphasized character building ahead of scholarship, with plenty of team sports, outdoor activities and boxing in the tradition of British private schools. In 1906 Bolton co-founded University School, now known as St. Michael’s University School.

Starting in 1900, Peters attended private schools in England, including three terms at a preparatory school in Maidenhead, England where navy courses were part of the curriculum.

Frederic Thornton Peters, age 11.<br/><br/>Photo courtesy of Sam McBride.

Frederic Thornton Peters, age 11 (McBride Collection)
Peters’ military career encompassed three stints of service. After cadet training in 1905, he went to sea as a midshipman with the Channel Fleet, and then service on gunboats and destroyers in the China Station of Weihai before retirement as a lieutenant in 1913.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 he rejoined, and served on destroyers, first as senior officer and later as a commander, until retirement as lieutenant commander in 1920.

Two of his brothers died early in the war. On April 24, 1915 Private John Francklyn Peters died while serving with the 7th British Columbia battalion in the Second Battle of Ypres when poison gas was used for the first time in a German offensive. Lieutenant Gerald Hamilton Peters died in the Mount Sorrel counterattack in the Ypres Salient on June 3, 1916, also serving with the 7th B.C. battalion.

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Lieut. Fritz Peters wearing Messina Earthquake Medal, 1912 (McBride Collection)

While serving as a lieutenant on the destroyer HMS Meteor in the Battle of Dogger Bank in January 1915, Fritz was mentioned in dispatches and received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) medal for his actions that saved the lives of two ratings when the ship’s engine room was hit by a shell from the German cruiser Blucher. He was the first Canadian in the war to receive the DSO, the medal for bravery second only to the Victoria Cross.

Later in the Great War he took command of destroyers and received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) in 1918 for “showing exceptional initiative, ability and zeal in submarine hunting operations and complete disregard of danger, exceptional coolness and ingenuity in his attacks on enemy submarines.” His navy colleagues particularly admired his courage and skill in hazardous rescues at sea where enemy subs were a constant threat.

Peters’ last recorded time spent in Canada was in organizing the funeral of his father, former P.E.I. Premier Frederick Peters, in Victoria BC in August 1919. Fred Peters was buried at Ross Bay Cemetery next to his daughter Violet Peters, who died in 1905 at age six in a fireplace accident at the family home in the Oak Bay area of the city.

Peters spent most of the inter-war years working in the Gold Coast colony in west Africa now known as Ghana. He also manufactured specialized pumps for a new type of midget submarine developed by his friend Cromwell Varley, DSO, RN.

When the Second World War broke out in 1939, he rejoined the Royal Navy, commanding a flotilla of anti-sub trawlers that sank two enemy subs, earning a bar to his Distinguished Service Cross in 1940. He later went back and forth between naval service and work with Section D (for destruction) of Britain`s Secret Intelligence Service, including command of a spying and sabotage school in Hertfordshire for expatriates who returned to their native countries in Occupied Europe to combat the Nazis.

In 1942 he took charge of the most dangerous mission in the Allied invasion of North Africa – an audacious attack by a mostly American force in two former U.S. Coast Guard cutters to secure Oran harbour in the French colony of Algeria for the invasion. Landings at 1 am on Nov. 8, 1942 on beaches west and east of Oran by American troops had met little resistance from French defenders, but two hours later they reacted with full force from Oran shore batteries and warships moored in the harbour when Peters’ ship HMS Walney along with HMS Hartland broke through a boom of logs, chains and barges and proceeded towards their goal of taking over French warships and port facilities with commandos.

Despite suffering 90% casualties and facing point blank fire from all directions, Peters was able to direct his ship for a mile and a half through the narrow harbour and land Walney beside its target berth. At great personal risk, he assisted with the landing lines in the front and back of the 250 ft.-long ship. Wounded in the shoulder and blinded in one eye, he was taken prisoner along with fellow survivors. Two days later he was freed by American troops who had captured the city, and carried through the streets of Oran in triumph.

Frederic Thornton Peters, WWII.<br/><br/>Photo courtesy of Sam McBride

Frederic Thornton Peters, WWII. (McBride Collection)

Tragically, three days later, on Friday, November 13, 1942 he died when the Sunderland flying boat transporting him from Gibraltar back to England encountered fierce headwinds and then heavy fog and instrument failure that resulted in the plane crashing into Plymouth Sound, flipping over and splitting apart. The 11 Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) crew members miraculously all survived the crash, but Peters and the four other VIP passengers died, either from the impact of the crash or from exposure in the water. Unhurt in the crash, the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Wynton Thorpe, found Peters still alive in the water and valiantly tried to drag him to safety as he swam to a breakwater, giving up in exhaustion after about an hour when it was obvious that Peters was dead. A rescue boat from shore arrived about half an hour later to pick up survivors.

For his part in the action at Oran, Algeria Frederic Peters posthumously received both the Victoria Cross and the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross, the highest honour the Americans bestowed on foreigners.

After her husband’s death in 1919 Peters’ mother Bertha Gray Peters went to live with her daughter Helen Dewdney’s family in the West Kootenay region of southeastern B.C. It was at the Dewdney home in Nelson on February 2, 1944 that the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross was presented to Bertha as Peters’ next-of-kin by a delegation representing President Roosevelt that included officers from Edmonton and a brass band. Bertha – crippled and bedridden as a result of a serious fall down stairs a decade earlier – was angry when Peters’ Victoria Cross arrived in the regular mail with no ceremony, such a stark contrast to the respectful American presentation.

At the time, the unceremonious delivery of the Victoria Cross was believed to be an administrative error in wartime. But in fact Peters’ VC was intentionally downplayed by the British government to avoid offending the French who had resumed as allies against Hitler and did not like to be reminded of their vigorous action against the Allies in Oran harbour. Military files that became public in the 1970s show that British Admiral Andrew Cunningham issued an order on December 13, 1942 that “silence is the best policy” regarding the Oran VC.

Publicity in Canada about Peters’ Victoria Cross was generated more by his friends and family than through official channels. At the urging of the Nelson Board of Trade, a mountain of modest height on the western outskirts of Nelson was named Mt. Peters in his honour in March 1946, just a few months before his mother`s death. The only memorial for him in Britain is the listing of his name on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial among sailors of all ranks lost at sea.

In a letter to his father in 1916, Peters said he intended to enter politics in B.C. after the war, but that didn`t happen, as he found his best prospects for civilian work were through his navy contacts in Africa and Britain. In his last letter sent to his sister in March 1942 he said he hoped to return to B.C. to visit her after the war, “whenever that may be and if one is still in the land of the living.”

In June 1956 Helen Dewdney represented her late brother at ceremonies in England marking 100 years since the Victoria Cross was established by Queen Victoria. In 1985 a Plymouth recreational diver spotted the wreckage of the flying boat. The recovered propeller is now on display at an RAAF museum in Perth, Australia.

 

Below are transcriptions of letters Fritz Peters sent home to his mother Bertha Gray Peters and sister Helen Peters Dewdney in British Columbia, Canada between 1914 and 1942.  The original letters are in my possession as part of the Peters Family Papers.

#1 – Fritz to brother Gerald                     September 4, 1914

South Western Hotel, Southampton (letterhead)

Dear Gerald,

I was very sorry to hear that you failed in your endeavour to volunteer on account of your chest measurement. I can imagine you must be feeling badly about it. But don’t be downhearted. Life is full of these little things: follow the footsteps of Mark Tapley1 and you cannot go far wrong. I trust you have made this gentleman’s acquaintance in Martin Chuzzlewit. Anyhow to fail in this particular point is but a small thing and one — in your case — that is easily remedied.

I have written to a physical culture man in England instructing him to send you a course of exercises. Now if you faithfully and diligently follow these out, you will find in two or three months or perhaps half that time an immeasurable improvement of your physical fitness in every respect. I may say that I once got some exercises for my own use, but never had the energy to use them. I wish now that I had. Now you have a great incentive before you, the incentive to make yourself fit to serve the country.

Study friend Rudyard Kipling: “Teach us to keep ourselves always controlled and cleanly night and day, that we may bring, if need arise, no maimed or worthless sacrifice.”2

Now follow my advice and go right into this thing with all your heart and all your guts. Put your mind on it. Keep it always before you. Think about it at night before you sleep. Don’t let it be away from your waking thoughts. Do all these things and in six weeks you will pass any medical examiner in the world. But dig your heels in and go like the devil at it. This war is going to be a long business. Time to start in a new recruit at one end and come out — if you are lucky — a trained man at the other. But above all, don’t lose heart. It is not given to every man to be so fortunate as to fight for his country.

As soon as you are fit, go to the depot and present yourself and no doubt they will take you on. I have squared with this man for these exercises which I expect will shortly follow this letter.

Cheer up,

F.T.P.

P.S. …I expect to go to sea in ten days.

 

1 – Mark Tapley in the Charles Dickens novel Martin Chuzzlewit was a big-hearted, simple man who believed in being cheerful.

 

2 – As descendants of fervent Loyalists, the Peters family were avid readers of the works of Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), enthusiastic booster of the British Empire.  Kipling was a prominent lecturer and writer in support of the Great War.  Ironically, the Kipling family was going through the same experience as the Peters, as Kipling’s only son Jack failed his enlistment physical because of poor eyesight.  Like Gerald, Jack Kipling would eventually get in the army, rise to Lieutenant and die in action early in the war.  Like Jack Peters and Gerald Peters, Jack Kipling was initially reported as “missing”.  Jack Kipling was never officially declared dead, although the family did learn the circumstances of his death from a fellow soldier years later.

 

 

#2 – Fritz to Father                                                 abt. January 1916

 

You will see that I have left the Meteor1 some four months now.  This craft2 is the same class as the Otter3 whom you may remember I was in at China in 1911.  I am in command, but it is an empty honour and I would a good deal rather be where I was.  One is practically out of the running here and, if anything did happen, one would merely swell the casualty lists.  I had hopes of going East, but apparently unjustified.

How is Mr. Clements?  I want to write to him concerning this surveying business and how it is looking up these days.

I saw Reggie Tupper4 in a hospital last August.  He had been badly wounded and was then on the road to recovery but I should not think he would go out to the front again.

Mother is at Hythe5 now with Gerald who is back for a period of instruction, but I did not quite gather if he had actually obtained a commission yet or not.

…The worst of the winter weather is over; very trying continually keeping the sea in these small craft.  I cannot, in fact, remember having spent a more unpleasant winter.

 

Yours

Fritz

 

1 – HMS Meteor, launched in 1914, was a destroyer with top speed of 35 knots in the Harwich Force northeast of London.  Fritz was serving as lieutenant on January 24, 1915 in the Battle of Dogger Bank on Meteor when its engine room was hit by a German shell.  Fritz’s response to the emergency won him the Distinguished Service Order, the first Canadian in the war to win such distinction.  Meteor was towed home to England and repaired, and used as a minelayer after 1917.

 

2 – Fritz was now in command of HMS Greyhound, a 30-knot destroyer built in 1900.

 

3 – Launched in 1896, the 30-knot destroyer HMS Otter served in the Royal Navy’s China Station, based in the British colony of Wai Hei on the Yellow Sea.

 

4 – Lieutenant Reginald Hibbert Tupper (1893-1972) was the sixth of seven children of Fred Peters’ former law partner Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper and Janet McDonald.    The Peters children and Tupper children often played together as next-door  neighbours in Victoria.  Serving with the 16th Battalion Canadian Scottish, Reginald was seriously wounded by shrapnel at the Second Battle of Ypres.  He went on to a distinguished career as a lawyer in B.C..  His younger brother Captain Victor Gordon Tupper died at Vimy Ridge.   [i]

 

5 – Fritz’s mother Bertha traveled to England in July 1915 to be close to her boys serving in the war.  She rented a cottage in Hythe on the southeast coast for a few months because it was convenient for her favorite son Gerald Peters to visit on leaves.

 

#3 – Fritz to Father                                                      March 16, 1916

 

H.M.S. Greyhound

c/o G.P.O., London

 

Dear Father,

It is a long time since I have written to you.  Letter writing is a pastime I do not much indulge in.  You will doubtless ‘ere this have heard from Mother concerning the probability of Jack being a prisoner in Belgium.  Up to the time of writing there is no further news of him.  I have recently paid a visit to the High Commissioner for Canada – Sir George Perley1 – whom you may know.  To ask him to institute inquiries.  He has approached the War Office on the matter and they are sending an inquiry to Germany, but I do not think much will come of it, nor for the matter of that did he.  Belgium is, at present, closed and sealed to all outside enquiry and I think it unlikely that we will get news of Jack until peace is signed or unless he is sent to Germany.  I think, though, that it is pretty well established that he is alive and a prisoner.

How is Prince Rupert these days?  I take it money must be pretty hard to lay hands on.  What do you think will be the state of things there, after the war, which I do not think will be prolonged much over the end of the year, if indeed this year does not see the conclusion of hostilities.  That indeed it has lasted as long, we have to thank this precious government in England.  I wonder if the close of the war will see the beginning of an Imperial Government.  What a wonderful thing that would be.  Often have I pondered it.  With it, organized in the proper manner, the empire would reach a power absolutely undreamt of, without it and in the hands of these pettifogging politicians who at present govern England, in their spare moments giving a passing thought to the destinies of the Empire, there will inevitably be disintegration and Germany, as usual, will step in and take her Shylock’s portion of the world’s trade.

What, I think, is really wanted is the men in the colonies who are to step forward and make themselves heard on the matter, not only in their colony, but here strongly and forcibly at the root of this hopeless system of party government for our great Empire.

When this war is over, I am going in for politics in B.C.  Rather an unpleasant life in many ways, but after all, whatever one may say, it is the end that matters and the road to it must be traversed as well as may be.

One thing this war has shown me, and that is how really intensely uninteresting naval warfare of today is.  Personal enterprise becomes increasingly difficult in fact one may say impossible.  No one seems inclined to take risks – no doubt rightly, there may be little to justify them – but it does make life pretty dull, more or less.

Capacity to earn money? To a certain degree, no doubt.

But above all, a love of Empire, intense patriotism, a proper degree of respect for one’s personal honour, a nice modesty, and, of course, religion.

What is your opinion of the growing Canadian (20-30 years) today?

What is your candid and honest opinion?

I will give you mine, but before doing so I would have you consider of just what value can be attached to my opinion.  I am now 27 and a half.  First 11 years in Canada.  A year at the Bedford Grammar School2.  Three years at Cordwalles3 – then one of the best preparatory schools in England.

I went to sea in the old Channel Fleet under Tug Wilson4 – one of England’s greatest admirals – in 1906.  Since then have been in Mediterranean and not unextensively in China under interesting conditions.

Then a year or more in Canada – the first few months nearly starving and glad to canvass a street, act as a beauty specialist or anything else that came my way.  Then railway work in the interior.  Finally the war.  Handicapped to a certain degree by absence from the Service, it would be stupid false modesty to say I have not done well.  In my own line – destroyers – I have, perhaps through luck, done better than most and in it I know I am well considered by the powers that be.

All in all, I am not a fool.  My experience has been more varied than most and my opinion in the councils of the wise man should at any rate have a hearing.

But above all I have a deep and I hope true love of Canada and perhaps some small idea of its future greatness and an undying firm belief in the absolute need of unity in the Empire.  Do not, therefore, think that my remarks which follow are unduly “English” in their colouring or that I have joined what I would call the Anglicized Canadian type – a type for which I have little use.

The western Canadian, in my opinion, is a foolish braggart with small knowledge of the world and therefore lacking in all sense of proportion.  Full of a ridiculous vanity, his conversation leaves one’s mind as full of I-I-I’s as does an hour in a railway train sweeping past a long line of telephone poles.  The so-called businessman, inflated beyond all belief in his own importance, the engineer, the woodsman, the street loafer, the tug master, type is not in Canada – and I don’t think it is – How many decent Canadians go in for school mastering?  Make it worthwhile for the English schoolmaster to come out.

There is no type of man for whom I have a greater respect than the English school master.  He is underpaid; without capital he is unlikely ever to make much money; why does he do it?  Many drift in and then stay because they like it.  Because their life work is with boys of the right type.  Can you imagine a team of boys from an English school throwing in their hand because they were being beaten – the idea is laughable.  Each one would drop dead of exhaustion first.  And why is this – answer: the teacher.

Early environment and later schooling count for more in my opinion than hereditary – which is merely an incentive – and aught else.

The Canadian soldier has pretty clearly shown that he has in the main the right qualities – the material is good, for the Lord’s sake let the shaping of it in the future be better.

My eternal dread is that the remark of a traveled Englishman – and that remark referred to deeper things than mere superficial resemblance, which must always be similar – should one day be really true.

“I can see no difference”, he said, “between the Canadian and a citizen of U.S.A.”

Needless to say, I argued the point, but a man must be either ignorant or a fool if he cannot argue, and well too, on any point, for obviously there must be two sides to every question.

I am spending a few days leave with Helen Francklyn5 who sends her love. There is no news.  This summer will be big with events.  I think we have entered the last stretch; yes I think it is seconds out for the last round and like most last rounds it will be the fiercest. I think there will be another big sea fight before the business ends.  I am afraid I shall not be in it.  Still – quieu sabe6?  Have not heard lately from New Denver7 (why in the name of the Lord was it called “New Denver” – is there such a poverty in the English language that we have to turn to the American?).

 

No news else.

Yours,

Fritz

 

1 – Sir George Perley[ii] (1857-1938) was Canada’s high commissioner in London 1914-22.  He also served as minister of overseas military forces of Canada 1916-17.

 

2 – Bedford Grammar School, located about 50 miles north of London.  The school’s records show Fritz attended Bedford for one year (1900-01), and his brother Jack was there from 1900 to 1903. Their sister Helen attended the nearby Bedford High School for Girls from September to December 1900. The family likely chose Bedford for private schooling because Bertha’s stepmother Caroline Gray lived there, having moved from Charlottetown with her son Arthur after her husband’s death in 1887.  In her later years Helen Dewdney recalled watching the funeral procession for Queen Victoria in the streets of London in January 1901.  .[iii]

 

3 – Cordwalles School in Maidenhead, Berkshire counted Benjamin Disraeli among its alumni.  The school was purchased in 1919 and re-named St. Piran’s School which continues to operate today as a preparatory school.  The Cordwalles Chronicle school magazine records Fritz as a prize-winner in the Navy 2 class in 1903 and notes that he served as a dormitory head.  He was tied for first in his French class, and fourth in mathematics.  He played on the “second 11” of the school’s cricket team and football team.  As a cricketer, the magazine records him as “Very slow bat. Bowls a little. Keen cricketer”.  As a football forward, he is described as “Fast and dribbles well. Apt to fall down at critical moments. [iv]

 

4- Sir Arthur K. “Tug” Wilson, VC (1842-1921).  He rose to be Admiral of the Fleet, Royal Navy, and gained the nickname Tug for his determination.  He won numerous medals, including the Victoria Cross for action in the Sudan in 1883.  A lifelong bachelor, he was known for his economy of words. [v]

 

5 – Helen Francklyn was one of Fred Peters’ Cunard cousins.  A spinster, she regularly hosted members of the Peters family at her home in Bristol.

 

6 – meaning “who knows?”.

 

7 – His brother-in-law Ted Dewdney was transferred as Bank of Montreal branch manager from Greenwood to New Denver in 1916.  The community was originally settled by mostly Americans in the silver rush of the 1880’s and early 1890’s.  The naming of “New Denver” reflected the desire by the first settlers that it become as rich a mining centre as Denver in Colorado.

 

#4 – Fritz to Bertha                                                      April 20, 1916

 

H.M.S. Greyhound

c/o G.P.O.

Dear Mother,

Many thanks for your letter the address of which I forgot to note and consequently am now without it.  You did not say when you expected to leave Hythe to go to Folkestone.  Am glad to hear that Gerald is getting along well.

All news of prisoners seems to point to little chance of getting news from any in Belgium.  However I think it now quite certain that the end of the war will see Jack on his way home.

As for the war, it can end in one way only – unqualified victory for the Allies – if England so wills it.  Sea power is playing in this war – as in bygone wars – the dominant role and Germany knows it.  As Napoleon knew it.  If Germany cannot bring England to her knees, she is lost – utterly and irretrievably lost – and none know it better than themselves.  Are the lessons of history wasted?  I think not.  So long as England wills it, the end is certain and the end is victory.  But the people are not yet awakened to the vastness of the effort required.

…I hate this letter-writing business.

No, you did not see me in London, where I have not been these past three months.  As a matter of fact, on the day in question I was at sea.

 

Yours,

Fritz

 

#5 – Fritz to Bertha                                             July 23/24, 19161

 

H.M.S. Greyhound

 

My Dear Mother,

I have just returned from 7th Battalion and it is bad news that I bring with me.  Poor old Jelly2 was killed on June 3rd and his body has been recovered3.  Everything possible was done to get him in, but he must have attempted to crash in himself and been killed in the attempt.

At present the exact location of his grave is unknown as he was found and buried by PPLI4.

Shortly the 7th will be close to them and the Major now commanding has promised to write me at once exactly where he has been buried and to see cross put up.

It is very hard for you.  His personal effects found on him will be sent to you shortly.  I could not get them.  His company commander (not then commanding) searched from 9 pm until daylight that night.  Gerald must probably have been struck and instantly killed by a shell.

Well, Mother, what words of comfort can I offer?  For you it is the hardest part.  It is the price of Empire.  I pray God I fall in the same manner with my face to the enemy.  I will write you tomorrow the fullest details, though there is little to add, but must mail this now.  This will probably be your first word.

 

Yours ever,

Fritz

 

1 – The letter wasn’t dated but it is likely to have been written the same day or the day before his dated letter sent to Helen.

 

2 – Nickname in the family for Gerald.

 

3 – The Germans had taken Mt. Sorrel the day before, on June 2, 1916, and the 7th Battalion was among the Canadian forces ordered by British Lieutenant-General Julian Byng to launch an immediate counteroffensive to re-take the lost position before the enemy could establish strong defences.  It was Canadian troops’ largest offensive so far in the war.  Gerald was listed as “missing” for seven weeks, and then declared to have died on June 3, 1916.  [vi]

 

4 – Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry

 

#6 – Fritz to sister Helen                                    July 24, 1916

 

H.M.S. Greyhound

c/o G.P.O.

 

My Diegle Hagen,

This is sad news about poor old Jelly.  I suppose you will have heard by now that he has been killed.  I am but shortly returned from a visit to the 7th Battalion.  I found them in their rest camp not far from Ypres.  They were to return to reserve trenches the next night.  Word had then just come through from the regiment who relieved them (the PPCLI) that Gerald’s body had been discovered.

It is a sickening business – the more so for poor Mother.  She had been nearly distracted by different letters she had received, all more or less contradictory, and had made up her mind that Gerald could have been saved if only someone had taken the trouble to try and get him.

Well, I saw them all – all that were left and in justice to them, I don’t think it their fault that G. wasn’t got in.  I will give you the story as I know it:

The 7th Battalion were ordered to make a counterattack on the morning of 3 June.  It was doomed to failure before they started, with no artillery preparation, but was apparently necessary to show the Huns that they could not come on.

At 7:30 am they commenced the attack – Gerald’s company supporting 2 or 4, I forget which.  Enfiladed by machine guns it was repulsed.  Gerald got about 80 yards when he was hit and rolled over into a trench or rather a sap.  By this time the attack had failed and everyone had taken cover and was retreating to our trench.

Gerald was wounded through the wrist, leg and shoulder – all slight flesh wounds but apparently sufficiently bad to keep him from crawling in at once.  His wounds were dressed and he was put in a good position in the sap – being about 3 inches below surface.  To carry him in was impossible as he would have been exposed and at once killed.  Where he was, he was entirely safe from rifle fire and not many shells were falling in the middle of No Man’s Land, nearly all were falling on our trench.

Meanwhile what was left of the battalion was slowly creeping back.  Barton saw Gerald about 9 am and gave him a flask of rum.  Captain Saunders – who told me most and who had written me before – left Gerald at 10 am giving him a bottle of water and biscuits and promising to get him in that night.  Gerald was quite all right then.  Carstairs was the last to see him I suppose about noon (I have not seen Carstairs) and after that the rest must be surmise.

At 9 pm Saunders went out and straight to the spot – the spot itself was undamaged by shell, but no signs of Gerald.  Saunders was out until 1:30 am and got in 25 wounded.  I don’t think he could have done more.  He saw no signs of Gerald.

If only Gerald had waited he would undoubtedly have been saved.  Probably he rallied and thought he would crawl in as many of the wounded did during the day.

Perhaps he exposed himself, or went the wrong way or a stray shell.  Suffice it, that he never got in.  The Major, now commanding 7th battalion, has promised me the exact location of his grave and a cross to be put up.  Also to see how far he did get.

It is very heartbreaking.  He was so keen to do great things.  He has died for the Empire and with his face to the enemy and the Gods are not so kind to all men.  I shall visit his grave as soon as the war is over or perhaps earlier.  Standing there that afternoon in the rest camp with a blazing sun overhead and the green fields around, there was little of war save the sound of a bombing party practicing and the occasional drone of some passing aeroplane.

The regiment was passing the afternoon with a boxing competition – the regulation ring and the men four deep around it, I sharing an old box with the Major (Gardiner by name) and I couldn’t help thinking how often old Jack must have been doing just the same and then Jelly.  It made me very sad.  Poor old Jack – I don’t see how one can keep up the farce of hoping.  No, for them both the soldier’s grave in the firing line and for us the stiff upper lip and the thought that it is for the Empire.

Poor Mother – I don’t know what she will do.  She was so bound up in Gerald.  I want her now to go out to you for a few months and then to come back to England until the war is over.  She can never go back to Prince Rupert.  She would lose her reason if she did.  Of that I am sure.

The casualties are very heavy these days.  Few people are unaffected.  I was very sorry Hubert Leatham1 was killed and also both the Laurences.

Give my chin chin to Ted.  I hope my niece is well.  I was very sorry to hear you had been laid up during the winter with throat trouble.

Heavens what a transitory business life is!  Consider it, one day after another, a month, a year – slide by.  Here, Helen, you are twenty-nine and I twenty-seven.  A brief space – old age – death.

A death in action – surely if we are judged for the vast eternity by this brief mortal span – must be something.

Poor old Father – alone in Prince Rupert.  Yes, the war has hit us pretty hard.

But what is it, Hagen, in the balance?  There is only one thing – the King and Empire.

 

Yours,

Fritz

 

1 – John Sandford Leatham of the Canadian 13th battalion died June 12, 1916 at Ypres.

#7 – Fritz to Bertha                                            September 7, 1916

 

H.M.S. Greyhound

 

Dear Mother,

Of course I don’t mind you leaving the Windsor.  I quite agree it is the closest approach to a tomb that I know.  I like the smoking room and as a matter of fact I enjoy the walk across the park in the morning to the haunts of leisure in Picadilly.

Don’t get a doll for Helen’s baby.  I am getting something which I will get you to take out.  I don’t see why you shouldn’t change your mind about going out.  Even I – paragon of all virtues – change my mind occasionally.

On the other hand, I expect I could send you ₤50 early next year if you want to come back.  Really I think it is a matter of your inclination.  I should think the change for a few months would do you good.

I, too, am hopeful about Jack.

Here there is little news.  I have written about Gerald, but I don’t hold out much hope of further information.  Amongst the thousand other queries, time quickly put aside details, nor is it to be wondered at.

I read Father’s speech with much interest.  Poor old Father – he must feel pretty sad at times.  I thought the speech good – of course the usual thundering type – Father never went in for half measures – the more power to his elbow.  Truly “a might have been” but if it comes to that there are thousands more in this wicked world.

The war goes on.  I am hopeful of an earlier finish than most people anticipate, but really I have nothing to go on.

I must get you to take some books out to Helen.  One can get nearly anything worth reading these days on at the most a shilling.

I wish I could come up for a night and take you to something just to cheer you up, but I fear at the moment it is impossible.

It is good work this Zeppelin being brought down.  The pilot1 comes out of it pretty well.  V.C. and the best part of four thousand jimmies.

My old friend Powell has just returned to the front – this time commanding a battery.  He was before in the Seaforths and came back with nothing worse than a slight flesh wound.

 

Your son,

Fritz

 

1 – German Zeppelin airships were dropping bombs on targets in England.  Small scale compared to the aerial bombing in World War Two, but still extremely worrying for the civilian population.  At about 2:15 am on Sept. 3, 1916 Lieutenant William Leefe Robinson became the first British flyer to shoot down a zeppelin, downing it in three passes of shooting.  He was also the first to earn a Victoria Cross for action over Britain.  In April 1917 Robinson was shot down over enemy lines by a unit of German planes led by Manfred von Richtofen.  He was mistreated as a prisoner and died December 31, 1918 from the Spanish flu to which his imprisonment made him particularly susceptible.

 

#8 – Fritz to Bertha                                            September 26, 1916

 

H.M.S. Christopher

c/o G.P.O.

 

My Dear Mother,

Your time grows short now.  I wonder if you have had your night’s sleep disturbed lately by these Zepps.  Life here has been pretty busy.  In fact I have – save for 24 hours off – had my hands full since I left you.  Well I wish I were bound once more for the far West – for the deep stillness of the mountains – alone a million miles from the rush and hubbub of the world – and just the vast eternity of space above you and the incredible solitude of the mountains around you.

I wonder if I shall see those slopes again in this brief mortal span.

I do hope Butter has turned up to see you off.  I wish it were possible that I could.  Probably when you shove off from the famous Prince’s Landing Slope I shall also be on the deep.

There is little to say.  My love to Helen and Ted and to the young chee-ild a kiss and then a sound spanking – just to keep her in order.

I give the war twelve months more to run, but I think before then I shall see you in England again with Helen.

 

Yours ever,

Fritz

 

.

#9 – Fritz to Bertha                                                      October 6, 1916

 

H.M.S. Christopher

 

My Dear Mother,

Have been really too busy to write before or now at any length.  What is the name of the ship that you will be crossing in on November 2nd?  Where have you decided to stay in London?  There will be no chance at all for me to see you before you leave.

One is reminded that the winter is approaching again.  It is a blessing to find one’s self once again in a seaworthy craft.  At present as is usual in recommissioning everything is upside down.  Time is the only cure.  Another month or so will effect much.

I thought of you on the 29th as plunging your way Westward into the Atlantic – westward, into the far, far West with the setting sun and the great mountains sweeping down into the lakes.

I had a letter from Father a few days ago but it did not contain any news of interest.

I spent a day last month at Windermere.  The first time that I had been in the Lake district in England – very quiet and very much at peace.  A beautiful day and the lake like a mill pond.  Miles away from war, or rumour of war.

Nothing much of interest to tell you.  Have hardly seen a paper these past five days.

Yes, London is a great place to wander aimlessly about.  Think of the countless thousands, nay millions, who have hurried to and fro like a hive of busy bees.  Each with their own small constellations, their hopes and fears, their joys and sorrows, today they’re here and tomorrow they’re gone.

Truly life is a strange proposition.

 

Yours,

Fritz

#10 – Fritz to Bertha                                          October 15, 1916

 

H.M.S. Christopher

 

My Dear Mother,

It is some time since I have heard from you.  I hope you’re alright.  Are you in London now or still with Aunt Florence1?

I have been very busy these past three weeks.  It is an irksome business settling down in a new ship though interesting, really, when it is one’s own.  There is always the fear that one may be given one’s opportunity too soon – before you are so organized as to make the very best of it.  Still, it is a great thing to have a decent craft2 again after a perishing thirty knotter.  Another winter in the Greyhound would have driven me to drink or suicide or both.

I had a letter from Father the other day, but it did not contain anything worth recording.  The main drawback to this place is that one gets no leave to speak of.  I look forward really to a pretty quiet winter.

You have not chosen a very good month to cross the Atlantic.  I hope you will find Helen well.  I should think that in one of the Bank’s houses3 you should not suffer from cold.  I must send something out to the young brat, but my brain – undoubtedly great though it is – always refuses to work when faced with a problem of this nature.  My thoughts revolve around the tiger, but really it is a waste of money to spend it on a toy that will probably be out of action within a week.

I wonder what Helen will find to do during the winter months – now if she were a huntress she might out into the mountains with the infant strapped on her back, to hunt the lone grey wolf – but perhaps that would not appeal to her.

Have you heard lately from the Mellishes4?  It is really a long time since I have seen them.  Nearly two years – at Hodsock at any rate.

This cursed train service is so damnably bad that I might as well be in Timbuktoo – as hope to get anywhere in reasonable time even if one would get away.  What boat are you now going to cross by and when does she sail and when is she due in Montreal?

Write me your movements.

 

Yours truly,

Fritz

 

1 – Bertha’s sister Florence Gray Poole.  Bertha stayed at her house in Guildford southeast of London on several occasions.  Bertha would have been at the Poole’s when Florence heard of her son Eric Skeffington Poole’s troubles.  Eric, who was born in 1885 in Nova Scotia and came to Britain with his family in about 1905, was a second lieutenant with the West Yorkshire regiment.  He had experienced shell shock in July at the Battle of the Somme.  On October 5 he wandered away from his platoon nears Flers, France and apprehended two days later.  In November authorities decided to court martial him for desertion.  The trial began on Nov. 21.  He received a death sentence which was confirmed by General Douglas Haig, and was shot at dawn on Dec. 10, 1916 at Poperinghe, Belgium.

 

2 – Launched in 1912, Fritz’s new destroyer HMS Christopher had maximum speed of 32 knots.

 

3 – The Bank of Montreal provided houses in which its branch managers resided in each community.  From 1916 to 1920 the Dewdneys lived in quarters above the bank office in New Denver.  Bertha Peters lived with the Dewdney family almost continuously after returning from England in November 1916, and then permanently after the death of her husband Fred Peters in July 1919 in Prince Rupert, B.C.  She couldn’t bear to return to Prince Rupert because of memories there of her son Gerald who died at Ypres.  Bertha and Fred were together for a holiday in spring of 1919, but otherwise his work as city solicitor and city clerk required him to be in Prince Rupert and meant they were apart for all but a short time after Gerald’s death.

#11 – Fritz to Bertha (undated)

 

…I do not often see the Brackenburys living at Hampstead, which is really quite easy I suppose to get at from London, but I am not in love with the tube and a taxi costs the half of one’s princely fortune…

…The really annoying part is I know I don’t look old enough.  I think I shall grow a beard and mustache.

No, on second thought, I will not.  I should never dare tackle a poached egg – a weakness, yes a distinct weakness – again.

 

Yours,

Fritz

#12 – Fritz to Bertha                                          December 9, 1916

 

H.M.S. Christopher

 

My Dear Mother,

I trust long  ‘ere this reaches you that you will have arrived at New Denver.  It sounds as though one ought to put Kansas or Washington or something equally ill-sounding after it.  I wonder who was the genius responsible for such an ill-chosen name.  Long since this I meant to have written you, but of a truth I have little time for writing and what small time I have is entirely engrossed in the filling of voluminous registers – an appalling pile of documents requiring my illustrious signature stands on my left, and what I should be doing is to stretch my truly weary limbs on an inviting brink or lose myself in the wonders, the mysteries of a sweet dreamland.

I hope you wrote me from Montreal.  Did my namesake1 worry you at all on the old Atlantic?  They cause me many sleepless hours.  God help the one I meet – he will receive scant mercy from yours truly.

How did you find Helen and Ted and the small child?  I forget if you got her a doll from me.  I grieve I omitted in the maize of a vast series of financial operations to get her the tiger.  She has my love and best wishes.

I got your two telegrams about five days after you had sailed.  During the intervening period I was thrashing this perishing ocean.

I return you Swann’s letter.  I have written him and can hardly express an opinion of much value until I hear from him.  I attach small hope to his letter.  If Jack was in Germany, then he would be able to communicate.

Lieut. Robinson of the 49th battalion found Gerald’s body.  Gerald was buried by Captain Clark of P.P.C.L.I.2

The war must now be nearing its final stage.  I should think another two years should bring it to a termination.  One gets out of touch going for so long without a paper.  Certainly some days ago it looked as though Asquith, that hat peg for so much abuse, must really go3.

This is a wonderful period.  A hundred years hence, it will be the cause of much study, many laboured essays and otherwise wasting of that valuable commodity – ink – and no one can say that the end is in sight and that the scales have gone down to the winner.  Already I can hear the rush of feet along the upper deck.  What will it be?  A man with a large fat cheque for me?  I think not.  I am no prophet, but it will be something in this wise – “Raise steam with utmost dispatch and report when ready!”  I wish I too could step further and view the great mountains and the great lakes.

Just to watch the sun sink, and the moon flood all the still world with her splendour.  If, indeed, there is a heaven above, it must be fashioned in this manner.

By the way, have you received a volume of letters from the CPR addressed Mrs. F. Peters.  Letters from one, two – five different ships, was it not.  I flatter myself they were rather well done and like the great artist I am, I never once repeated myself.  I am thinking of starting a school – hints on how to write letters to the departing guest – somewhat in that line.

 

Yours,

Fritz

 

1 – He means Germans, who were often called “Fritz” like his nickname.

 

2 – There is no identified grave containing Gerald’s body.  It appears he was buried in a makeshift cemetery in the Ypres Salient that was destroyed in later war action.  Gerald and Jack Peters are among 55,000 British and Commonwealth officers and men who died in the Ypres Salient with no identifiable remains whose names are listed on the Menin Gate Memorial in the town of Ypres, Belgium.

 

3- On Dec. 7, 1916 Herbert Asquith was replaced as Britain’s prime minister by David Lloyd George, reflecting the change in the political environment from “business as usual” to “total war”.

 

#13 – Fritz to Bertha                                          December 16, 1916

 

H.M.S. Christopher

 

My Dear Mother,

I was awfully glad to get your letter to say that you were arrived in the St. Lawrence.  I hope you had a good trip across Canada and found Helen and her family in good form.  I shall be interested to hear what you think of New Denver.  I suppose too much of real nature about it for your likings.  I suppose you will have seen Aunt Mim1 in Montreal.  By the way, what has happened to Maggie Peters2?  One never hears of her these days – the Auntie Na that in P.E.I. we were so fond of.

Here life goes on as usual.  These sweeping changes in the Government seem all for the good.  For pure vigour, we have today a very healthy collection of leaders.  I think now, in truth, it will be death or glory, and war was never yet successfully waged without risks and probably never will be.

There is extraordinarily little to tell you.  I hope we shall spend Christmas at sea.  It is a wretched day in harbour especially in war time.

This sea business is terribly dull, a great deal of sea time with perishing little to show for it.  Twas ever thus.  A hundred odd years ago the frigates of old were scouring the channel.  Nelson’s Mediterranean fleet were keeping their ceaseless vigil off Toulon in the Gulf of Lyons where rules the worst weather in the world – scarce three fine days in as many months.  Imagine it in the old three-decker – the continual strain of shops short of all supplies.  The terrible weather, the ceaseless, utter monotony beside which today one’s own boredom fades into insignificance.

Wonderful to think of it all – England facing the world – France usurping Germany’s position of today.  Think of the countless ships that have ploughed their way through the Channel – think of the galleons laden with gold – of the great convoys of merchantmen and then of the fleet of the ships of the line – that barrier which today as then stands solid as a rock between England and her enemies.

Truly it is a great tradition that lies behind the Navy of England.

And I wonder where we were then and where we will be in 2016.

Some passable weather considering the time of the year.  I must now settle down to a few diplomatic letters to my various tradesmen, a letter of Christmas greeting to my banker… and a host of letters to various others, not to speak of some 12 different reports as to why I have done this and why I have not done that, and in the end I shall pick up a book and enter a world far from these maudlin things and so do none of them.

Good night.  I think of you in the shadow of the mountains.

 

Yours,

Fritz

 

1 – Bertha’s sister Mary (also known in the family as Mim or May) Gray who married William Abbott and lived in Montreal.  Her house was a convenient stop for members of the Peters family on their way to or from England.

 

2 – Fred’s sister Margaret Laura Peters (1855-1935) who never married and still lived in Charlottetown.

 

——————————————————————————–

#14Fritz to Bertha                                          January 16, 1917

 

H.M.S. Christopher letterhead

 

My Dear Mother,

Hope you’re all well.  Life going on here much as usual, which means highly monotonous.      The war is entering an interesting phase.  This I hope will be the year of victory and 1918 rout to the Huns.  I don’t see how we can predict anything until we have seen what happens on the Western Front this summer.  Beat them then and they are at our mercy.

Am looking forward to a few days leave in February.  I suppose now I will see the war to an end in this craft, much as I would like a new one.  My seniority is wrong – too junior for anything good.

How is Helen and whatever the brat is called?  How long does Ted expect to remain at New Denver before getting a shift somewhere else?  It must be a trial being unable to get any servants.  Nuisance moving from one house to another.  Will Ted go to Victoria or anywhere like that soon, think you?1

I have not heard from Father for many moons.  Winter is with us.  Pretty cold and not very pleasant at sea.  I dislike cold weather at sea most intensely.  The water has that chill which, pleasant enough in the cold bath of the morning, gets monotonous through excess.  I think I am going to write a play this year just to collect a few of those so necessary shekels.  Well, there will be “some” slaughter this spring.  I take it my share in this perishing war is over.  …Who can tell?  Love to all.

Yours, F.T.P.

P.S.  By the way, when is my young niece’s birthday?

P.P.S. You have not answered my query as to the ice boat, which it is my intention to bring with me.

 

1 – Ted would spend the rest of his career and life in the mountainous West Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia.  His work with the bank would take him and his family and mother-in-law Bertha to Rossland in 1920 and then to Trail in 1927, and two years later to Nelson, where he managed the local office of the Bank of Montreal until retiring in 1940.  The family then moved to their own house on Stanley Street in Nelson, where Bertha received the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross on behalf of her late son in a ceremony in February 1944.

#15 – Fritz to Bertha                                          February 10, 1917

 

H.M.S. Christopher c/o G.8.0.

 

I am owing you a letter for some time, but have little leisure either in or out of harbour. You ask me concerning bridge. I should think Bascule was as good as any. As far as I remember, I once sent you a book on bridge, which if my memory serves me right, carefully selected from a bookstall at Paddington Station. You said, too, it was no good — base ingratitude. Never mind, undaunted, I will send you another one.

Bridge, in any case, depends a good deal on luck — given players of equal skill, there is 80% luck in the business.

I was reading an article in the Strand magazine for February on pirate bridge1 — an idea apparently originating — not with the Hun — but with the author. Glancing casually over it, it seemed as though it might prove amusing.

By the way, a question I have asked several times remains still unanswered — what is the birthday of the small girl Evelyn?

I notice nowadays all your letters are opened by the Censor.

I was sorry to hear Eric Poole2 has been killed.

Little of interest. Do you ever hear from Father these days? He seldom writes to me, but on the other hand I cannot pretend to carrying on any vast correspondence with him.

I wish I could get some booty out of this cursed war. I see one of our submarine people has in a claim for ₤31,000 for sinking a Turkish troopship. I hope he gets it, but expect that the noble Lord of the Treasury will put a healthy spoke in his calculations. A cheque for a small sum of that nature would be highly diverting.

Love to all,

 

Yours, Fritz

 

1 – Pirate bridge – also known as auction bridge – involved players bidding on their own, with no partners except for the current deal.

 

2 – Fritz’s cousin Eric Poole was tried and found guilty of desertion and became the first British officer to be executed for desertion in the First World War.  It is interesting that Fritz’s terse mention of Eric’s death follows a sentence about letters being opened by the Censor.  Perhaps Fritz is hinting to his mother that anything controversial the family might say about Eric’s case could be reported to authorities by the Censor.  Or perhaps there was agreement within the family to keep quiet about the execution and hope the subject was not brought up by others.

 

 

#16 – Fritz to Father                                                    March 3, 1917

 

The Cottage

Hambrook

Bristol

 

My Dear Father,

Very many thanks for your letter which I received some time ago.  I shall be enormously obliged if you will send me the names of the books that I shall require to study Canadian politics.  If circumstances permit I shall most certainly make a close study of the documents in the British Museum relating to the Confederation1, before returning to Canada.  Your views on history are my own.  The hackneyed saying “there is nothing new under the sun” is certainly largely borne out by a study of history and truly what can be more interesting than the lives of the great men of the past.  Yet history to the majority of men is a closed book – closed when the school days are over and gone.

Myself, I have but lately given any thought or study to the matter.

As you say, there must be many questions in Canada, as well as elsewhere in Empire, that will require immediate settlement, but I suppose I could hardly hope to take an active part in politics before the seven years after the war, during which period I would hope to make sufficient to be able to be free to devote myself entirely to politics.

To my way of thinking, the most pressing question in Canada today is the question of teaching in the schools.

I have lately made friends with a very worthy fellow who is a partner in a firm in London whose business it is to supply school masters etc to schools principally in England but also to the colonies.  He has supplied some six schools in Canada with masters – perhaps not absolutely first class, but at any rate very good – good enough for the “Clifton” type say of English public school.  These schools – staffed principally by English school masters – are run on English public school lines and have been very successful from a moneymaking point of view.  What type of person they turn out I don’t know, but should immensely like to know.  In particular, there was one at Vancouver (I think) called University College run by an Englishman by name of Harvey2 – a most excellent fellow I believe.  Aged perhaps 43, he volunteered and was killed early in the war and I do not know what has happened to the school.3              Now these as I say are some half dozen schools of I should think an excellent type, but what of the remainder?  What of the state schools – they are run by government are they not?

After all, what do you want to gain most by education?  Knowledge – well, any type of school master can impart that the hotel employee, the journalist, one and all are tarred with a hideous coat of vanity, and what is the reason of it?  What can it be but the early schooling.

I remember an incident – I shall not easily forget it – a game of rugger in Vancouver.  One side a team of very decent fellows for whom I occasionally turned out when circumstances permitted and the other a team of boys from a Canadian school.  This team of boys were outplayed and being badly beaten.  Half way through the second half they got fed up and decided to give up the game.  There was much talk and finally they did play it out, but imagine the idea even being considered by a team of decent boys!

Bah – the thought of it makes me vomit.

That is, I presume (from the present result) the type of school that is turning out the Western citizen of today.

No doubt the war will do much, but future education will do a deal more and it must – unless you would have Canada a second United States – devoid of anything, honour or aught else, save an overwhelming self-conceit.  God forbid it.

And after all his talk, the Western Canadian is not a very first-class specimen of humanity – give him many points – self-reliance, a certain ability to do things, but lacking largely in truth or personal honour and without these two, the rest are just sawdust in the mouth.

This enormous self-conceit will be a stumbling block in the way of any just system of Imperial representation, which  must come, and I would be well pleased to see it uprooted and the seeds of a more becoming modesty sown in its place.

Heavens, it’s a wonderful country.  B.C. will one day take its place in the councils of Empire, but from its present population that place would be as well-filled by one of those damned money grubbers below the border, whose end and aim in life is the dollar – a goal shared far too largely by the Western Canadians.

Such are my views – I would admit them to few, but such they are and I pray that one day I may be able to alter them.

I should be more than interested to hear yours, not your newspaper views but what you really think on the matter.

The remedy just lie in the staffs of the schools.  Make your teachers good – instilled with the right principles – and the rest will follow…

 

1 – Fritz was particularly interested in the history of Canadian confederation because his grandfather John Hamilton Gray was the Father of Confederation for Prince Edward Island.

 

2 – Captain R.V. Harvey helped found the University School in Victoria which is now known as St. Michael’s University School.  He is described on the school’s web site as an ardent outdoorsman who was a big believer in cadet corps and scouting.  The “Old Boys” of the school, many of whom went to war with Harvey, were said to have held him in highest esteem.  Each Remembrance Day at the school, a passage from his last letters to the school before dying from injuries suffered at the 2nd Battle of Ypres is read in the remembrance ceremony.[vii]

 

3 – The family’s application for Fritz to attend Bedford Grammar School in England in 1900 noted that Fritz’s previous schooling was with Rev. W.W. Bolton of Victoria.  Fritz would have attended the small school that Rev. Bolton (1858-1946) ran from 1898 until 1906 when he became a co-founder of the new University School, where he served as a Warden until 1920.  Rev. Bolton was born in Staffordshire and attended Caius College, Cambridge.  He came to Canada as a missionary in Saskatchewan in 1884, and was rector at the St. Paul’s Church in Esquimalt, B.C. from 1887 until establishing the first school.  The history section of the St. Michael’s University web site says that Rev. Bolton “was loved and respected by all who knew him.  The things he stood for – scholarship, gentlemanly conduct, sportsmanship, athletic ability and good physical condition, will always be a part of our school tradition.”[viii]

#17 – Fritz to Bertha                                                    March 6, 1917

 

H.M.S. Christopher letterhead

 

Dear Mother,

I am afraid it is a long time since I last wrote.  How is Helen?  Life here continues much the same as ever.  A good deal of sea time and not much tangible result.  I am rather tired of being a miserable pawn in the game and would like to find myself suddenly shot up into one of the positions of power – just to feel the levers of mighty happenings in one’s grasp – well who knows one day – if I am not dead of drink or some other pleasant complaint – probably a swollen liver.  I don’t think I am a very pleasant person to serve under.

There is deuced little to say.  I have chewed off half my pen and come to the undoubted conclusion that there is nothing to say.  What I would like is a gramophone which you just talk into – it records the talking – and then these priceless words of wisdom are thrust into the post and hence you from your gramophone can hear my sweet voice calling as Harry Tate1 – the immortal – would have it.

Just think of the trouble you’d save – think of the economy in ink.

I am quite disgusted to hear this wretched lake never freezes.  What is the good of a lake that does not freeze?  I take it it is very deep.  The Okanagan Lake used to freeze, did it not?

Yes, money or the lack of it, is rather a curse at times.  I wonder if yours truly will die with many millions.  I don’t think so.

I’m glad the young chee-ild shows character.  I think she will turn out a real flier.  I hope so.

Love to all.  When is the child’s birthday?  This, my dear Mother, is the fifteenth time of asking.

 

Yours,

Fritz

 

1 – Harry Tate (1872-1940) was a Scottish comedian who performed in music halls and films.

#18 – Fritz to Bertha                                                    March 25, 1917

 

Hodsock Priory

Worksop

 

My Dear Mother,

I am enjoying a few days leave and am at present at Hodsock1 where everyone is well and much the same as ever.  Few changes here save in the farm labourer – largely replaced by women.  Blustery weather for March – snow and northerly winds, which feel their way to the backbone.

Shall later this week pay the Francklyns2 a visit.

I hope Helen and her family are all right.

Little news from these parts that will interest you.  I hope you receive the “Weekly Times” fairly regularly.  Posts abroad now are not highly reliable and letters from Canada are a long time in the coming.  The Christopher goes strong.  I suppose that unless the unexpected happens, I shall see the business through in her.  One is badly placed for seniority which puts one out of the running for a more amusing flotilla.

You certainly will not be able to return to England before the war is over.  To cross the Atlantic during the present time3 is a thing I should not care to see you attempt.

However, I think the end of this summer will give one some more definite idea as to how the war is going to terminate.  Certainly the social problems that will as a matter of course follow any peace proceedings will take a good deal of settling – but first and foremost – to finish the war…

This recent German retreat must give one a clearer idea as to the fate of the invaded territory.  How can we in England realize the true meaning of the frightfulness of war until the country has been invaded – which pray God it never will be.

Love to all.

 

Yours,

Fritz

 

1 – The Mellishes were Cunard cousins who owned the stately manor known as Hodsock Priory.

 

2 – The Francklyns were Cunard descended cousins in Bristol.  Members of the Peters family regularly stayed with them and corresponded with them.

 

3 – The German subs were now sinking ships without restrictions.

#19 – Fritz to Bertha                                                    June 2, 1917

 

H.M.S. Christopher letterhead

 

Dear Mother,

Many thanks for your letter of May 4th which I have just received.  I am delighted to hear this news1 of Helen and of course I should be equally delighted to be his Godfather.  Be careful to spell his name without the “k” – Frederic – saves ink – war economy.  Anyhow it’s how I spell mine2.  How old is Evelyn?  What do you call her?  I suppose the boy will be called Fred.  It really is splendid and the family right too, to be fine healthy specimens of humanity…

Life here much as usual.  We do a great deal of sea time in fact we live there entirely and at times I get very bored.  Wish I had joined the New Army or the flying corps and see something of war.

Yes it was sad to hear of Uncle Henry’s3 death – a most honourable man.  Kindness itself – but he was full of years and after all what is this life of one’s but a transitory flight across a brief space of time and then into the vast eternity of life beyond. Who but a fool can believe in nothing and if one does believe in Christianity surely the sorrows of this life are but short lived in the certainty of reunion in the next.

If one doesn’t believe in Christianity, well the devil help us because no one else will…

 

Yours,

Fritz

 

1 – The birth of Helen’s son Peter Dewdney on May 2, 1917 in New Denver, B.C..  His official name was Frederic Hamilton Bruce Dewdney.  As an adult he had his name changed to Frederic Hamilton Peter Dewdney to incorporate the nickname of Peter he had from an early age.

 

2 – Fritz’s family and friends knew his preference for his first name without the “k” and used that spelling in correspondence.  However, in the time since his death, in government files and publications about Victoria Cross recipients, his first name is more often than not spelled “Frederick”.

 

3 – Henry Skeffington Poole, husband of Bertha’s sister Florence, died on March 31, 1917.  He was well-known as a mining engineer in England and Canada’s Maritimes.  It is possible that the stress associated with the recent trial and execution of his son Eric for desertion contributed to Henry’s death at age 73.  [ix]

#20 – Fritz to Bertha                                                    July 12, 1917

 

H.M.S. Christopher

 

Dear Mother,

I am certainly a poor correspondent, but can the leopard change his spots?  I am sorry to hear Helen is still poorly.

I am distressed to hear that the lake1 does not freeze.  This is certainly a great drawback.  The Okanagan lakes used to freeze.  I suppose this is deeper.  To my mind nothing is so refreshing as living beside water.

The sea I think for preference if the coast line is an attractive one such as Cornwall or Italy or indeed parts of Vancouver Island.  Then a lake, and when in the mountains I would almost give that the primary place and then a river.

Think of the millions of poor souls who spend their lives in the plains or in the great cities.

If I ever marry – and now it seems that unless this branch of our noble family is to die out I shall have to do so – I shall build a house on some promontory overlooking a bay and here I shall live.

The sea in the summer is a pleasant enough place but to waste one’s life on it is a foolish thing.  Man is not a fish.  He is essentially a beast of the shore.

I should much like to see Helen’s children.  I hope they will grow up in her likeness.  I have always considered Helen a woman of marked personality and a charm that is all her own.

 

Yours,

Fritz

 

1 – At the time Bertha was staying with Helen’s family at New Denver, on the north part of Slocan Lake, a deep body of water that does not freeze at the top in winter.

#21 – Fritz to Bertha                                                    August 3, 1917

second 1916 letter of fritz 001a

August 3, 1917 letter from Fritz to his mother

HMS Christopher

c/o G.P.O.

 

My Dear Mother,

Very glad to get your letter and to hear that the young chee-ild has been christened Frederic without a “k” – a most important point and one which will doubtless have heavy bearing on the distinguished future that lies before him.

Glad to hear that Noel has got over at last.  I will of course do anything I can for him.  I have temporarily mislaid his address – a weakness of mine – please send it.  The idea that I should take no notice of him is strongly distasteful to me.  Poor Noel – if he is half-witted, it is no fault of his own.

I suppose you will be seeing old Father again soon.  I should very much like to get hold of his political views on many subjects but I fear I never shall.  Father is really pretty old now – old in mind.  I don’t think he troubles himself very much about past matters.  Things today which may interest me enormously are to him things dead.  And that indeed is I should imagine the case with very many men.

I am very glad that Helen married a Canadian and not an Englishman.  I am a tremendous believer in country.

Heavens, the future that lies before this empire of ours is vast, enormous, tremendous in all its possibilities.

The 3rd great battle of Ypres is beginning – it is the biggest effort yet made.  I see the flood of battle breaks again on St. Julien.  This time, though, we are advancing.  The initiative is with us.

Well, Mother, our personal losses have been pretty heavy, but upon my soul there are worse things than death.  Jack and Gerald have died gloriously on the field of the battle for the Empire.

Just consider for a moment what the countries invaded go through.  What it means to have home pillaged, the inmates shot or carried off.  The terrible uncertainty as to what may have happened to those taken away.  Our family losses are just one in many hundreds of thousands.  Death is nothing compared to dishonour.

I wish you had something to interest yourself in.  If you can think of anything which would at all interest you I wish you would let me know and I will get the matter up for you.

Life here is much as usual, which means that there is nothing to say and I am heartily bored with life in general.

My love to all.

Yours affectionately,

Fritz

#22 – Fritz to Bertha                                          November 11, 1917

 

Central Station Hotel letterhead

Glasgow

 

My Dear Mother,

Many thanks for your letter containing Noel’s address, which I was very glad to get.  Why on earth he didn’t write me on coming to England I simply cannot conceive.  However I have written him and hope I shall get news of him shortly.

Until further notice, please address my letters c/o Admiralty, Whitehall, London, SWI.

Yes, Mother, I am afraid you have a heavy cross to bear.  Yours is a loss which nothing can now replace, but remember you are one case in many, many thousands.  Therefore to the outer world be determined to show a cheerful face and thereby keep your own self-respect.  To me, of course, or to Helen say what you like.  Remember things might be ever so much worse.  Pick up the daily paper and look at the criminal courts and think of the misery brought into some family or other.  Our boys have died an honourable death.

Look at Japan, study for a moment their customs.  The man goes forth and dies in battle and the woman rejoices because he has so died.  That is the only way to regard it – at any rate, in public.

And what good, anyhow, to dwell in your mind on this loss.  You say you cannot help it.  To a large degree this is true, but if you really make up your mind to it, it must go a long way towards it.

You talk, Mother, in your letters a great deal about spiritualism.  I really question if it is a good thing.  I do not pretend to have gone deeply into these matters, but anyhow it is a question about which little is known and much morbid nonsense written.

Your own consolation must lie in true religion.  If you cannot believe in a future life, then indeed you are to be pitied, but if you do – then what need to give way to dejection, to steep yourself in misery.  Heavens, Mother, the shortness of this life of ours.  Surely while we are here, we can take our troubles, our losses in the right spirit, knowing them only to be just for such a little while.

You may count, Mother, on another score1 of years.  It rests with you what you are going to make of them.  Not only for yourself, but also for others and remember you owe a duty to others.

Don’t tell me that in private you can allow your thoughts to dwell on these things and in public you can, as it were, anoint your face and assume a cheerful aspect because the thing is impossible; it simply cannot be done.  No, you must firmly put these thoughts behind you and simply determine to infuse cheerfulness into this last twenty years of your life.  It will not be an easy thing to do… There is only one thing that will enable you to do it, a firm and true belief in God and in an after life wherein we will all be united.

Remember. Mother, there are many things the human reason cannot cope with.  Hold a stone in your hand, drop it, it falls and why? …

 

1 – As it turned out, she lived 29 more years

#23 – Fritz to Helen                                           November 11, 1917 Central Station, Glasgow

 

My diegle Hagen:

Ever so many thanks for your letter.  Also for the photograph of the young boy Frederic.  I am really rather vague as to what a Godfather ought to do in these matters.  A christening bowl or something like that appears to be indicated.  A bit late in the day perhaps, but, then, the child will not remember.  A bowl I believe in these affairs is the latest thing – a bowl therefore it will have to be.

For the moment I have not your letter by me and am certainly far too lazy to go up and get it.  Besides, anyone who asks questions is a fool for they are seldom answered.

I have lately had a letter from Mother giving me Noel’s address.  It is a thing I find hard to explain why she should not have sent me it before.  Noel has been over some time by now and it is only today, thanks to this delay, that I have written to him.  Why on earth the boy didn’t write me on his arrival I don’t know.  Mother writes a very miserable letter.  I wish one could do something to get her out of this road on which her thoughts are always travelling.  First of all, she seems keen on spiritualism.  I do not pretend to have gone deeply into the matter but this I do know, there is little really known about spiritualism and there is a great deal of morbid nonsense written about it.  It is just the last thing that Mother should dwell on or think she is going to get in touch with Gerald which is, of course, her ultimate object.

Mother has under normal circumstances another score of years on this world and it remains with her what use she is going to put them to.  It is absolutely wrong of her to brood in her own mind on her loss.  I do not say for a moment that she can banish the thought, but I am quite certain she can go a long way towards it, if she will but resolutely do her best to dismiss it on its entrance.  If she can’t do it alone, then you are the only person who can help her towards it.  When the war is over I will see that she comes to England and I hope you will be able to come too.

The only real thing that can help Mother now is true religion and a firm belief in an afterlife and in God.  Without these she is indeed to be pitied, but with them, what is the short wait on this earth. I am certain too that much real happiness awaits Mother if she will make up her mind to grasp it.  Happiness in your family, and it is absolutely wrong for her to think that she has no happiness left in life itself, for be certain that, if she so thinks, she will never find it.

Many people have a harder cross to bear.  Many people have had as heavy and worse losses.  What is going to become of the Empire if everyone of them is going to remain hidden by their cloak of misery for the remainder of their days?  It is morally wrong and Mother has got to so see it, or there is no future for her.

The war is likely to last a long time yet.  Russia and now Italy have added to the years.  The Hun is not yet beaten and will not be until we have driven him out of Belgium…

 

#24 – Fritz to Father                                           November 20, 1917

 

My Dear Father,

I have been meaning for some time to write you on this matter – the question of our financial position1.  I hope you will not mind my asking, but there are several points which I should very much like to know.

First, what will be the exact position of affairs when you die?  Second, what provision have you made for Mother and Noel?  If I die, an insurance policy will cover my own debts and in the end, i.e. when the Admiralty pay out prize money, I suppose my next of kin would get some ₤300 or ₤400, certainly not more and probably less.

The question I particularly would like to know is about Mother.  Her support would of course devolve on me, as also Noel, and I would very much like to know if you are going to leave anything towards it.

At the moment I am very heavily in debt.  I always am in this perishing Navy.  If I can get clear of debt – i.e. about ₤400 — I could allow Mother ₤120 while I am actually in command as I get about this much additional to my pay of 12/ a day.  The war looks a long way from being finished, and after it I shall have no choice but to leave again and try and collect a few of these so deuced elusive dollars.  It is quite hopeless to think of staying in the Navy if our present position financially is what I imagine it to be and marriage is equally out of the question which is I think a pity as our branch will thus die out.  I suppose our family has not done much still it is a really Canadian family and I would very much like to see it continue.  It is a pity that both the two boys have been killed.

I have never been told so but I imagine that Ted thinks he would have to contribute towards Mother’s upkeep if you died – a thing I would not allow for a moment unless I found it impossible to do so myself.  Anyhow I shall feel very much easier in my mind if it would not be too much trouble for you to let me know the whole state of affairs.  Please do not forget to send me birth certificate.  I wonder if you were able to raise me that two hundred I asked you for.

I would very much like to have what details you know concerning our family.  Also the original of crest.

 

Yours as ever,

F.T.P.

 

1 – Both Fred and Bertha were raised in families that were much better off financially than theirs would be.  [x]

#25 – Fritz to Bertha                                          November 18, 1918

 

H.M.S. Cockatrice letterhead

 

My Dear Mother,

So the end1 is reached.  I wish it were a happier end for you.

I am not sure of my movements.  I suppose the fleet will not be demobilized for some months to come.  When it is I shall apply for half pay.

I am going to take the first opportunity of going over to see about Gerald’s grave2.

As soon as I can arrange it I will get you over but I do not expect to be able to do so for a year or so after I leave the Navy as I shall not be able to afford it before then.  I do not advise, either, that you come over for at least a year, and I would suggest that Helen should come over as well.

Well, it has been a very great page in history.  A hundred years hence how very bored very many people will be with it and the thousand books on it and theories and Lord knows what.

I only hope that the Huns responsible for the ill treatment of our prisoners get their full deserts.  I should have liked to have seen Germany suffer something that Belgium has suffered.

Pity the Hun fleet did not come out, thereby spoiling the one good show the Navy might have had3.  Yes, a great pity.  Would have done our Navy a world of good and repaid them something for four and a half years of unutterable boredom, but it was not to be.

Well, I should not be so very surprised to see myself in Canada before next year is out.

 

Yours affectionately,

Fritz

 

P.S.  Very many thanks for the chocolates which made a belated arrival, but which were none the less excellent.

 

1 – The Armistice a week earlier brought an end to World War One.

 

2 – As it turned out, there would be no permanent grave for Gerald.  There may have been a gravesite with marker which was subsequently destroyed by shelling as ground changed hands in the war.

 

3 – It is interesting that he didn’t consider the Battle of Jutland in 1916 as a major battle between the British and German fleets.

 

 

#26 – Fritz to Bertha                                                    April 2, 1919

 

“H.M.S. Cockatrice” letterhead

Portland

 

Dear Mother:

 

I have received your letter of March 5th and will accordingly make the arrangements about Gerald’s grave.  I will also arrange the tablet in St. Peter’s Cathedral in Charlottetown and will have the same photographed and sent to you1.  I would like the date and place when Jack is missing and the same when Gerald was killed.

I haven’t heard whether Noel has left or not as he has not written since telling me (last January) that he was sailing next week.  I presume he has left.

Sorry to hear Father is so unwell, and hope this will find him better.

I will have my photo done when next I am in London tho’ it seems a waste of time and money and I am sure it can do the camera no good.

Not much news from here.  Life is very dull and desperately boring with nothing to do. Summer, thank heaven, will shortly be with us.  It has been pretty chilly here lately.

Very little news. I hope that Bolshevism is not going to envelop everything.

 

Yours, Fritz.

 

1 – There is a photograph from St. Peter’s Church in Charlottetown of a memorial that includes the names of Jack Peters, Gerald Peters and a cousin, Sergeant-Major Arthur Gordon Peters, who served with U.S. forces and died in 1918.

 

#27 – Fritz to sister Helen                                           March 31, 1942

 

Capt. F.T. Peters

United Service Club

Pall Mall

London SW 1

 

My dearest Helen

I was so pleased to get your letter of 30th January which reached me a few days ago.  I was most interested to hear about children and to realize that I am now a great uncle.  Eve seems to have had a very interesting time and I should imagine her husband is kept pretty busy at the moment.  I was very interested to hear that Peter is now a sub1.  I wonder where he will fetch up.  I must say it looks like a long grim business and God only knows when it will end.  Still so much that was unexpected has already happened that perhaps the end when it comes will arrive with startling suddenness.  How is Mother?  Poor Mother, I have grieved so much for her misfortunes.  She has had much unhappiness and pain.  And what has happened to Noel?

About myself I can indeed give you little news.  Censorship stops me saying anything about my present job2.  What I shall do after the war I do not know.  I was formerly running an engineering works – since bombed out.  If I can work it in, I will pay you a visit after the war whenever that may be and if one is still in the land of the living.

Aunt Helen3 is very old…   I saw her last July.  Her mind is still active and alive when she is all right.  Some people living next door to her look in pretty often and I correspond pretty regularly with them so that I am informed of what is going on.  Aunt Helen does not write at all nowadays.  I expect I shall see her this summer if I get leave.  A fair number of bombs dropped round her neighborhood which was a noisy one being only 10 or 12 miles from Bristol.

Aunt Annie is also still alive, I think she is 87.  Her mind has nearly gone.  The two of them are well looked after by a very good maid.

I never got off at Nelson4 so have no idea what it is like.  It must be pleasant having a lake.  I hope Ted is enjoying his retirement.  Just at the present what I am looking forward to is some leave and some rest.  I am beginning to feel my age.

This affair at St. Lazaire5 last week was most inspiring to hear of.  Give my love to Dee and tell her one day I hope to see her6.  My love to you.

– Fritz

 

1 – sub-lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy

 

2 – He was involved in the planning for ways to protect enemy ports from self-imposed damage so they be used for landing vehicles, men and supplies that the Allies would need in moving forward to their objectives.  When the decision was made in August 1942 to invade North Africa in October-November, his planning and training of troops focused on the capture of the port of Oran in Algeria.

 

3 – Fred’s cousin Helen Francklyn, a granddaughter of Sir Samuel Cunard.

 

4 – Ted Dewdney retired from the bank in 1940 and he and his family and mother-in-law Bertha continued to live in Nelson, a scenic community of 8,000 population beside Kootenay Lake and surrounded on all sides by mountains.

 

5 – He must have meant the successful British raid on the heavily-defended port of St. Nazaire in occupied France.  Commandos destroyed the dock, which meant that German ships in need of repair had to go to home waters in the Baltic for repairs. The raid involved directing an old destroyer full of explosives towards the port facilities and setting it off to make lasting damage to the port.  In its audacity and imagination, this raid was somewhat similar to the Allied attack on the port of Oran six months later in which Fritz had a central part.  A big difference was that the Oran attack intended to keep the port facilities usable.  There were five Victoria Crosses awarded for actions in the St. Nazaire raid.[xi]

 

5 – Referring to his 17-year-old niece Rose Pamela “Dee Dee” Dewdney who would marry Major L.M. McBride after the war.  Fritz would never meet his nephew Peter or his nieces Eve and Dee Dee.

 

 

 

Sources

[1] http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=collections/virtualmem/Detail&casualty=66268; and http://www.michaelkluckner.com/bciw8hermit.html

 

[1] Wikipedia for Perley

 

[1] e-mail with Bedford School, March 9, 2008

 

[1] wikpedia entry for Cordwalles,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Piran’s_(school)

 

[1] http://books.google.ca/books?id=cUiTLAxgzCEC&pg=PA48&lpg=PA48&dq=royal+navy+admiral+tug+wilson&source=web&ots=UJds2jjMZj&sig=n0fLeSznnPC1CrUJ0jCaJQJedvY&hl=en

 

[1] Service file for G.H. Peters; and Cook Tim. At the Sharp End: Canadians Fighting in the Great War 1914-1918, Vol. One.  Toronto: Viking Canada, 2007.

 

[1] http://www.smus.bc.ca/publications/smus_sch_ties_spring03.pdf; and Virtual Memorial, Harvey

 

[1] E-mail sent from Bedford School to Sam McBride March 9, 1008; and St. Michael’s University School web site http://www.smus.bc.ca/publications/smus_sch_ties_spring03.pdf

 

[1] Canadian Dictionary of Biographies for H.S. Poole, http://www.biographi.ca/EN/index.html; Poole Family History; Bartley Family History “The Silver Bowl” http://www.user.dccnet.com/s.brown/familytree/BartleyTree_1-4.htm

 

[1] http://www.rootsweb.com/~qcmtl-w/biographicalbooks.htm

Canadian parliamentary guide 1894; and Langley, John G. Steam Lion — a Biography of Samuel Cunard, Halifax, Nimbus Publishing, 2006

 

[1] Wikipedia, St.Nazaire Raid

 

 

[i] http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=collections/virtualmem/Detail&casualty=66268; and http://www.michaelkluckner.com/bciw8hermit.html

 

[ii] Wikipedia for Perley

 

[iii] e-mail with Bedford School, March 9, 2008

 

[iv] wikpedia entry for Cordwalles,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Piran’s_(school)

 

[v] http://books.google.ca/books?id=cUiTLAxgzCEC&pg=PA48&lpg=PA48&dq=royal+navy+admiral+tug+wilson&source=web&ots=UJds2jjMZj&sig=n0fLeSznnPC1CrUJ0jCaJQJedvY&hl=en

 

[vi] Service file for G.H. Peters; and Cook Tim. At the Sharp End: Canadians Fighting in the Great War 1914-1918, Vol. One.  Toronto: Viking Canada, 2007.

 

[vii] http://www.smus.bc.ca/publications/smus_sch_ties_spring03.pdf; and Virtual Memorial, Harvey

 

[viii] E-mail sent from Bedford School to Sam McBride March 9, 1008; and St. Michael’s University School web site http://www.smus.bc.ca/publications/smus_sch_ties_spring03.pdf

 

[ix] Canadian Dictionary of Biographies for H.S. Poole, http://www.biographi.ca/EN/index.html; Poole Family History; Bartley Family History “The Silver Bowl” http://www.user.dccnet.com/s.brown/familytree/BartleyTree_1-4.htm

 

[x] http://www.rootsweb.com/~qcmtl-w/biographicalbooks.htm

Canadian parliamentary guide 1894; and Langley, John G. Steam Lion — a Biography of Samuel Cunard, Halifax, Nimbus Publishing, 2006

 

[xi] Wikipedia, St.Nazaire Raid

 

[1] http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=collections/virtualmem/Detail&casualty=66268; and http://www.michaelkluckner.com/bciw8hermit.html

 

[1] Wikipedia for Perley

 

[1] e-mail with Bedford School, March 9, 2008

 

[1] wikpedia entry for Cordwalles,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Piran’s_(school)

 

[1] http://books.google.ca/books?id=cUiTLAxgzCEC&pg=PA48&lpg=PA48&dq=royal+navy+admiral+tug+wilson&source=web&ots=UJds2jjMZj&sig=n0fLeSznnPC1CrUJ0jCaJQJedvY&hl=en

 

[1] Service file for G.H. Peters; and Cook Tim. At the Sharp End: Canadians Fighting in the Great War 1914-1918, Vol. One.  Toronto: Viking Canada, 2007.

 

[1] http://www.smus.bc.ca/publications/smus_sch_ties_spring03.pdf; and Virtual Memorial, Harvey

 

[1] E-mail sent from Bedford School to Sam McBride March 9, 1008; and St. Michael’s University School web site http://www.smus.bc.ca/publications/smus_sch_ties_spring03.pdf

 

[1] Canadian Dictionary of Biographies for H.S. Poole, http://www.biographi.ca/EN/index.html; Poole Family History; Bartley Family History “The Silver Bowl” http://www.user.dccnet.com/s.brown/familytree/BartleyTree_1-4.htm

 

[1] http://www.rootsweb.com/~qcmtl-w/biographicalbooks.htm

Canadian parliamentary guide 1894; and Langley, John G. Steam Lion — a Biography of Samuel Cunard, Halifax, Nimbus Publishing, 2006

 

[1] Wikipedia, St.Nazaire Raid

 

McBrides and Extended Family Were Heavily Involved in Pioneer Hardware Stores in Calgary, Kootenays and Perth, Ontario

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By Sam McBride

For about a century there were several members of the McBride family and many more of the extended family working in the hardware store business in North America, predominantly with the firms of A. McBride and Company Limited in Calgary, Alberta and the Wood Vallance Hardware Company Limited store and contracting operation in Nelson, British Columbia, as well as several other hardware stores in the Kootenay region of southeastern B.C. and the James Brothers Hardware Store in Perth, Ontario.

It started with the emigration of McBride families from Ulster, primarily County Down, southeast of Belfast.  We know from records that five McBride brothers and their families left Ireland in the period from the late 1820s to the early 1840s, but we have no information on the parents.   In addition to Richard McBride (1792-1850), whose line of descendants is the focus of this report, the emigrating brothers included William McBride (1797-?), Alexander McBride (1803-1891), Thomas H. McBride (1806-1852) and Stephenson/Steney McBride (1811-1893).  There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of descendants of these brothers in Canada and the United States today, primarily in southern Ontario.

According to a family history written in the 1920s, Richard McBride (1792-1850) and Elizabeth McCormick (1794-1848) and five children from Ballydorn, County Down emigrated to Canada in 1831.  This was more than a decade before the horrific Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s, but circumstances were bad enough for them to pull up roots and take the chance that they would find better lives across the Atlantic in Canada.  As Presbyterians, they were discriminated against by the ruling class of Anglican and Church of Ireland forces, though their discrimination/oppression would not normally be severe as that of Roman Catholics who were in a minority in the north of Ireland but dominated the population of Dublin and southern Ireland.

Richard and Elizabeth McBride had a total of about 11 children, including half a dozen who died at an early age in Ireland.  Another daughter, whose name was not mentioned in family history accounts, died during the horrific six-week long voyage across the Atlantic in a 600-ton sailing ship packed with about 500 passengers.   Emigration ships were notorious in that era for disease, starvation and extreme discomfort for passengers.  The children who survived the ordeal were sons William (1817-1881), Samuel  (1819-1905) and John (1822-1887), as well as daughter Eliza (1826-1909).  The family resided for a short time first in the Kingston area, then Cobourg, Niagara and Brantford before settling in London, Ontario in about 1840.   The only children born to the family in Canada were twin boys in 1833 in Cobourg, Upper Canada (now Ontario).  One twin died at birth, and the other was Alexander McBride (1833-1912), who would become the most successful businessman of the family, and the first to move to Western Canada.

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Samuel McBride 1819-1905

Samuel McBride (who was my great-great-grandfather) was a tinsmith and very active in the community, including service as an alderman, volunteer fireman, and with his church.  The term tinsmith refers to someone who works with cold metal, as opposed to a blacksmith who works with hot metal.   Tinsmiths are perhaps better known in history by the name variation “tinker”.  Alexander also worked as a tinsmith, and he and Samuel established a business together in London, Ontario.  Oldest brother William worked as a woodworker and carriage-maker and was among the leaders of the community, including service as Mayor (1859), and secretary of the Western Fair Association.  On May 24, 1881 William, age 64, was among approximately 200 victims in the worst natural disaster in Ontario history.  Celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday on that day, a crowd of residents climbed aboard the steamship Victoria.  Panic ensued when the vessel tilted to one side, spilling people into the Thames River as it capsized.  Many died in their heavy clothing of the Victorian era even though the water was not over their heads.  The only member of the McBride family to die in the tragedy was William McBride.

John McBride of the original family from Ireland married Lucinda Warner, worked as a wagon-maker, and for a time partnered in business in London with elder brother William.  He took his family the United States, and died in Massachusets in 1887.  Eliza McBride married Alexander Lowrie and remained in the London area with a large family.  Alex partnered in business with brother-in-law William McBride.  It was Eliza and Alex’s son-in-law Harry Bapty who wrote the family history in the 1920s.

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Alexander McBride 1833-1912

Samuel McBride enjoyed robust health and lived to 85 years of age, well-regarded in the community as a pioneer and builder of London.  He had a total of 11 children with three wives, outliving first wife Elizabeth Webster and then Anna Margaret McDonald before marrying Maria Goforth.

His two sons with Elizabeth Webster included my paternal great-grandfather Richard “Dick” McBride (1843-1921), who held a variety of jobs over the years, including tinsmithing like his father, and working in his father’s business.

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Dick McBride, son of Samuel McBride and father of R.L. McBride 

Samuel’s children with Anna included George Walter McBride (known in the family as “Walter”), who moved to St. Louis as a young man to learn the hardware store business while employed by Shapleigh Hardware, before returning to Canada to work in family-related hardware operations in Calgary, Rossland and Nelson.  Kate McBride, a daughter of Samuel and Anna, married Noah Kettlewell, whose sons Charles Walter Kettlewell (1889-1942) and William Keith Kettlewell (1892-1954) moved to Nelson, B.C. in 1907 and worked as clerks and travelling representatives for Wood Vallance Hardware before the First World War, then served in the Canadian military during the war, and rose to higher positions in Wood Vallance after returning from the war.  They were among the staff at the Nelson store listed in the Wood Vallance company’s full page ad  following the Allies victory November 1918 recognizing staff who had served in the war, including those who were casualties.

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directory ad for Alexander McBride’s A. McBride and Co.

In 1856 in London, Ontario, Alexander McBride married Lucy Fidora Munson (1830-1909), with whom he had 8 children.  As Lucy suffered from asthma, her doctor recommended that she move West to cleaner air, so in 1886 Alexander moved the family to the pioneer prairie community of Calgary, two decades before Alberta became a Canadian province.  He soon established the firm of A. McBride and Company which was Calgary’s first hardware store, and would become the base for a chain of several such stores in Alberta and southeastern British Columbia by 1900.  Alexander served as Mayor of Calgary in 1896.  His sons who worked for A. McBride and Company in Calgary included Chester, Norman, Frank, James Duncan and Edward, who took over management of the company after his father retired.

rich-and-rob-babies0013

directory ad for the J.D. McBride hardware stores in Cranbrook and Fort Steele in early 1900s

In the early 1900s, Alexander resided for a few years in Cranbrook and Fort Steele, B.C., where he started hardware stores with sons Frank McBride, Edward McBride and James Duncan McBride.  The stores originally operated under the name of the Calgary firm of A. McBride and Co., until James Duncan McBride took control of the operation and ran the J.D. McBride Hardware Store in Cranbrook.  Historic directories show that James Duncan McBride was still in Cranbook in the hardware store business in 1919.

G.W. “Walter” McBride (son of Samuel McBride and Anna McDonald of London, Ontario) left Missouri in 1892 for Calgary where he worked in his uncle Alexander’s hardware business.   In 1896 Walter was assigned to start a new hardware store under the A. McBride Company name in the booming gold-mining town of Rossland, B.C.

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Rossland Miner ad for the G.W. McBride hardware store which in Rossland 1897-1904

A year later, Walter McBride served as a director of the new businessman’s club known as the Rossland Club.  About this time, Walter had done well enough with his store that he bought out his uncle Alexander’s interest and established the store as G.W. McBride Hardware which regularly advertised in Rossland newspapers.

In 1900 Dick McBride’s son Roland Leigh McBride (known in the family as R.L. McBride) left his hometown of London, Ontario at age 19 to pursue better prospects in the West.

rl-mcb-no-broder-001

R.L. McBride c. 1903

He spent a couple of months working in Calgary in his great-uncle Alexander McBride’s hardware store business.  During this time he resided at a rooming house where one of his fellow residents was the future prime minister, young lawyer Richard Bedford Bennett.   Years later R.L. McBride (1881-1959) recalled that something he and R.B. Bennett had in common at the time was both were financially broke at the time.

Later in 1900 R.L. McBride left Calgary for Rossland, where he worked as an assistant to his uncle Walter at the G.W. McBride Hardware store for about three years before moving to the silver-mining boom town of Sandon to manage the H. Byers Company hardware store, which was part of the Byers operation in the region that included stores in Kaslo and Nelson as well as Sandon.  The head of the company, Hamilton Byers, resided in Nelson.

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Director ad for the H. Byers and Co., which had three hardware stores in the West Kootenay region prior to its sale to Wood Vallance in 1904

In early 1904, after residing in Sandon through the winter of 1903-04, R.L. moved to Nelson when the Byers Company wound down their operations.  Walter McBride came from Rossland to be receiver for Byers.  In April 1904 the Wood Vallance Hardware Company Limited based in Winnipeg purchased the Byers operation and established the Nelson store, while the Kaslo and Sandon stores ceased operation.   Walter McBride was appointed manager of the Nelson store and vice president of the company, and R.L. McBride was named assistant to the manager.  The 1896 building on Baker Street that housed the Byers store was extensively renovated for the new Wood Vallance operation.

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Wood Vallance ad in Nelson Daily News in 1908

Upon Walter McBride’s retirement in September 1925 R.L. McBride succeeded him as manager and vice president of Wood Vallance Company in Nelson, and then in 1931 R.L. McBride succeeded C.G. Wood of Hamilton, Ontario as President and Manager.  One of the interesting connections between Nelson people and the Wood Vallance company is that Jocelyn Morey, who was a close friend of Leigh and Dee Dee McBride in Nelson, was a great-granddaughter of C.G. Wood.

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Wood Vallance corporate ad honouring staff who served in the First World War, particularly those who lost their lives, including Robert Blake Allan, brother of Wilfrid and Alex Allan

The Wood Vallance store and contracting business in Nelson would be among the largest businesses in Nelson until the 1980s, when the company wound down operations but the hardware store continued under the same familiar name.

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Wood Vallance ad in January 1930 Nelson Daily News

The business in Nelson would be noteworthy for the long service and loyalty of employees, including R.L. McBride who, along with his colleague Roy Sharp, was among the 5 original staff of 1904 who retired in 1950.  The McBride and Sharp families were very close – to the point that they are buried in the same area of the Nelson Memorial Park.

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obituary in 1942 Nelson Daily News of Walter Kettlewell, grandson of Samuel McBride, who, along with brother Keith, worked for Wood Vallance in Nelson

Also buried near R.L. McBride is his first wife Eva Mackay Hume (1885-1912), niece of Lydia Hume and adopted daughter of Lydia and her husband, prominent Nelson businessman J. Fred Hume, after her parents died when she was young.  Eva, who had married R.L. McBride in 1911 at a ceremony at her parents’ home known as Killarney-on-the-Lake across the lake in Nelson, died due to childbirth complications a year later, along with the baby daughter named Gertrude.  In December 1914 R.L. married Winnifred Mae “Win” Foote (1889-1960), who had been best friends with Eva, who encouraged Win on her deathbed to get together with R.L.  The Foote family left Perth, Ontario in 1900 for Nelson, where Jim Foote worked as a blacksmith at the Silver King Mine.

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October 1950 report on retirement of R.L. McBride, succeeded by Alex Allan

The Foote family – which included Jim, wife Edith James, and daughters Win, Lillian, Gladys and Isobel – lived for a couple of years in a cabin next to the Silver King Mine before moving to a house on Cottonwood Street in Nelson.   By 1910 Jim Foote was listed in the community directory as a carpenter working as Superindent of Sidewalks for the City of Nelson.  His obituary in 1921 said he held the position of Superintendent of Works for the city.

Interestingly, it was cousins of Edith James in Perth, Ontario who founded and ran a hardware store operation which has a central place in the history of Perth.  For over 80 years, James Brothers Hardware stood as the retail centre of historic downtown Perth.

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James Brothers Hardware Store in Perth, Ontario

Crowds from town and country alike flocked there for their every need, while from their open offices on the mezzanine above the first floor, George and Lawrence James and later George’s son, Alan, and grandson, George, oversaw a mercantile enterprise that included not only the store, but a machine shop, a foundry, a Chevrolet dealership, a Ford dealership, two automotive garages, various woodlots, a bulk fuel oil business, a coal business, a snow fence factory, a billboard service and the local arena.

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My photo of Alan James in 1995

In my family history of the James family ancestors in Perth in the early 1990s I came in contact with Alan James, who had retired from the hardware business and was doing his own research on the family, including several trips to Ireland where he met distant cousins.  In June 1995 I visited Perth and received a grand tour of the city, including the original James farmland, from Alan.

A recently-published local history book titled “Follow the Crowd: the James Boys of Perth” by John McKenty tells a great story of how the business got started and evolved through the years.

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chart showing Leigh McBride’s direct ancestors for 3 generations

In 1915 in Nelson, Lillian Foote married Wood Vallance employee Wilfrid Laurier Allan (1891-1938), whose father Robert Burns Allan had moved West 10 years earlier and bought a general store in Stavely, Alberta which would be operated as a family business for more than 30 years.   At the end of the First World War Wilfrid moved back to Stavely to run the general store, assisted by younger brother Alexander Hamilton Allan (1898-1988).  In 1931 Alexander Leith — who had been among the original five Wood Vallance staff in 1904 and held the position of secretary-treasurer – died in Nelson.   Wilfrid Allan moved with his family back to Nelson in 1931 to succeed Leith in that position.  After Wilfrid died in 1938 his brother Alexander Hamilton Allan moved to Nelson from Staveley to take over the secretary-treasurer position.

Alex Allan had a long and successful career with Wood Vallance, succeeding R.L. McBride as President and Manager upon R.L.’s retirement in 1950, and leading  the Wood Vallance in Nelson until his own retirement in 1972.  A decade later, the Wood Vallance company wound down its operations and paid its shareholders final dividends.

Interestingly, family connections were prominent with both the A. McBride and Company in Calgary and the Wood Vallance Hardware in Nelson.  In 1993 I interviewed John Alexander “Jack” McBride (1906-2001), who had been a successful cattle rancher in Benalto in central Alberta and retired with wife Lillian in Calgary, where he was born in 1907, a son of Edward McBride, the son of Alexander who took over management of the hardware business from his father.   Jack said his grandfather Alexander was an excellent businessman, who at one time “owned half of Calgary.”  However, his sons who took over the business did not inherit their father’s business capabilities, resulting in the company being sold in to Comer Hardware in Calgary shortly before Alexander’s death in 1912.

 

 

Letters of Capt. Kenneth Gilbert McBride (1920-1944) of Nelson, BC and the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada regiment

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With all that he accomplished, it is hard to believe Capt. Kenneth Gilbert McBride of the Seaforth Highlander Regiment was only 24 when he was killed in action September 16, 1944 near Rimini in the Allied offensive towards northeastern Italy in the Second World War.

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Ken McBride circa 1943

Ken was renowned as an athlete and sportsman, and cherished by his family as well as many friends across Canada.  Often described as the best golfer to ever come out of the Kootenay region, he was captain of the UBC Golf Team in 1940 and 1941 and won a raft of trophies as a junior and young adult before entering military service in 1942.

He was also a provincial badminton champion, star forward of the Nelson High School basketball team, and the best billiards and snooker player in Nelson. He was also exceedingly popular in his hometown of Nelson, as well as at UBC and in his regiment.  His nicknames included Wee Kenny, Romeo and The Golden-Haired Boy.

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Ken at right with brother Leigh, c. 1934

Born Jan. 20, 1920, Ken was the son of Roland Leigh McBride (1881-1959) and Winifred May Foote (1889-1960), and brother and only sibling of my father Leigh Morgan McBride 1917-1995). His father had been a founding director of the Nelson Golf and Country Club in 1919, and the whole family was extremely keen about golf.  He attended Central School, Trafalgar Junior High and the Nelson High School.  A common bond in the family was that he, Leigh, Leigh’s wife Dee Dee, and their children Ken E.L. McBride, Sam McBride and Eve McBride all had the same grade one teacher, Eileen McKenzie.

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Ken with brother Leigh at left, and father R.L. McBride, c. 1942

At UBC he studied Commerce in preparation for a business career. He completed his third year of university before enlisting in the Canadian Army in 1942.  He followed his brother Leigh in officer training for the Vancouver-based regiment, the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada.  They both trained at Currie Barracks in Calgary, as well as Gordon Head on Vancouver Island, before going to Britain for further training.

Leigh was on the beaches in the Allied invasion of Sicily on July 9, 1943, and Ken arrived in Sicily a couple of weeks later.  Both were in the forefront of heavy fighting in mainland Italy, including the famous battles of Cassino and Ortona.  Both were wounded and hospitalized on at least two occasions.  In the Liri River campaign on May 23, 1944, Leigh was seriously wounded and the only survivor of a near-direct hit by a large German shell.  He lost his left eye, and had shrapnel wounds throughout his body.  He was found unconscious by German soldiers, who took him as a prisoner for treatment at a hospital in Rome and then to POW camps in Germany.  No one on the Allied side knew what had happened to him, so he was listed as Missing for three months until word came back through the Red Cross that he was alive and recovering.  His parents heard the good news on Sept. 20, 1944, but just two days later, on Sept. 22, 1944, they were notified by telegram that Ken had died a week before when his vehicle hit a mine planted by the Germans.

001The shock of Ken’s death resonated throughout Nelson, as well as UBC and in other communities in B.C. and other provinces where Ken was well-known and highly respected.  The golf club raised funds for an engraved sterling silver tray to be awarded each year to the winner of the Labour Day Open golf tournament, which was the club championship, and also recognized as the Kootenay Open championship.

His parents and then brother Leigh kept the family scrapbook through the years, as well as letters and other memorabilia.  The transcribed and annotated letters will be provided to local archives, as well as the Canadian Letters and Images Project and others interested.  The content of the letters reveals a lot about Ken and what made his special.  In addition to Ken’s letters, below are letters relating to Ken from Leigh, his friend Beattie, and his father R.L. McBride.  While some of the letters are undated, I have tried to arrange them chronologically based on content.  Also presented below is a list of the golfers who won the Ken McBride Memorial Trophy while it was offered in Labour Day Tournaments between 1945 and 1977.

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example of one of Ken’s letters home

LETTERS OF K.G. McBRIDE 1920-1944

#1 – Ken’s letter to parents August 1934

TEXT ON POSTCARD: Hotel Coeur D’Alene, Spokane Wash.  The hotel with a personality.  Rates $1.50 and up.  PHOTO OF HOTEL ON FRONT. Found in hotel envelope with stamp postmarked Aug. 23, 1934.  No date on enclosed card

Dear Dad:

Having a wonderful time.  Played Manitou1 on Tues. afternoon. Played with Doc Morehouse and Ray Stimmel, a caddy at Down River2.  He played awful and he still got 93.  He said it was the first time he went over 80 in 2 years.  Played rotten.  Played the mighty Country Club today.  Dr. Geo. Williams took us out.  Took an 8 on No. 8 the first time.  Drove into the lake!

You owe me 25 cents funny3.  Got a 48 and 45!  93 net.  It’s a wonderful course.  The boy I was playing with said it was over 200 yards.  Past the tree by about 50 yards.  Playing Down River tomorrow!  With that caddie (Ray).  Playing SHGCC on Friday.

Love

Little Mons4

1 – golf course in Spokane

2 – golf course in Spokane

3 – short form of Ken’s nickname for his dad, Funny Old Mons (Man).

4 –  Little Mons was a nickname (term of endearment, relating to the Little Man he was called in his childhood) for Ken between him and his father, along the lines of #3 above.  After Ken was killed in action in Italy in 1944 the War Graves authority gave his parents the opportunity of choosing a couple of words for his tombstone.  They chose “Little Mons”.  The parents never made it to Italy to visit Ken’s grave.  Leigh visited the grave in 1974 when he was in Italy for the 30th anniversary of “Canadian Soldiers in Italy”.  His son Ken E.L. McBride visited his uncle’s grave in about 1971, and other son Sam visited the grave in 2005.

#2 – Second postcard, Hotel Coeur D’Alene in hotel envelope with stamp postmarked Aug. 23, 1934, no date on enclosed card

Dear Dad

Yesterday Tues. afternoon went to Manitou – played terrible – got 42 on last 9.  Today at 8:15 Dr. George Williams took us out to C.C.1 – he had arranged game for us with 2 juniors – introduced to Moe and Miller – both were awfully nice.  I played about 94 in the A.M.  – one of the kid’s father a 4man took us to lunch in afternoon.  We played last nine first and I had 43 for that nine.  On the first nine I took a 47 making 90.  I took a 7 on 4 because I hooked into woods – such hopeless place that I hit it and thought it out but it came right back under a tree.  I then fanned because I could not even get to the ball – so it really was an 88 because those 2 shots did not do anything except to make conditions worse.  Friday I think we are going out again.

Moe said I had a nice swing.  All the time I have yet to hit a wood shot off tee or fairway.  @ Manitou my irons were marvellous but my woods were too awful.  Ditto putting in the last 9 @ C.C.  I got my putting touch at last.  I wish I could take a lesson from Moe in driving.  I feel ashamed of them – they are so hopeless.  On 6 I carried over the tree on the corner – got easy pars on that hole both times – took pen to Grahins and the trouble was just (END OF CARD)

1 – the Spokane Country Club Golf Course, one of the best golf courses in Spokane

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Ken’s UBC Golf Team badge

#3 Ken’s Letter to parents dated Nov. 13, 1939, when he was attending University of B.C.

4413 W 9th Ave.

Vancouver

Dearest Dad:

Thanks a million for your telegram – I got a big thrill out of getting it.  I didn’t know how you could know so soon, as I only played my match on Wed. and I received your wire on Thursday but from your letter I guess my name was on the radio – sure enough!  I also had another big thrill as Mayor N.C. Stibbs1 sent me a telegram, which I am enclosing with yours.  It was swell of him to do such a thing, so I wish you would keep these two telegrams for me.  Thanks for the paper – I received quite a write-up in the Nelson paper and please cut out the write up in to-nite’s Province (Sat.) as it is quite good.  The heading is about the Varsity golfers going to California after exams next April.  I Hope we do make the trip and I think we will as everybody thinks it a great idea.

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telegram sent by Nelson mayor Stibbs congratulating Ken on UBC tourney win.

But I must tell you about the finals.  I started very poorly – missed three drives in a row and I couldn’t quite click the first nine so I found myself three down.  Swinton had a 38 (par 36) but birdied the tenth and we halved the 11th, 12th in pars and I was stymied on the 13th so I was 3 down and on the 14th Hans had a 3 and I had a birdie so I was four down.  15th halved in one over par, 16th I won with a one over par when he missed a short putt and the same thing happened on the 17th and I won the 18th with a beautiful approach that should have dropped so I was only one down at lunch but I thought for sure I would be more down. I was hitting long drives in the second nine but my putting wasn’t as good as it should have been.

We started at the 10th after lunch because of the large crown on the 1st tee.  We halved the 10th, 11th, 12th w pars and I won the 13th with a one over par 5 and we halved the par 5 14th in birdies.  I won 15th with a par 4 to go one up for the first time but I lost two holes in a row where I had easy chances for pars – just sloppy and we halved the 18th in 3’s so I was still one down but I birdied the 1st with a four and lost the 2nd when I was very close to the green with my tee shot (par 4) and on the next 3 holes I was within 6 feet of the cup with my second shots and I didn’t can any of them – disgusting!  On the 4th hole I was still one down so I gambled and played a tremendous shot over trees on a dog-leg.  I really smacked it a terrific wallop.  I won that hole and I won the 6th with a 3 to go one up and then I muffed a short niblick but he 3 putted and I won the 35th with a par to win the tournament.  I had a 75 in the afternoon and a 78 in the morning but I didn’t sink a putt over 3 feet – they just wouldn’t drop.  I was hitting the ball further than I had ever done before so you can realize how far they were going.  The kid that refereed said he couldn’t understand how I hit them so far – he weighs about 200.  He used to be (about 2 years ago) one of the very best in Vancouver, and he told me that he had never seen anyone ever hit drives any better than I did on Wednesday.  I was the man of the hour this last week out at Varsity, so I was very proud of myself.  I’m not going to play any more golf now until after Christmas as the exams are only 3 ½ weeks away and I’ve got to dig in harder than ever.

The tux is super!  It fits very well and I look like a handsome Romeo in it but I find that a tux isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world but I liked wearing it.  I took Marg. To the Arts-Aggie Formal last Thursday – sent her a corsage too!  It sure is wonderful feeling to wear a tux the first time in one’s life – I really felt dressed up.

I have seen a lot of Mother but not quite as much as I would have liked to but I’m going to spend all to-morrow afternoon with her – she’s leaving on Monday I believe, and she’s very pleased with her new teeth and is feeling fine2.

It will be swell to get back home for Christmas and see the Funny Old Mons3 again.

Love

Ken

P.S.  I guess I have broken my 2 year jinx in golf so watch my smoke next year.

Ken

1 – Norman C. Stibbs, Mayor of Nelson, B.C. 1938-1946

2 – While getting dental work in Vancouver, Ken’s mother Winifred may have been staying with her sister Josie Rollins who lived in Vancouver.

3 – Ken’s childhood name for his father R.L. McBride

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#4 — K.G. McBride letter to parents

University of British Columbia

2594 Wallace Crescent

Vancouver, B.C.

Jan. 30, 1941

Dearest Dad and Mother

Gosh how can I ever thank you for such a wonderful 21st birthday present!  If only I could talk to you and tell you how much I think of it – your taste is perfect as I knew it would be.  I think everyone in the University has seen it.  I had lectures all day yesterday and couldn’t get home until 6:00, but did I ever run home from the bus.  Golly, I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited or so nervous in all my life when I was unwrapping your parcel – then I saw the Big Ben Alarm Box, I think my face fell a foot but when I saw the watch!  Gosh I wish I could have been home with you.  Thanks a million times over.  I’ve never seen a finer watch in all my life, and it’s a Bulova too – oh boy.  I set it last nite with the radio and comes over the radio – “it is now 6:15 Bulova Watch Time”.  I certainly got a thrill when he said that.

But I’m telling you the truth – it has not gained or lost a second for 24 hours.  Oh it is a beautiful watch and never fear that I shall lose it ‘cause I won’t – it means far too much to me1.  It represents the finest Father and Mother in the world and all I hope is that I can be worthy of both of you and make as much a success of my life as you have.  I really mean that!  I shall always have that watch.  I sure like the strap and the gold letters.  I’m sending you home the card that came with my watch – I want you to be sure and keep it for me or put it in the Scrap book.  Please don’t lose it.

I haven’t been able to write you for about 6 days because I had the German Measles and I was quarantined in the house and the Doctor told me to avoid allowing the germ to spread anywhere.  My internment lasted until Tuesday evening – the night before my birthday.  By the way, I did a great deal of studying while I had the measles.  The Doctor said it wouldn’t hurt my eyes as I had a very light case – my body only had a rash for 1 day.  I felt fine all the time – didn’t even have to go to bed.  I was awfully glad that I was out for my birthday.  I celebrated by drinking a few beers – very moderate though.  I saved 2.50 and bought beers with that for 5 of us (3 frat brothers and Jim).

Leigh2 sent me a very nice letter and I appreciate it immensely.  I really think he is my best friend – we get along beautifully now.  I had 3 letters inside of a week from him.  All in all it was a very wonderful birthday.  If my finances hadn’t been so low I would have phoned home to you, but I didn’t, and I didn’t want to reverse the charges.  Never have I wanted to be with you more – it was super of you.  This letter must sound very disjointed but I’m very thrilled so I guess you’ll have to forgive the bad grammar in places.

Say I got my uniform to-day and I look O.K. in it – also my first stripe.  I’m going to get one of the fellows in the house to take my picture in it soon and send it home to you.  It will save my clothes and shoes a great deal.

I move into the Phi Delt3 House to-morrow nite – it should be swell.  I shall study harder and you will note the fact by my final marks – I promise you.

Well I must close now so thanks a million Dad and Mom.  I’ve never had such a thrill in all my life and I look at it every ten seconds.  Your taste couldn’t have been better.

Thanks

I love you both.

Lots of love

Ken

ATTACHED CARD:  PRINTED TEXT: A Gift for Your Birthday.  This little gift does not come alone – with it are a host of good wishes for your birthday.  HANDWRITING: Ken with lots of love Mother and daddy.

1 – After Ken died from a road mine explosion in September 1944, his parents received a list of his possessions from army authorities.  The list included a Bulova watch (damaged).  It is possible that he was wearing the watch when he was killed, and the force of the explosion damaged the watch.

2 – his brother and only sibling, Leigh Morgan McBride (1917-1995)

3 –  his UBC fraternity, Phi Delta Theda

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#5 – Ken letter to parents

K.G. McBride, UBC

2594 Wallace Crescent

Vancouver, B.C.

April 6, 1941

Dear Mom and Dad:

I’ve got the fear of God in me!  Can’t say that I am looking forward to my exams a great deal, but I’m right in there punching.  Only 2 more weeks of studying, then exams, then a few free days, then military camp in Nanaimo, then home to Nelson.  Gosh that does sound wonderful.

I’m very sorry to hear that Clara is leaving the household.  Say good-bye to her for me and give her my very best regards.  I won’t be able to call anyone “Butch” around home anymore – that was Clara’s pet name.

I was sorry to see Trail1 lose after doing so well in the first three games against Lethbridge.  I was really pulling for Trail.  By the way, I was asked to speak on CJOR “Varsity Time” about badminton.  I declined; later I was asked to speak for golf – I declined.  I would have liked to have done it but it would mean a whole night of study gone.

Had a rather happy meeting last Thursday nite.  An R.C.A.F. flying officer phoned the Phi Delt house to say hello.  He was just in town until 7:15 and it was then 4:00 p.m.  He said he was a Phi Delt from U. of A2.  Thereupon he and I got together.  One of the fellows volunteered to get him in his car and have him out to dinner and return him to C.N.R. R.R. Station by 7:15.  He accepted the dinner invitation very readily – as it turned out, he was a very close friend of Leigh’s and Blake’s3 and knew all the lads from Nelson who attend U. of A.  He told me he would phone Leigh up as soon as he reached Edmonton.  It was very fine of him.  Also for the past couple of days we have had a couple of rowers from Oregon State College staying at our House.  They were nice boys and sort of took our rowing team into camp, but our team is not so hot.

It sure is wonderful to hear that the course4 is almost in perfect condition.  I’m itching to play.  I got a report from an alum of ΦΔΘ, Fred Dietrich, a traveller5, that Ken Andrews is practising as hard as he can.  I hear also, that he might be moving.  I certainly hope not.

Well bye for now

All my love. Ken

1 – The McBrides would normally cheer for the hockey home team Maples Leafs, but they also had strong connections with the nearby City of Trail, whose Smoke Eaters team was exception in that era, regularly competing for national and international championships, including being world champions in 1939.

2 – University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta.

3 – His cousin Blake Allan (1916-2009), who was Leigh’s law partner after the war, and then a judge.

4 – The Nelson Golf Course, of which his father R.L. McBride was a founding director when it opened in July 1919.

5 – I believe the term “traveler” refers to him being someone whose work involves regularly travelling for commercial purposes, such as purchasing and sales.  R.L. McBride was listed as a “traveler” with the Wood Vallance Hardware Company early in his business career.

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#6 – Ken letter to mother

K.G. McBride

University of British Columbia

2594 Wallace Crescent

Vancouver, BC

Oct. 14, 1941

Dear Mother

Hello!  I have a clipping enclosed in this letter for your scrap book.  It is sort of humorous but I think Ormie1 is just trying to throw a scare into me.

Guess what!  I went to a beautiful dinner party on Friday evening before the Kappa Cabaret.  John Carson invited Ted McBride2 and myself.  I took a girl from Toronto who was very nice.  The dinner was all very formal – such as serving one’s own vegetables down at the main dining room of the Vancouver Hotel (Just a little too formal for me).  The party was very fine – I went with Ted. Wonder if they are related to us in any way at all – they vote same way we do, originate in the same place, same religional denomination etc, etc.  But speaking of voting – did you know that Pat Maitland – Conserv. Leader – is a Phi Delt.  I hope he gets in although I do realize that he’d be fortunate if he does win.

At noon on Saturday we had a rushing function – I had to figure out a meal for 65.  What a job.  I gave them tomato juice, meat pie, carrots and peas, ice cream and hot chocolate sauce with cake and coffee.  It all went very smoothly – we had 2 sittings and had everybody serving or washing dishes etc.  And believe it or not, I even had ordered the right amount of food including ice cream.  I was tired that night so I stayed home and read Romeo and Juliet.  And on Sunday I had my turkey dinner with Brother John Clement and his father Dean Clement of the Faculty of Agriculture (both Phi Delts).  It was a wonderful dinner and I certainly did appreciate it although I ate a horrible amount.

Well, this is just a note so, bye for now Mein darling.

All my love.

Ken

1 – his friend and fellow keen golfer Ormie Hall, who later wrote golf stories for the Vancouver Sun.

2 – Even today there is no indication that Ted McBride was a relative of the Nelson McBrides

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#7 – Ken letter to father

Phi Delta Theta letterhead

2594 Wallace Crescent

Vancouver, B.C.

Nov. 16, 1941

Dear Dad:

Hey Funny1, look at the funny writing paper.  I think I’ll buy some for myself after Christmas.  It’s very little more expensive and it does look smart.  It’s our crest.

But any how, I really want to thank you for your two letters from the east.  I was really thrilled with your letter in which you attended the Maple Leaf hockey game with a Phi Delt from McGill.  I roared around and told all my Phi Delt pals what you did and they were very impressed.  They all thought it was wonderful of you.  Boy, was I ever proud when I told them about you and how you were given the tickets.  Thanks a million, Dad and I know that the boy you took to the game was very thankful and very happy to go.

This afternoon (Sunday) I went over to Ted McBride’s for dinner, after which I coached Ted’s young brother in accounting.  The McBrides were really very nice to me.  But, I have this course in wonderful.  So far I have had two exams in it and I’ve recorded an 83 and an 85 which pleased me a great deal.  I had an exam in Eng. 9 on Shakespearian dramas but the marks have not been turned back  as yet.  Econ. 4 (Money and Banking) is really a fine course and one I am interested in.

But to get to a very sad story!  Ouch, it’s about golf and I am damn disappointed but nevertheless I can’t get the breaks all the time.  But – to have an 86 and to lose 3-2 to an 82 is horrible. I couldn’t control my putter at all – also my chip shots were always short.  I really lost the game on the green.  Can you imagine I took 4 putts – half of my total score almost.  I lost the first two holes to a par and a birdie and try as I might I could never get them back.  Actually however, I did not practise my short game at all so it was all my fault.  (Sunday nite).

Monday afternoon Jimmy lost his match to Ormie3 down on the 18th.  They were all square on the 18th tee and Jim hit his on, 20 feet from the pin, whereas Ormie was to the left about 40 feet away with a bunker to pitch over.  Ormie made a beautiful shot and laid his dead and James 3-putted.  It was a tough break for Jim as he was fighting hard – he was 2 down at the 9th, but was actually 1 up at the end of the 15th.  All that is left is Swinton, Plommer, Hall and Ford.  By the way, when I won my first round match I had a 73 but should have been under par.  I got quite a splash in the U.B.C. or losing.  One thing made me happy – Plommer and Ormie both congratulated me by saying that I should actually have won the tournament with very little trouble.

Now about a serious matter.  With your permission I think I shall join up in the Army, Dad – after school is over next May.  I could go back to school next year without being conscripted but I think it would be detrimental to me – I owe my services, however small they may be, to Canada.  I should be able to obtain a commission in the army with not too much difficulty or some other service.  But anyhow, I have a lot of time to think about it and nothing will be decided until I come home for my holidays where we can discuss it thoroughly.

I’m very anxious to see the new offices etc.  It should look smart – wonder if the Funny Old Mons is going to have his own private office1.  Well, Funny, I must get some work done now as there is a fraternity meeting to-nite.

Bye for now and loads of love

Ken

P.S.  As yet I haven’t received my 15th of month money.

1 – abbreviation of his nickname for his father “Funny Old Mons”

2 – Ken’s cousin Jimmy Allan

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scan of first page of Ken`s letter, with Phi Delta Theda letterhead

 

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#8 – Ken letter to parents

Est. early fall 1942

Cadets’ Mess, Gordon Head, B.C.

Dear Mother and Dad,

Whew!  Work and more work – it’s amazing!  On Sunday I was blood-grouped and had a couple of blood tests.  I find my blood is A group and I’m a very healthy lad.  By the way, I gave away about a test tube of blood.  Same as a blood transfusion.  It didn’t bother me!  But it’s a good idea to be blood-grouped – I am glad I volunteered.

Here is some amazing news!  If all goes well I’ll be graduating on Oct. 9th with Jim1 and all my buddies.  It is not definite as yet but there is a very good indication that it will be.  I hope so.  The reason is that they want to expand the camp to accommodate more men – thus sending all third month men to their Advanced Training Centre 1 month ahead of time.  So I hope to be going to Currie Barracks for a 2 month spell instead of one as Leigh2 is doing.  You see I’ll be taking the same amount of work and time except I’ll be going to Infantry Special Wing at Currie Barracks.  That means I must order my uniform now – and is it ever expensive – approx. $80 all told and then I need a pair of black shoes as Seaforths all wear black shoes.  I do hope we graduate this month.  In a General Current Events quiz I was 3rd in a class of 30.  It was a tough baby too.

I have to work every night this week – only wish I had twice as much time to do things in.  On Wed. night I have to give a 10 minute lecture.  More fun!  This is all part of the training one gets here.

I never received the Daily News3 concerning the golf tourney.

I must do a large-scale map now, so ‘bye for now.

Love, Ken

P.S.  I’ll let you know about my graduation – hope you have real good time in Medicine Hat4.

Tell Leigh to write me!

Ken

1 – his cousin and best friend Jimmy Allan

2 – his brother Leigh Morgan McBride

3 – the Nelson (B.C.) Daily News

4 – his aunt Gladys Foote and her husband Colin Moir lived in Medicine Hat, Alberta, where they were often visited by the McBrides

—–

#9 – Ken letter to his mother

K.G. McBride, UBC

Postmark Calgary Jan. 26, 1943

Letterhead Officers’ Mess, Currie Barracks, Calgary Alberta

Monday p.m.

Dearest Mom,

Hello dear – still no news as regards my draft so we are 1 day closer to my 2 weeks leave.  I might phone you to-nite just to chat but if I do it won’t be because I am on my way east.

Here are the pictures I forgot to enclose in my last letter.  I’m crazy!   I’ve spent more money on stuff I have to take overseas – it’s amazing.  My resources are going downhill fast.  But anyhow, dear, just a note to tell you there’s nothing to worry about at all.  I’ve done very little real work since I returned so I’m in fine shape.

Well there’s a show on in the mess to-night so I guess I’ll go over and rest my weary bones.

All my love

Ken

—-

#10 – Ken letter to parents

Postmarked Feb. 1, 1943

Officers’ Mess

A16, C.J.T.C.

Currie Barracks, Calgary

Dearest Mom and Dad

Hello!  I had a letter from Leigh and it arrived on my birthday which was rather nice – also your nice card, money order and socks and hankies.  Gee, they are fine socks ‘cause it’s hard to get good black socks as they are usually made of cotton and are no good at all.  Thanks a million.  I received 6 letters that day and 2 on Saturday so I had a real field day.  I even had a birthday card from my old gal Audrey Emery1 – it was nice of her to remember her old buddy.  I also heard from Jim, Ormie Hall, my new girl, and loads of other people.

Still no news on my draft and tomorrow is Feb. 1st so if we hold out 5 or 6 more days I’m in the clear for a 2 week visit home –- however it isn’t a cinch yet by any means so just keep your fingers crossed and hope I make it.  By the way, Leigh told me to take him a cheap 1.00 watch and gloves and a flash light with batteries.  So I’ll bring them to Calgary – thanks for saving them for me anyway Dad.  I’ll enclose his letter.

On Friday I got my draft notice to join the army – quite a laugh!  Mother forwarded it to me.  I guess I had better answer it so they don’t think I’m evading the draft.  They’ll be a mite surprised when they see it signed Lieut. KG McBride – Seaforths of Canada.  On Saturday I went through the gas chambers through chlorine gas and DM gas.  The first one is lethal so we had our respirators on, but if we hadn’t one wouldn’t even have been able to walk 15 feet before this chlorine gas would overcome me.  Thank goodness I have a good respirator!  The DM gas is a choking gas and produces a sick and morbid feeling and makes one cough like mad.  I recovered from it in about an hour – we had to take it with our respirator off so that wasn’t so sweet.  I have been transferred from B Coy2 to G Coy and I have a permanent militia man as C.O.3 and he is a heel – he is always spying on his fledgling officers which makes me furious.  I certainly hate that cad with all my might!  He does know his training however so I am learning fast by the trial and error method.

Well I have to prepare 4 lectures of 45 min. each  to give to my platoon  to-morrow so I must go now.

All my love,

Ken

P.S. I was down at Len Wright’s* on Wed nite.P.S.(2) I play basketball in the senior league here for A16 CITC on Wed nite and our team won 63-33.  I scored 5 points which surprised me after not having played for 3 or 4 years – so I guess I’m on the team now!

1 – later became Audrey Heustis, wife of Bob Heustis who was vice principal of LV Rogers High School in Nelson when I was a student there in the late 1960s.  Audrey and Bob were close friends of the Leigh McBride family for many years.

2 – Company

3 – Commanding Officer

4 – After the war, Len Wright was a founder of Wright Engineering, a prominent engineering company based in Vancouver.  My second cousin Michael Allan (son of Jimmy Allan, Ken`s best friend and cousin) worked at Wright Engineering in the 1970s.

—–

#11 – Ken letter to his father c/o Wood Vallance Store

Officers Mess, Currie Barracks, Calgary letterhead

Dearest Dad

Well I’ve put in my application for annual leave – did it today.  However, I am still no cinch for it.  I had my application pass through the Orderly Room at Currie Barracks.  From there it goes to District Depot – they can hold it back for 2 reasons. 1) we are on embarkation as we’ve had our leave; 2) there has been an order from district depot saying that no further furloughs would be granted as the railway traffic is so heavy but the K.V.1 is very slow in traffic, especially 1st class.  So my fingers are still crossed but I figure my chances are now with me 75-25.  If I do get it I figure I might go to Moscow Idaho for the 13th of Feb as Pat Jacque has written to ask me to go to the Kappa Formal.  It would be nice.

The experience I am getting with my new major is excellent as it will help a lot when I get overseas.  I am getting swell training with my men and I’m learning more about man management all the time.  It is good training for future life in many ways.

The old Russian bear is really rolling these days isn’t it?  They are doing a marvelous job, especially as regards Stalingrad.2

I just read in the paper that one of the men who lived in the fraternity house with me was presumed killed after operations.  He was a Flying Officer in the Air Force.  But I am sure it is going to blow over in a year if things keep going as they are now.

Well, all for now, Fun.

Best ever, Ken

The Funny Little Mons

Keep your fingers crossed.  I hope I get my leave for the 10th.

1 – the Kettle Valley Railroad, which operated between 1916 and 1959, connecting the BC Lower Mainland with the Okanagan and Kootenay regions.

2 – The mention of the Battle of Stalingrad would date the letter to sometime after February 1943 when the Germans at Stalingrad surrendered to the Russians.

——

#12 – Ken letter from Britain to parents

Est. June 1943

Logo of Canadian YMCA.

On Active Service

Lieut. K.G. McBride

Seaforths of Can.

2nd Bn, I.C.A.R.D.

  1. Coy (C.A.O.)1

Dearest Mother and Dad

Hello – one of Leigh’s letters came here yesterday so I read it and then sent it on to his address.  In it I was glad to note that by June 15th you were receiving a fair amount of mail from me.  That’s good – then I know that you are receiving most, or all, of my mail.  I am writing as often as possible but news is fairly scarce over here as there is so much routine which is all very boring to write.  So if you find some of my letters dull and repetitive, please forgive.

Of late I have been receiving a fair amount of mail from the Funny Old Mons.  They have been very interesting and of good length.  You must have had a terrific time in Kimberley with the boys.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Alan Graham took the cup from Art Franks.  Nice of him to make a point of sending his regards to me — makes me feel good.  He’s a fine fellow.  Can’t understand what happened to J. Blackstone but guess he might have found the fairways just as narrow as last year.  Tell him to start practising up for next year.

Had a lot of fun yesterday with my platoon on sports.  We had a game with another platoon and believe me there was a lot of feeling in it.  Reminded me of some of those wild games we use to play in Nelson.  I bet 10 shillings on the outcome of the game with the other platoon officer and my team won 16-10.  I did O.K. – managed to get a couple of hits and a walk.  It was a lot of fun and the lads really went all out for a win.  I have a dandy platoon – a real bunch of fine men who are in good condition.

I was on a Quiz contest the other night.  It was a sports quiz.  I managed to tie for top place with another officer.  We were going to break the tie so the Master of Ceremonies asked the audience for one tough question to ask us.  First one was “who was the only man to make an unassisted triple play in a Worlds’ Series game.”  Neither of us could recall who it was – although I know Leigh and Mr. Sharp2 will blush for my ignorance.  So, another question came – “Two teams played a game of ball, score was 1-0 yet not a man reached first base.”  How come?  The answer – “It was a ladies softball game”!  With that we decided we would split first prize which was some Canadian cigarettes.

Another nite we had a concert of local talent in the camp and it turned out we had a wonderful show.  We had a real swing band, juggling acts, singers and impersonators.  It all turned out to be a good show except for one brave lad who attempted to play a violin solo – and there can be nothing worse than a violin played badly.  It was gruesome!

Still have not received my first cigarettes from you – they have been very slow.  I have managed to get by far but hope they get here soon as I will be out soon.  Jack Moxon3 has had 4 parcels so far and I have had one but more should be right around the corner and no doubt they’ll be here in a week or so.  Mox and I share all our parcels so we have a lot of fun.  Dad, you want to look up Mr. Moxon sometime when you are in Vancouver – he’s a fine man and Jack and I have a lot of fun together.

I had a very nice letter from Ormie Hall who is in New Brunswick training to be a Navigator.  He’s had a lot of bad breaks in the Air Force and still has 3 more months to go before he graduates.  He really wishes he could get over here in a hurry – it will be good to see him again.  He was green with envy when I told him about St. Andrews, Braid Hills, and Royal Burgess4 etc.  Oh my, I’ve had an awful lot of fun with this Canadian Army.

Well, what do you know?  The proofs just arrived for me – reason they were so slow is the fact that this bloke addressed them to me as being in the Canadian Scottish.  I’ll send them up immediately – there is a dandy of me in my kilt.  I’ll send 2 lots home so you will receive one lot – otherwise write to C. Law, Vandyk Ltd., 69 Meadway, Hampstead, London, NW 11.

Well all for now.

All my love

Ken

1 – Canadian Army Overseas

2 – Roy Sharp of Nelson, who was a close colleague of R.L. McBride at Wood Vallance Hardware Co.

3 – the Moxons in Kelowna were good friends of the Leigh and Dee Dee McBride family for many years

4 – famous British golf courses

—-

#13 – Ken letter to parents

No date.  Est. August-Sept 1943

Dearest Dad and Mother:

Here I am in the other part of the world – the island of Sicily.  The crossing was once again very nice and happily very quiet.  Our meals on ship were good and we even had a bar which wasn’t disappointing to me.  Jack1 and I are still together – no matter what happens they just can’t seem to bust in on our partnership.

It’s actually far hotter here than Africa as there is no breeze to cool us off and believe it or not, there are 5 times as many flies.  The dust isn’t as bad so far.  It didn’t break my heart to leave Africa.  We’ll be happy if we never see it again.

Seeing all these people in these old countries makes me realize what we are fighting against – extreme filth, ignorance and illiteracy and terrific class socialism.  Those things aren’t found in Canada and I hope they never will be.  I only hope that when the war is finished that it does provide for a better world for us to live in.  Here’s hope it does.

According to my guess Sicily hasn’t long until it comes into our hands – how long I can’t say but we seem to be mowing ‘em down.

Had a tough break – my mail (3 or 4) were sent here in error and they were sent out of this camp 1 hour before I left.  So this a.m. I went to the C.P.C. (Postal Corps) to catch it before it went out but bad luck beat me again – missed by 2 hours.  It might go to Leigh in error as they have no record of me here as yet.  I’ll find it somehow.

We had to march up to our camp when we landed but Jack and I missed our turn and marched miles away from our camp.  When we decided we were thoroughly lost we halted our little band and ate some of our __ rations (which tasted good).  We were right in a lemon grove so we picked ripe lemons and squeezed the juice into our water bottles and had lemonade.  Also bought grapes from the natives and found some nut trees – all told it wasn’t a bad mistake as we were so far away they sent trucks for us and we got a ride into camp.  For a while it looked like we would sleep there.

Had a swim at the shore last night and the water was perfect – not nearly as salty as North Africa.  It really takes away the sweat from one’s body anyhow.

The last nite I was in N.A. I received 15 letters which got me very excited – 2 were from Mother, 2 from Dad, 2 from Leigh and lots of others.  A lot of it was very old mail but am glad it did catch up with me.  Hope I get the watch soon.

Have now heard that Leigh is going strong – which will keep you happy.  Now and again we can hear the rumble of field artillery units and A/A guns.  They are really potent.

Well, news is very scarce now and Jack needs his pen.  So for now

All my love

Ken

P.S. Am sending you a cable to-day.

Address: Lieut, K.G. McBride

Seaforths of Can.

Can. Army Overseas

1 – Jack Moxon

——-

#14 – Ken letter to his mother

TO: Mrs. R.L. McBride.  Passed by censor.

Same address.  Jan. 1, 1944 (stamped, apparently by censor, Feb. 1 1944)

Dearest Mother

A very Happy New Year to you Mom dear and may it bring with it peace and a new era of world understanding.  As I sat trying to eat my Xmas dinner our Padre was playing a small hand organ and a few lads were singing he was playing Christmas hymns and Christmas carols.  I think everyone thought as I did – Christmas at home, peace and security etc.  It was actually beautiful and made one completely forget that ½ miles away was going on the battle for a town by hand to hand fighting.  However that is finished and all the lads are resting – and do they ever deserve it!  But Jerry can’t rest – he is being pushed back relentlessly – one of these days they are going to crack wide open.  I am sure of that, as is everyone else.  From all reports the bombing of Germany is being intensified – their effect must be terrific!

But enough of the war – that’s all you hear and that’s all I hear.  One of these days I am going to send the Phi Delts a cheque for $50 for our house building fund.  While we were at Univ. each Phi Delt pledged $100 to the house building fund (payable any time after graduation).  So, now that I am saving so much, I can afford to repay the fraternity for the friends and experiences they showed me.  I certainly did have my share of frat life while at B.C.

Guess that you and Dad spent the day pouring out drinks to all the people who dropped in to see you.  Did the liquor shortage improve any in the Christmas season?  I hope so as it was a little slim.  Have you bought a liquor license yet Mother?  I’ll bet you have!

Haven’t had any mail since Dec 1st but have been up and down the line so often that I’m sure the postal authorities are dizzy.  It ruins one’s mail getting sick, but there is nought one can do about that!  I hope I can get some of your many parcels – will be good to get them.

There are 5 Seaforth officers here and a lot of men – almost the whole battalion is down around here.  We could almost start a Seaforth mess.

The M.O. tells me I may be discharged tomorrow to a Convalescence Depot for a week’s rest – I’ll take a rest this time.  I am feeling much better – haven’t got my zip back yet, but that will all come with rest.  From recent arrivals I know that the lads in the kilt are resting and L.M.1 is okay.  It’s been by far the hardest fighting the Canadians have hit – old “Monty” was very pleased with his Canadian Division.

It is beautiful out to-day, so I intend to go out for a walk – might ever hustle around and take my night nurse for a walk late this afternoon.  Sounds like a very sound idea to me.  Before I go out this a.m. I am going to go thru the mail and extract all letters for any of the Seaforths – the boys will appreciate someone doing a bit for them (they are the boys who are winning the war for us all).

Well darling, give my love to everyone I know and lots and lots of love to you and Dad.

Ken

1 – Ken’s brother Leigh McBride

—–

#15 – Ken letter to father and mother – from Nelson Daily News, February 1944

Seaforths of Canada

C.A.O. – C.M.F.

Jan. 1st, 1944

Dearest Dad and Mother – What do you know – back at the Cdn hospital again – jaundice, but a much easier dose this time.  I tried to stay with the rgt but no go.  So here I am for a week or two – reason I am here is that I didn’t take a rest after leaving the first time (thought I was tough as nails) so I will take a rest when I get out this time.

Well, I never will spend another Xmas like my 1943 one – what a nightmare.  You may have read about it in the papers by now, but Leigh and I were in the middle of it.  I’d call it Stalingrad No. 2.*

Only time I saw Leigh was on Xmas night – his platoon took over my platoon position so we could pull out and have Christmas dinner.  We wished each other a Merry Xmas – he gave me a cigar and I gave him the dope on the enemy so he’d know where to expect the Germans in the morning.  Leigh said he got a thrill when orders were issued from D Coy. H.Q.  “McBride to relieve McBride”.

I admit it was hard on the nerves – we’d be in one room of a house but slowly and surely we pushed them out of their sniping posts.  I’ve never seen such young lads in all my life – the victims of Nazism and the German idea that they are the super race.  They didn’t look like the super race on being taken prisoner.  One of them said to me “Canadian soldati too good!”  They all know who is winning too – so it won’t be too long now.

The Christmas dinner was very good – two bottles beer, roast pork, creamed potatoes, carrots and peas and Christmas pudding.  The boys ate until they couldn’t move (hadn’t eaten in three and a half days).  I, much to my disgust, was feeling so rotten that I didn’t eat a thing.  It wasn’t too happy a Christmas.

The nurses here are wonderful – all working like niggers, but always happy.  They are doing a wonderful job and deserve a great deal of credit.  This isn’t the nicest country in the world to be a woman.

And here’s wishing my Mother and Dad a wonderful New Year, and keep your chins up – Leigh and I will look after ourselves.

Ken

* This was right after Ken and Leigh were in the thick of the fighting in the Battle of Ortona, which was arguably the toughest battle of the war for the Canadian military.  The Christmas dinner Ken refers to became one of the great Canadian stories of the war..

04b7b76e-4f4e-4a4e-8bbf-26ce11718495

Leigh McBride visited Ken’s grave in Italy in 1974, when he participated in the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Army in Italy.  This photo was taken by his good friend Borden Cameron, who was the Seaforth quartermaster who rounded up supplies for the famous Christmas 1943 dinner at Ortona in  the midst of some of the heaviest fighting of the Italian campaign.  Leigh was among the Seaforth  officers who followed tradition and served the sergeants, corporals and privates at the Christmas dinner

Other Letters relating to Ken in the family archives

Letter from Leigh in England to Ken at Currie Barracks in Calgary, dated Jan. 13, 1943

Dear Harpo1,

I hope this reaches you before you leave.  Be sure you bring heavy underwear, pajamas, flashlight and batteries, soap and gloves.  Bring me a $1 watch.  I expect to go to the field soon.  All the Seaforths are a fine bunch of fellows.  Had a short course in Norton Motorcycles.  I hope we can have a reunion in London when you get to Blighty.  This is the 7th week of no mail.  Did you forward any from Currie?  This is one hell of a cold country.  It is so damned moist all the time.  Have you heard from Jas or the Seal lately?  Pratley told me you had a big party with he and Buie.  Haven’t seen Buie yet.  Write to me c/o C.I.D.I.U.  it will be good to see you over here some day.

Regards

Leigh

1 – Leigh, Jim and Ken were all big fans of the Marx Brothers movies.

2 – Currie Barracks where both Leigh and Ken trained.  Named after Sir Arthur Currie, top Canadian general of WW1.

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Letter from friend “Beattie” to RL and Win McBride

RCAF Officers’ Mess

Rockcliffe, Ont.

Sept. 27, 1944

My dear friends,

Mr. and Mrs. McBride

It is with heartsick misgivings and affectionate sympathy for you that I write this letter. Fred Dietrich has just written me a distressing letter that speaks of “the heart-breaking news of Brud Mathison, Doug Pedlow and Kenny McBride, the best of fraternity brothers.”

I do not exactly know what this means, but if it is the great sacrifice, I have no words to express the feelings I share with you.  In addition I am told that Leigh is reported missing.  I sincerely pray that by now you may have had good news.  I want you both to know that I am thinking of you and sending my sincerest sympathy in days that must seem completely bewildering.  God’s blessing and His comforting assurance to you both.

Your sincere friend,

Beattie

Forgive what seems an incoherent letter.  My thoughts are all confused, and I’m distressed beyond words at the possibility of the loss of one of my dearest and most respected and admired friends, Ken.

——–

Letter from R.L. McBride to Beattie

Oct. 12, 1944

Nelson, B.C.

Beattie:

You wrote us a lovely letter, Beattie.  It meant so much to us that it was as much as we could do, to read it.

We had two happy days.  On Sept. 20th we received a cable from Ottawa saying that Leigh was a prisoner of war in Germany1.  On Sept. 22nd we received another wire from the Director of Records, saying that Dear Old Ken had been killed in action on Sept. 16th.

The distressing news almost stunned us.  We had been worrying a great deal about both boys – Leigh being missing and Ken in the thick of the fighting around Rimini2.  But during those two days we were so completely happy that we forgot, for the time being, the danger that might occur to Ken.

Two days ago we received a letter from the Padre saying that Ken was advancing near the front line in his “Carrier”3 when they struck a mine.  Ken and his driver made the Supreme Sacrifice.  The poor boys never had a chance, but the Padre told us they did not suffer.  We thank God for that.

Ken wrote us three lovely letters dated Sept. 4-6-10 which we received on the day we heard Leigh was safe.  He told us about being through two heavy weeks previously.  He was happy and told of going in swimming and the big yellow moon, and of the German night raider that kept circling overhead.  He sent us one more letter that arrived after we heard the very sad news.

Ken and Leigh never let us down.  How they wrote us as often as they did is more than we can figure out.  They were both good soldiers – and they did their part.

We received our first letter from Leigh on Sept. 23rd (written June 15th).  He was then in a German hospital but getting excellent care and was being treated by an eye specialist.  He told us his left eye was gone forever and he was wounded in both legs and left arm by shrapnel.  He wrote a very brave and cheerful letter – told us he wore a black patch over his eye – all same Lord Nelson and Long John Silver.

We received another letter from him yesterday, dated Aug. 17th.  He had been transferred to a prisoner of war camp which he said was a great improvement on the hospital.  He said he had received shoes, clothes, shaving outfit etc. from the Red Cross.  There was not a single English book at the hospital, but at Stalag XVIII he had Law Books, Shakespeare, a tennis court and many other things to make the days pass more quickly.  He told us he would soon have his new glass eye.

Today, we received word from the Red Cross telling us that “it would appear, based on past cases, that his form of injury is one that takes precedence over all others in ‘repatriation’ considerations4.  How we hope they may be right.  They did not wish to bolster our hopes too high, but passed it on as general information.

We had always thought, judging what Leigh had gone through, that Ken might be wounded and he might have a real rest.  He deserved a rest as he had fought steadily from June 1943 to Sept 1944.   But it was not to be.

The McBride boys – everyone knew they were with the Seaforths – were known and respected and loved throughout the whole country.  When the Nelson people thought of the boys who were fighting overseas in the front line they thought of our boys.  No Mother or Dad could have been prouder of their sons than we were.

The letters and wires were coming in congratulating us about Leigh, and then they stopped – and the letters and wires offered deepest sympathy for Ken.

We also received many letters when Leigh was reported missing.  I intended to answer them when we got some happy news, but I never had a chance.  The day of great joy and the day of stark tragedy were too close together.

Forgive me for typing this letter but there was too much to write.  I know I have wandered here there and everywhere, but I have done the best I could.  Ken would like to know that.

Mrs. McBride and I send our kindest regards to one – you – who meant so much to Ken.

Yours very sincerely

(from R.L. McBride, but copy not signed)

1 – brother Leigh, who was Captain in the Seaforths at the time and would later rise to Acting Major, was the only survivor of a forward unit that received a direct hit by a German shell on May 23, 1944 in the heavy action of the Liri River campaign.  He was found unconscious on the ground by German soldiers, who roused him and said “for you the war is over”.  As there were no survivors to report to headquarters, Leigh was officially listed as Missing for three months until word arrived from the Red Cross that he was alive as a POW, and received treatment at a hospital in Rome and later other hospitals in Germany.

2 – Rimini is on the Adriatic coast, about two-thirds of the way up the Italian boot.

3 – – a mini-tank vehicle

4 – Leigh returned to Canada in a repatriation arrangement in January 1945.  He travelled to neutral Switzerland and then across the Atlantic in the Swedish repatriation ship Gripsholm.  His mother Winifred met him at the rail station in Vancouver, and they travelled from there to Nelson,

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2nd Letter to the McBride parents from family friend “Beattie” after Ken’s death

Rockcliffe, Ont.

Oct. 17, 1944

Dear Mr. and Mrs. McBride,

Your letter has just arrived, and my heart is heavy and too full to write.  Even as I wrote the last time, I still held hope that the news of both Leigh and Ken would be reassuring.  One can’t help feeling that way about those we cherish with a strong affection.

I am so relieved to hear that Leigh is well.  I pray sincerely that soon he may be back with you.

I am sharing with you a great deal of the sorrow in the loss of a brother for whom I held the highest respect and admiration.  Kenny represented to me the highest ideals of our beloved fraternity1, and he always shall in my fond memory of him.  Every other brother would join with me in the same tribute.  In this he can never die.  To me, he is not dead, he lives more fully as an example of clean, courageous manhood that I shall never forget.  To him, and therefore to you, his dear parents, I am forever indebted for having been privileged to know him.  I cannot write more.  I am thinking of you both, and Leigh and Jimmy2 who were such pals and brothers.

Ever sincerely your friend,

Beattie

1 – Ken’s fraternity at UBC, the Phi Delta Theda

2 – Ken’s cousin and great friend Jimmy Allan (1920-2010)

—–



NEWS CLIPPINGS OF KEN`S DEATH IN ACTION

ken-obit

ken-killed-van

Vancouver Province report of Ken’s death

——-   

          The Ken McBride Memorial Trophy

Ken’s death in action in Italy in September 1944 was devastating news in his beloved hometown of Nelson, B.C.  His parents and the executive of the Nelson Golf and Country Club raised funds for a large, engraved sterling silver tray to be awarded each year to the winner of the annual club championship held over the Labour Day Weekend.  It replaced the Alex Leith Trophy named after a prominent Nelson businessman who was still alive.  In 1944 Reg Stone of Trail won the Leith Cup, defeating his brother Roy Stone in match play.

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part of the report in the Nelson Daily News on Sept. 7, 1945, as Roy Stone, who often competed against Ken in Kootenay golf tournaments, won the trophy when it was offered for the first time.  The comment by the club president S.A. Maddocks that Ken “was loved by all of us“ is quite remarkable.

The trophy was given out from 1945 until 1977, when the Nelson golf club executive decided to discontinue the Ken McBride trophy and replace it by a Labatt’s trophy which would come with sponsorship money for the golf club.  I remember talking with my dad Leigh McBride about the Nelson golf club’s decision, and he said he was not much bothered about it, because most people who knew Ken had left Nelson or died, so it was not a big deal to him.  In retrospect, the club made a bad decision, because the Labatt’s trophy only lasted a couple of years, and subsequently the Labour Day Tournament became just another run-of-the-mill tournament – much different from the days when the honour of capturing the Ken McBride Trophy attracted up to 150 top golfers from the Kootenays, the Okanagan, the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

The actual trophy came to a sad end in 1979 when the out-building at the Nelson Golf Course where it was stored burned down.  While the all-metal silver trophy may or may not have been damaged by the fire, it was among the contents of the building which were sent off to the garbage dump for disposal.   No one in the McBride family – which had moved to Trail in 1969 – was advised of the fire or the junking of the trophy.

The Nelson golf course underwent extensive renovation and expansion in the early 1990s, and was re-named the Granite Pointe Golf Course.

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Nelson golf club president Bernie Clarkson (left) presents the Ken McBride Memorial Trophy to Ed Clem in 1964.  Clem won the trophy 8 times over the span it was offered.  Leigh was often called upon to present the trophy.  I well remember him saying in the presentation ceremony “Well, Eddie, here we are again.”  Photo courtesy of Shawn Lamb Archives, Touchstones Nelson.

WINNERS OF THE KEN McBRIDE MEMORIAL TROPHY, LABOUR DAY GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS, NELSON GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB

1945 – Roy Stone of Nelson (formerly and in future from Trail) defeated W.C. Carlson of Vancouver to win the new Ken McBride Memorial Trophy.  Roy and his brother Reg Stone were nationally renowned for their success in curling as well as golf.  I knew Roy well when he was club pro at Birchbank Golf Course near Trail in the late 1970s.

1946 – Roy Stone defeated Elgin Hill of Trail 3 and 2 in the match play final.  Stone’s toughest test was against Leigh McBride in the second round.  Leigh was one up after nine holes, but Stone won on the 17th hole.  This was the closest that Leigh came to winning the trophy named in honour of his beloved brother Ken.  The injuries he suffered in the war,including the loss of an eye, were detrimental to his golf game for the rest of his life, but he continued to be an excellent putter, winning several events at the mini-golf tournaments at Balfour.

1947 – Harry Donaldson of Trail defeated Roy Stone 7-6

1948 – Art Donaldson, Kimberley pro won.

1949 – Art Donaldson, Kimberley beat brother Harry Donaldson to claim the Ken McBride Memorial Trophy.

1950 – Buzz McGibney of Trail

1951 – Charlie Swanson of Trail

1952 – Johnny Johnston of Vancouver

1953 – Johnny Leschuk of Nelson

1954 – Jimmy Allan of Nelson (later West Vancouver) won.  As a first cousin, Jim would be the closest relative of Ken to win the trophy.  He said there was no golf tournament he would rather win, because “Ken was my buddy”.  Jim, who had won the Leith Cup as a junior in 1939, was prominent in the executive of the Capilano Golf Club for many years, including serving as President.

1955 – Art Donaldson

1956 – Arnold Sherwood of Nelson.  Arnold worked as a caddie at the Nelson golf course in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  While Leigh was President of the golf club, Arnold organized a caddies’ strike to get more money for their service.  Leigh nicknamed his “John L. Lewis” after the famous U.S. labour leader.  They became great long-term friends, and Arnold served as MC at Leigh’s funeral in August 1995.

1957 – Doug Campbell of Vancouver (formerly Nelson)

1958 – Bill Wakeham of Victoria

1959 – Arnold Sherwood defeated Bill Wakeham, 17, of Victoria, in match plan 4 and 3.

1960 – Bill Wakeham of Victoria defeated Paul Faynor of Creston, Alex Koenig, Terry Panton and Vern Miller.

1961 – Arnold Sherwood of Nelson

1962 – Bill Wakeham defeated Ed Clem, with a three-round total of 209, 7 ahead of Clem.  Ray West was third.

1963 – Arnold Sherwood of Fernie

1964 – Ed Clem of Castlegar, 18, a senior at L.V. Rogers High School, won the Ken McBride Trophy for the first time.  At the presentation ceremony, he gave full credit to his older stepbrother Arnie Sherwood for encouraging and instructing him as a golfer.

1965 – Ed Clem

1966 – Ed Clem

1967 – Ray West of Nelson posted score of 138, two lower than his competition.  Prizes were worth $800, including a 30.30 rifle.

1968 – Garnet Lineker of Kamloops

1969 – Bernie Clarkson of Nelson posted a score of 135, three strokes better than Garnet Lineker.

1970 – Garnet Lineker of Kamloops

1971 – Ed Clem

1972 – Ed Clem defeated Garnet Lineker by 6 strokes, shooting rounds of 67 and 67.  Buzz MacDonald was low net winner.

1973 – Ed Clem defeated Miles Desharnais of Vancouver, posting a two-round total of 142 to top the field of 120 entrants.

1974 – Ed Clem

1975 – Garnet Lineker of Kamloops

1976 – no info on winner

1977 – Ed Clem wins his eighth Ken McBride Trophy

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Mount McBride near Fauquier, B.C. was named in Ken’s honour

Keep the West terminal of the Kootenay Lake Ferry in Balfour

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by Sam McBride

A reguular topic of discussion this summer in the West Kootenay region is the future of the Kootenay Lake Ferry.

Consulting company SNC Lavalin concluded in a study for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) that the West terminal for the ferry service at Balfour be abandoned, and replaced by a new terminal to be constructed at a greenfield site at north Queens Bay, approx. 4 kilometers north of Balfour.

The government commenced public consultation on the issue at an open house in Harrop on June 15, 2016.  The original deadline for public feedback was July 6, 2016, and this was later extended to October 6, 2016.  The government has said that no final decision on the issue has been made, but the options have been narrowed down to either stay in Balfour and make improvements there, or build a new ferry terminal at north Queens Bay.

An online poll by the Nelson Daily showed that 85% of respondents chose the Balfour option over construction of a new terminal at a greenfield site.

For the record, here is my submission to the minister, and his response.  Also below are images that illustrate the situation.

  1. LETTER TO MOTI MINISTER, SENT JUY 6, 2016

July 6, 2016

TO: the Hon. Todd Stone,

Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure

Government of British Columbia

Minister.Transportation@gov.bc.ca

Cc:  MichelleMungallMLA@leg.bc.ca

Kirk.Handrahan@gov.bc.ca

RE: proposal to move the Kootenay Lake Ferry west terminal from Balfour to Queens Bay

Dear Minister Stone:

Please include me among West Kootenay residents who are against moving the ferry from Balfour in the West Arm to a previously undisturbed site at Queens Bay.

The West Kootenay is unusual in B.C. because its population today is actually less than it was 120 years ago, when Nelson, Rossland and the Slocan Valley were beehives of mining and mineral exploration.  While the rest of the province has grown and prospered in the last couple of decades, our region has generally stagnated.  Many of our problems are transportation-related, most notably our regional airport at Castlegar which has earned the nickname Cancelgar because of the extreme unreliability of service in winter months, which is a huge barrier to economic development.

While, on one hand, we admit with embarrassment to having the country`s worst regional airport, on the other hand we take pride in the Kootenay Lake Ferry cruise – known far and wide as The Longest Free Ferry Ride in the World.    It is the jewel in the crown of our region`s tourism industry.   I have taken the ferries (Anscomb, Balfour and Osprey) hundreds of time, and never once thought the trip took too much time.   I often take the opportunity of the voyage across the breadth of the lake to point out to guests and tourists the historical landmarks such as the Pilot Bay Smelter chimney and the Pilot Bay Lighthouse.

Sorry, but a shuttle service directly across the lake to a new terminal at Queens Bay would take all of the magic out of the journey.   It would be the hum-drum equivalent of the Fauquier-Needles ferry.   One less tourist attraction for a region with an endemically fragile economy.    No place would suffer more from a ferry terminal move that the town of Balfour, which stands to lose 60 jobs.   I think we have enough ghost towns already in the West Kootenay without adding Balfour to the list.  Jobs in the north end of Kootenay Lake are few and far between as it is, which has been a key factor in the threatened closure of schools in the region due to fewer student numbers.

Something missing in the studies that have been done on the ferry issue is detailed analysis of the freakish storms experienced on the Main Lake as opposed to the much calmer West Arm.  And the West side of the lake – particularly Queens Bay which is directly exposed to lake storms – has worse storms that the East Shore.   That is why you see boathouses on the West Arm and the East Shore, but not on the West Shore.

Many people assume that a lake is a lake, but Kootenay Lake is a mountain lake very different from prairie lakes or even the Okanagan lakes.    I recently did some research at the Touchstone Archives to see why Balfour was chosen to be the west side terminal for the ferry service.  In the summer of 1944 when plans for the new ferry service were being discussed, the Nelson Daily News reported a commercial group urging Queens Bay as site for the west  ferry terminal, but some old-time residents who knew the lake intimately from sternwheeler days came forward and said weather at Queens Bay was too hazardous.  They recommended Balfour as the proverbial safe port in a storm.

With 62 years of service, the MV Balfour has lasted longer than both the Moyie and the Anscomb.   I think everyone would agree that the Balfour is on its last legs.  But I think the response to this situation is to upgrade facilities at Balfour and buy a new energy efficient second ferry to replace the Balfour, rather than a high-risk, high-consequence move to a greenfield site.

At the open house at Harrop I asked engineers about back-up to the Osprey after the Balfour is de-commissioned.  One said they were looking at getting a motorized barge at the cost of about $11 million.  Another said that they would likely use a barge used elsewhere in the province which can be disassembled and transported to Kootenay Lake for re-assembly as a barge to be pushed across the lake when the Osprey was down for maintenance.

The idea of barge service replacing the magnificent and distinctive Kootenay Lake Ferry cruise is quite worrisome.  Friends of mine in Proctor say they dread it when the Harrop ferry is down for maintenance, because the motorized barge is extremely slow and problematic.    And that is for a relatively short distance across the West Arm.   Barge trips across Kootenay Lake would be a scary proposition, as bad weather can come up very quickly.

I have kayaked extensively between Balfour and Airnsworth, and had several close calls with stormy weather, including a terrifying experience when our two-man kayak was almost swept into the rocks at McEwan Point by heavy winds and strong current from the south.   And last August I watched in amazement as our 80-pound canoe parked upside down on a beach at Queens Bay was picked up by a squall and sent about 30 metres in the air down the beach about 100 metres and about 10 metres out into the lake.   If a person or open boat had been where the canoe was, who knows what would have happened to them.

According to the booklet “Historical Shipwrecks of the West Kootenay District“ by the Underwater Archaeological Society of British Columbia, a total of 48 wreck sights have been reported or located on the lake.  They say the largest category of wrecks involves barges.  Five have been located and eight more are rumoured.   The next largest category of wrecks is barges with rail cars.

I expect MOTI will always put safety first, and not send the Osprey, or, especially, a flimsy pre-fabricated barge, if there is any threat at all of bad weather.   One consequence of this would be a dramatic reduction in reliability of service in the Main Lake ferry.   I fear we would become known for bad ferry service year-round just as we are the laughing stock of the province for bad air service at Cancelgar in the winter!

The West Kootenay has contributed greatly to the economic development of B.C. through its mines, metal  processing, forestry operations, and hydro-electric operations through the years.   We don`t deserve to be thrown under the bus due to a highly speculative and risky ferry terminal move.  Please do the required dredging of the West Arm channel, upgrade the docks in Balfour, and obtain a new second ferry we can be proud of.   A new small-scale ferry could replace the Osprey through much of the year when there are less than 25 cars in line for ferry service, and thus extend the operating life of the Osprey and reduce operating costs at the same time.

Yours truly.

Sam E. McBride

202 – 719 11 Avenue

Castlegar, B.C.  V1N 1J7

www.thebravestcanadian.wordpress.com


2. RESPONSE FROM THE MINISTER – AUG. 11, 1016

257989 – Balfour Ferry Terminal

Thank you for your correspondence concerning the ministry’s work to address challenges at the Balfour Ferry Terminal.

Our inland ferry system is an integral part of the transportation network for the region and a vital asset for Kootenay communities, and we recognize its importance to local tourism and economic interests. The safety and reliability of ferries and terminals are also key considerations in our long-term transportation strategy. There are a number of issues that impact the operation of the ferry service at the existing terminal that led the ministry to initiate a study in 2015 to assess the technical feasibility of relocating the Balfour ferry terminal to an alternate location. The feasibility study is now complete.

The ministry recently released a discussion guide and held a public information session in Nelson. The discussion guide, the information presented at the open house and an online survey are available online at http://www.gov.bc.ca/balfourterminal.

The ministry has presented two options to address the challenges. The first option involves undertaking work at the current terminal, dredging of the west arm and replacing the MV Balfour. The second option involves relocating the terminal to Queens Bay. The ministry has not made a decision and will continue to engage with the community, interested First Nations and other parties on the proposed options.

As you may be aware, the ministry has extended the deadline for public comment by three months, giving Balfour and area residents until October 6, 2016 to provide input.Once the public consultation process is complete, the results will be shared online and a report will be presented to government to help inform its decision making process.

I have relayed your feedback to the project team.

Thank you for taking the time to write.

Sincerely,

 

Todd G. Stone

Minister

Copy to:          Balfour Ferry Terminal Project Team


3. IMAGES ASSOCIATED WITH THE FERRY ISSUE

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part of the north Queens Bay site under consideration for a new ferry terminal and parking lot.

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The proposed new ferry terminal would be built on a greenfield site about 4 km north of Balfour. In this scenario, the current terminal and associated facilities in Balfour would be abandoned.

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Launched in 1954 as the second ferry to the main ferry Anscomb and later the Osprey 2000, the MV Balfour is on its last legs of operation and needs to be replaced. One option under consideration by the provincial government is to move the ferry terminal to a more direct location across Kootenay Lake which supposedly would make it possible for the Osprey to provide ferry service by itself, thus avoiding the cost of buying a new second ferry.

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Sign at the north end of the proposed site of a new ferry terminal at Queens Bay.

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Site of the south end of the 500-meter section of north Queens Bay that would be severely impacted if a decision is made to move the terminal from its current site in Balfour.

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Some of the signs in Balfour protesting a potential move of the ferry away from Balfour, location of the West terminal of the Kootenay Lake Ferry since 1946.

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The Osprey 2000 ferry on a run across scenic Kootenay Lake.

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poster for a Swim-In to be held on Sunday, August 21, 2016

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Coincidence of two men in McBride Family Tree both dying the same day in WW1 a century ago on June 3, 1916

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Today, June 3, 2016 marks a sad anniversary in my family tree.  A century ago, on June 3, 1916, two of my ancestors died in action in the First World War — one on my mom`s side and one on my dad`s.

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Lt. Gerald Hamilton Peters (1894-1916)

I have long known the story of my grandmother Helen Dewdney`s brother Lt. Gerald Hamilton Peters, who was born in Charlottetown in 1894 and died June 3, 1916 in the Battle of Mount Sorrel in the Ypres Salient (the small triangle of land which was the only part of Belgium held by the Allies after the first German offensive in 1914).   Gerald joined the 24th (Montreal) battalion of the Canadian forces in early 1915 and served in trench action at Ypres until early 1916 when he was sent to England for officer training, from which he return in March 1916 as a lieutenant with the 7th (British Columbia) battalion.

I recently discovered that a second cousin (twice removed) James Santo McBride also died in action June 3, 1916 at Ypres.   Born in Calgary in 1892, he was a private serving with the 24th battalion, so it is possible that he and Gerald may have known each other (a battalion was approximately 600 men).   When war was declared in 1914 James was working at a hardware store in Calgary owned by his grandfather Alexander

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Private James Santo McBtide (1892-1916)Enter a caption

McBride, who was the youngest child of the McBride family that emigrated from Northern Ireland and settled in London, Ontario in the 1830s.   Alexander, who was mayor of Calgary in 1896, had a chain of hardware stores that included outlets in Rossland and Cranbrook.   My grandfather Roland Leigh McBride worked at the A. McBride Hardware stores in Calgary and then Rossland when he moved west from Ontario in 1900.  I don`t know much about James, but I met his younger brother Jack McBride and his wife Lillian in Calgary in the early 1990s.

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