1914 Christmas card from Frederic Thornton Peters on HMS Meteor

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by Sam McBride

Among the memorabilia of Frederic Thornton “Fritz” Peters, VC, DSO, DSC and bar, DSC (U.S.), RN that exists today in the family collection is a Christmas card he sent home to his parents and siblings in Prince Rupert, British Columbia in December 1914.

Scans of the front and inside of the card are shown below.  The back of the card was blank.  The pre-printed message in the card is “With Christmas Greetings and all Good Wishes for the New Year.”  Then, in Fritz’s handwriting, is a personal message which I have not yet been able to figure out.  It looks like “Your hangle mongle”.  Members of the family often used nicknames and pet phrases in letters to each other, but this is not repeated in any other correspondence.

front of 1914 Christmas card

Fritz had served in the Royal Navy from 1905 until retiring in 1913, and then rejoined the navy at the outbreak of war in August 1914, serving as a lieutenant second-in-command of the destroyer HMS Meteor out of Devonport.  His service on Meteor drew front page news coverage on two occasions.  First, in October 1914 Meteor stopped the German hospital ship Ophelia after a sea battle off Texel Island.  After search and interrogation, Fritz and other Meteor officers concluded the ship was scouting for German submarines, and directed it to Yarmouth where it was converted for British use.

inside 1914 Christmas card

In January 1915 in the Battle of Dogger Bank in the North Sea, Meteor ‘s engine room was hit by an 8.2-inch shell from the German cruiser Blucher.   In the face of flames and bursting boilers, Fritz courageously rushed straight to the engine room, saved the lives of two ratings and prevented further damage to the ship from explosions.  He was Mentioned in Dispatches and then in March 1915 received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) medal from King George the Fifth.  For a naval officer, the DSO was second only to the Victoria Cross as an award for valour.

There was talk among Fritz’s naval colleagues and friends that his actions at Dogger Bank could have qualified for a Victoria Cross.  It may have made a difference if he was in command of the warship rather than a “Number One” (second-in-command).  In November 1915 Fritz was placed in command of the HMS Greyhound.

In 1918 Fritz received his next major award for valour in battle, the Distinguished Service Cross, for anti-submarine heroics.  Returning for Royal Navy service in the Second World War, he won a bar to his Distinguished Service Cross in 1940, and then won the Victoria Cross and U.S. Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry in leading the attack through the boom of Oran harbour in the Allied invasion of North Africa of November 1942.

My book The Bravest Canadian about the extraordinary two-world-war naval career and mysterious life of Frederic Thornton Peters in his native Canada — as well as exploits in Britain, Africa and around the world — will be published later this spring.

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Letters from Private John Francklyn Peters, Part One: Dec. 1914 – February 1915

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by Sam McBride

This is the first of two postings of letters from Private J.F. Peters, who was a younger brother of Capt. Frederic Thornton “Fritz” Peters, VC, and son of former Prince Edward Island premier Frederick Peters.

These are the full transcriptions of his letters between December 1914 and February 1915.  Most are written to his mother Bertha.  Others in the second posting are to his cousin Evelyn Poole in Guildford, England and his younger brother Gerald, who was training in Montreal and soon to leave himself for the front.

I transcribed the letters and provided these notes for the Peters Family Papers in 2008-2010.  These letters were one of the resources referenced in my biography of Fritz Peters titled The Bravest Canadian, scheduled for release later in 2012.

Jack to his family in Prince Rupert     December 18, 1914

{sent from England}

Just received yours of Nov. 23rd.  As it is pouring with rain we can’t go out on parade so I’ve got a chance to answer it.

Capt. Harvey1 gave us a lecture on attacking a fortified position between 9 and 10 this morning.  About which he doesn’t know much.  All the old soldiers are busy imitating him now.  They, of course, know what a real attack is like.  Although, as a rule, they don’t say much about the Boer War.

I was very glad it rained today as I was feeling tired after a day’s work digging on the railway about five miles away from here.  The pick and shovel work caused many casualties amongst the company.  Mostly, the “lurking fever”.  They all claimed it was vaccination, but the hard-hearted doctor sent them all back to work.  Except one to whom he gave some medicine.  The others all agree that it is lucky that he took it first before they tried it.  My arm hasn’t bothered me at all.  I hope to escape inoculation.

It’s awful to be ill at camp.  “Sick Parade” sounds at 7:15 and you have to parade at the doctor’s tent then await his pleasure.  Needless to say, it prevents anyone from going sick when they aren’t.  The ones who really are ill, generally die.  I believe I’m feeling quite well, so far.  Eric Poole2 is in hospital as a result of trench digging on a wet night.  Ray3 is a major now.  We are all a bit excited owing to the bombardment of the East Coast.  One fellow in the next hut whose house is in Scarborough had his home destroyed, and feels that his people may have been killed.  The general nervousness in camp is not owing to anything like that, but whether Christmas leave will be stopped.  All the old soldiers live for the huge bust that they go on when on leave.

I am down for leave from Dec. 30 to Jan. 4. I expect I’ll go up to Hodsocks4 and have a cheap holiday. London is a little expensive.  I arrived in camp with 1/35.  If I hadn’t been taken I would have had to work with pick and shovel to enable me to get back toLondon.

I feel sure that we will be in Franceby the time you get this.  Of course, we will be at least eight weeks at the base or on the lines of communication.  The 1st B.C. regiment are the cracks of the Contingent.  Some of the Eastern men are awful looking mutts quite on a par with Kitchener’s rather scraggy army.

I’ll send you a photograph as soon as I can.  My uniform will soon be all messed up.  They provide us with slacks and a khaki shirt which I generally wear.

(continued Sunday)

We had parade on Friday afternoon.  I saw the biggest aeroplane that I have ever seen.  The plains are alive with them.  They have a Union Jack painted on the bottom of the planes.  I’ve seen as many as 5 in the air at once.

Saturday morning was the hardest on record.  We paraded at 8:30 but had to go on fatigue instead and help the engineers build a heavy truck road.  I had the job of carrying ties about 8 feet long weighing a terrific amount.  It was pouring with coldsleet and rain as well.  We labored for 3 hours.  The hardest in my life.  I was over to see Harris on Friday evening.  The 72nd are about a mile away from here.  I got lost coming back in the dark.  Hundreds of huts all looking the same.

I had a two hour job finding my own hut.  Harris goes on his holiday this week.  So I can’t go to Yorkshire with him.  Gus Lyons of Victoria fame is in the 50th Highlanders right near us.  I haven’t found Willie Abbott6 yet.

We had a church parade this morning for the first time since my arrival.  Mr. Barton I believe is our chaplain.  It was cold out in the open air.  I didn’t envy him in his thin surplice.

Fritz has written to me several times since I came.  He can’t give any news.

The war in the opinion of most people will last for 18 months at least.  The Russians have just been badly beaten by Von Hindenburg.  The Germans again threaten Warsaw.  So it is up to Kitchener to finish the war as neither France or Russia can.  I expect you don’t hear anything about the Russian defeat in Rupert.

Kitchener rules…

 1 — Captain Rupert (aka Robert) Valentine Harvey (1872-1915) was born in Liverpool and taught school there before moving to Canada in 1899 to teach at Queen’s School in Vancouver.  In 1901 he took over as headmaster and then in 1908 merged his school with UniversitySchoolin Victoriathat had been founded two years before by Rev. W.W. Bolton (who had taught Fritz Peters at his school on Belcher Avenue in Victoria before Fritz went to England for preparatory school in 1900) and J.C. Barnicle.  Harveybecame Warden of the University School(now known as St. Michael’s University School, the largest residential school in B.C.).  In a 1917 letter to his father, Fritz Peters mentioned meeting Harvey several years earlier and discussing schoolmastering with him, which Fritz was considering as a career at the time.  Harvey was a strong believer in cadet corps and scouting, but he didn’t serve in the Boer War.  In 1914 he left with his regiment, the 7th Battalion, as Captain for overseas duty.  OnApril 24, 1915 in the Second Battle of Ypres he and the No. 3 Company he commanded were surrounded by Germans in their full-scale assault on Canadian forces. Harvey was seriously wounded but refused medical treatment until injured men in his company were taken care of.  He was taken prisoner, and died in a prison hospital in Germany on May 8, 1915.  Captain Harvey’s signature is on Jack Peters’ attestation papers.

 2 – Jack’s cousin Eric Skeffington Poole was a son of Bertha’s sister Florence Gray Poole.  He was born in Nova Scotia and lived in Englandafter the family moved there in 1905.  He was a Second Lieutenant with the West Yorkshire Regiment in July 1916 when he suffered from shell shock during theBattleof the Somme.  He had recurring periods of confusion after returning from medical treatment, and then on October 5, 1916he wandered away from his platoon at the front.  He was arrested by military police and faced a court martial for desertion.  Despite evidence that he was still suffering from the shell shock (or what today could be referred to as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) which made him anxious and confused, he was found guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad.  British Field Marshall Douglas Haig could have commuted the sentence, but chose to make an example of him to demonstrate that officers were subject to the same basic military rules as their men.  In his diary entry of Dec. 6, 1916 Haig wrote “it is highly important that all ranks should realize that the laws is the same for an officer as a private.”  Eric was shot at dawn on December 10, 1916 at Poperinghe, Belgium, about 10 km west of where his cousins Jack and Gerald Peters had died earlier in battles near Ypres.  He was the first British officer to be executed for desertion.  The trial and execution were not publicized in the press at the time, apparently in deference to Eric’s father Henry Skeffington Poole who had aristocratic connections and was ill at the time of the court martial and would die in March 1917.  It is possible that the family agreed to not contest the verdict if authorities kept it secret.  The fact that Jack would comment on Eric being in hospital in a 1914 letter – two years before the “desertion” incident – is interesting because it shows that Eric had longstanding health problems.

3 – Major Henry Raynauld (Ray) Poole was Eric’s older brother.  The obituary published after the funeral of his mother, Florence Poole, in 1923 listed a surviving son Major H. R. Poole, DSO, MBE, indicating he won the Distinguished Service Order medal and was accepted as a Member of the British Empire.

4 – Hodsock Priory, a stately manor and estate in Nottinghamshire, was the residence of Col. Henry Mellish, a bachelor who was an expert sharpshooter and enthusiastic amateur meteorologist.  Mellish’s mother was Margaret Cunard, a daughter of Sir Samuel Cunard and sister of Fred’s mother Mary, so he and Fred Peters were cousins.  One of the envelopes of letters that Fritz sent to Bertha in 1916 was addressed to her at Hodsock Priory, which was one of several addresses Bertha had while inEnglandwhen she was there for about a year during the First World War.  From these letters, the Peters family members appear to have had an open invitation to stay at the huge Hodsock estate virtually whenever they desired.

5 – The standard for stating British currency at the time (pounds/shillings).

6 – William Hamilton “Willie” Abbott was Jack`s cousin.  His mother was Mary Stukeley Hamilton Gray, sister of Jack`s mother Bertha Gray.  His father was William Abbott, son of the Canadian Prime Minister John Abbott.  The Abbott home in Montreal was a regular stop for members of the Peters family travelling by rail to or from England.  Willie, a civil engineer, survived the war.  He was interviewed by the  Montreal Gazette in 1943 after his cousin Fritz Peters received the Victoria Cross.  Willie was a greatuncle of Oscar-winning Canadian actor Christopher Plummer.

This is a photo of first page of Jack's Jan. 27, 1915 letter.

Jack to his mother Bertha  January 27, 1915

 {sent from England}

Dear Mother.

Just got yours of Jan. 8.  I am going right through it and answering the various questions in it.

Re mattress…Straw pallets were tried at West Down South1 but from reports that I heard they soon became rather unpleasant, “lousy” in fact.  The cold does come whistling up through the chinks in the floor, to which many colds are attributed.  It doesn’t bother me any.

My vaccination took very little.  I haven’t been inoculated yet for anything at present.  They inoculate for typhoid, tetanus and for something else, cholera, I think.

I’m glad that Clifford was able to see you at Christmas.  I don’t think they can be having such a very tough time of it at the Willows.  I think he is in luck not going to the front until the spring…

I suppose by the time you get this you will have read all about the naval battle2 in which Fritz figured when the “Meteor” had a shell put through her killing four and wounding one, putting her out of action.  I’ll try and get an account off Fritz, if possible.  It must have been pretty exciting while it lasted.  I’m sending you a Mirror.  These papers don’t give any news at all here.  Not a paper has published any thing about the “Audacious3 which was supposed to be lost off Belfast.  We don’t know anything about it yet except what we see in the Colonist.  If I come across any good account in the paper written by a “Meteor” man I’ll send it to you.  The trouble is that we often don’t get any papers in this wilderness.

We were served out with our new “Webb” equipment and trenching tool.  The latter reminds me of a toy shovel.  Thank the Lord it is very light.  The new equipment is made out of webbing like a football belt.  Our old “Oliver”4 equipment was leather and the corners used to cut into my shoulder giving you awful pains and aches.  It’s sheer will power that keeps a lot of us from falling out of the march sometimes.

We expect to leave here on Sunday or Monday.  I believe this is the real thing this time.  We hope to go to the South of France to recuperate for a month.  I hope we do.  It sounds warmer down there.  Ten weeks in the cold and wet doesn’t suit you for the colder and wetter trenches.  Much better to go to France in the sunny spring.  If we do go to the front right away, of course, you needn’t worry about me because I don’t intend to put my head up above the trench to shoot the Germans.  Me for where the earth is thickest and highest.

We may go toWinchester but I don’t think we’ll do more than just pass through.

My cold is better.  All I want now is a change of air and a bunch of good food, which I’ll get if we go to Winchester.  You can’t get it here.  All leave has been stopped and everyone recalled who were away.  Forty men from the base company were transferred into ours, to bring it up to full strength.  All the sick being put in the base company and will be left behind.  All these things make me think that the hour is approaching.

You speak of spinal meningitis.  It has been in the other regiments for some time.  We had a case at New Year’s in G Company and another one in B Company.  I believe one died and the other recovered.  Both huts were isolated and every precaution taken in fact anyone with a tickle in his throat was rushed to the hospital to be watched.  I think all danger is over now.  One hut will be out of quarantine before we go.  No need for you to be alarmed.  Although I felt a bit scared when I first heard of it myself and saw the rows of stretchers passing by.  All containing men with colds who thought their last day had come.  You know how rumours about these things spread.  It was living in the wet that caused it.  Well I must stop

– Jack

P.S….I notice you say that the cavalry and artillery have gone.  They are still with us3.  We fought a battle with the cavalry yesterday and won out.  It was very easy as we were the supports and did nothing until the end when we doubled into action to help the others who didn’t need us.  I only saw one of the enemy all day and he was sitting in a field firing at about 200 of us quite calmly.  Unfortunately the Colonel made us skirmish all the way home which means doubling about two miles in our full equipment.  I couldn’t speak for half an hour afterwards.  I’m sure we’ll never be called up to do so much on active service.

I notice you ask for a timetable.  I believe I sent you one.

Reveille           6:30 am

Breakfast           7:30

Parade          8:15-12:00

Dinner            12:30

Parade          2:15-4:00 pm

Supper             5:00

Lights out         9:45

1 – In Salisbury Plain southwest of London, the central training area for the British Army for many years.  Jack had trained there with other forces of the Canadian First Contingent in the winter of 1914-15.  The weather was the worst on record – so bad that many soldiers were looking forward to better conditions at the Western Front.  Soldiers lost out on much of their training – most notably, training for life and combat in trenches — because the exercises could not be held in the mud and water of Salisbury Plain.

2 – This was the Battle of Dogger Bank in theNorth Sea in January 1915 for which Fritz was “mentioned in dispatches” for heroism in his service as lieutenant on the destroyer Meteor.  He would later receive the Distinguished Service Order medal for the same action.

3 – The H.M.S. Audacious, a superdreadnought that was the third largest battleship in the Royal Navy, sank after hitting a German mine on October 27, 1914 off the Firth of Clyde in Scotland while temporarily away from its regular base which was undergoing repairs.  The White Star passenger liner R.M.S. Olympic – sister ship of the R.M.S. Titanic which sank two years before – was only a few miles away when the Audacious signaled for help.  Thanks to the Olympic and other rescue ships, the entire crew of Audacious was saved before the ship went down.  The Olympic tried to tow Audacious to a safe port, but the warship sank in the process.  The British authorities tried to keep the sinking secret for security and morale reasons and did not admit to it until after the war, but many American tourists on the Olympic witnessed the rescue and took photographs and film footage that was shown in the United States and reached the rest of the world from there.  Jack had seen reports of the sinking in clippings of the Victoria Colonist newspaper that someone mailed to him.  This was one of many instances of clumsy censorship and propaganda during the war.

4 – There was a great controversy in the first two years of the war about the uniforms, equipment and rifles provided to Canadian troops.  Canada’s hard-driving and outrageous Minister of Defence and Militia Sir Sam Hughes was using the war as an opportunity to showcase Canadian industry, including products of contractors who were among his political supporters.  The Canadian soldiers and their British generals often found the equipment uncomfortable and faulty.  The shovel Jack mentions could be one of the infamous MacAdam shovels with a large hole in the blade that a secretary of Hughes designed and patented.  The idea was that a soldier could look through the hole at the enemy as he was shoveling above the top of the trench.  However, the shovel proved to be useless for stopping bullets and also no good for shoveling, so the 20,000 purchased for use by Canadian soldiers were scrapped.

Jack Peters as a boy in Victoria, B.C.

Jack to his mother Bertha    February 5, 1915

Lark Hill Camp1

Dear Mother,

Just received yours of January 13th.  Our training is finished now apparently because we are practically doing nothing.

The King and Kitchener2 together with a small army of generals and a stray admiral reviewed us yesterday.  We were stationed just opposite the royal stand so we were able to see nearly all the contingent march past.  It certainly was a wonderful sight.  Every regiment did well.  The cavalry and the artillery headed the procession.  The 1st B.C. were nearly at the end, the Highland regiments being behind us.  Kitchener said that there had been a great improvement since he last reviewed the Canadians.  He himself looked quite a mild, good-natured old man.  His mustache is quite gray.  He towered head and shoulders above the others.  The King looks very worried and has rather a strawberry nose.  I had a good view of him when he passed in the train.  We all lined the track and cheered him as he slowly went by looking very depressed.  This was our farewell review before going to France.  All the men are reviewed by the King before they go out.  Colonel McHarg3 reminded me very much of poor old Captain Stork4 when he said to us “Boys, you’ve done well.”

My cold has gone now.  I cured it by going down to a small village nearly three nights in succession and getting enormous meals.  The camp food seemed to sicken me for a while.  My appetite is back now and I once more eat with relish.  They won’t allow you to go into the villages, pickets being placed all around them but of course they are easily dodged.

We expect to go to France any day now.  Ammunition has been served out to us.  I think we are going to take the Ross Rifle5 to the front with us after all.  The new Webb equipment is fine to wear and doesn’t hurt my shoulders at all.  The old Oliver equipment used to be leather and would cut right into your flesh.  I think we shall be billeted in South France.  I hope so, anyhow.  The chances are that my next letter will be censored so you can’t expect any news in it.  In case they won’t allow us to write where we are, the following may come in handy.  If I begin my letter “My Dearest Mother” it means that I am billeted in South France. “Mother” (alone) means that I am at the base.  “Dear Mother” means that I am going to the front right away.6

I wrote to Fritz for an account of the battle but haven’t received any answer so far.  I wish I could have seen him before I left.  I’ll be gone before Gerald arrives.

The five hundred men from Canadaincluding the 125 from Victoriahave arrived.  They are stationed at Tedworth about 6 milesfrom here.  They were quite useless as far as I can learn, as a reinforcement for the P.P.L.I.’s7  as they were practically untrained.  I expect they will be drafted into the various battalions.  I haven’t come across any of the Rupert men yet.

I suppose Gerald has gone by now and you are feeling low.  I hope you’ll be able to make it in the summer.  Just about the time when I am invalided back toEngland.

We never went to the East Coast.  I notice that you ask the question in your letter.

The rain has come back.  I personally like it as I’m used to it.  It’s the cold that bothers me.  It is warm when it rains and we can’t have any parades either, which is a great thing.  Good bye.  I’ll drop you a card when we are en route.

– Jack

P.S. Socks and coloured (dull) handkerchiefs are always acceptable.

P.P.S. Aunt Helen8 has been very good and has sent some fine socks.  Next time you write you might thank her.

1 – Salisbury Plain in England

2 — King George the Fifth and Britain’s Minister of War Lord Horatio Kitchener, whose stern likeness was on recruitment posters throughout the British Empire.

3 – Colonel William Hart-McHarg was commander of the 7th Battalion (British Columbia) in which Jack served.  His signature is on Jack Peters’ attestation papers, along with Captain Harvey’s.  Hart-McHarg was a sergeant in the Boer War and 46 in 1915.  In about 1900 he was a lawyer in Rossland, B.C. and was an officer in the local militia known as the Rocky Mountain Rangers.  This was the same time that Jack’s 20-year-old future brother-in-law was working as a clerk at the Bank of Montreal and active in the Rossland unit of the Rocky Mountain Rangers, where he rose from private to lieutenant over seven years of service, in which he was an officer at the same time that and later was a lawyer in Vancouver, where he served in the militia before rejoining the Canadian forces at the outbreak of war in 1914.  He won Canada’s national sharpshooting competition’s Palma Medal in 1908 and 1913 using the Ross Rifle.  Its effectiveness for sharpshooting was one reason why Sam Hughes was such a strong supporter.  Unlike other senior officers who generally stayed safe in headquarters several miles behind the trenches, Hart-McHarg was in the battle zone on April 23, 1915 during the 2nd Battle of Ypres reviewing the new battle lines with two other officers when they encountered German soldiers in the open about 100 yards away.  As he was running back to the Canadian line he was hit by rifle fire.  He made his way to the medical centre, but died the next day on April 24, 1915, the same day Jack died.  A viaduct in Vancouver and a scenic mountain in the Kananaskis Park in Alberta were named in his honor.[i] 

4 – Originally from Bolton, Ontario, Alfred Stork was mayor of Fernie, B.C. before moving to Prince Rupert in 1908.  He established a large hardware business and became Prince Rupert’s first mayor.  He was commanding officer of the first military organization in the city, the Earl Grey’s Own Rifles, which Jack, Gerald and Noel Peters joined as cadets in their teens.[ii]

5 – Canada’s Defense and Militia Minister Sam Hughes insisted that Canadian soldiers use the Canadian-made Ross Rifle, against the wishes of British generals and Canadian soldiers who found the rifle jammed when hot after rapid firing, or if wet and muddy.  It wasn’t even good for bayoneting, as the blade tended to break off.  In man-to-man combat, Canadian soldiers were often only able to use the rifle as a club.  When they could, Canadian soldiers took Lee Enfield rifles from dead British soldiers and used them instead of the Ross.  After the 2nd Battle of Ypres, a quarter of the 5,000 surviving Canadian soldiers had replaced their Ross with a Lee Enfield.  However, orders came through after battles that all Lee Enfields had to be returned, and the soldiers would receive new Ross Rifles.  On orders from the Defence Minister, further use of the British rifle would be punished.  In 1916 the rifle issue went to Commander in Chief Douglas Haig, who ruled that the Ross – though excellent for sharpshooting — was inferior for battle conditions and should be scrapped, except for use by snipers.  Hughes, who had a strong base of support among Orangemen in southern Ontario, was finally dropped from cabinet by Prime Minister Robert Borden in December 1916. 

6 – Letters Bertha received from her sons later in the war had a stamp “read by censor” on the envelope. Censorship became stricter as the war progressed.  Under the Defence of the Realm Act in Britain and the War Measures Act in Canada, authorities were empowered to censor mail and do virtually anything in the interest of security and the war effort.  Any use of codes such as Jack suggested were expressly forbidden.  You could also get in trouble if you made disparaging remarks about soldiers or the nation’s military in general, so there was often a climate of fear as well as mourning in the homefront. 

7 – Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry

8 – He is referring to his aunt, Helen Francklyn, residing near Bristol, England, whose mother was Sarah Cunard, daughter of Sir Samuel Cunard and sister of Fred’s mother Mary.


New Book “The Bravest Canadian” Tells the Story of Capt. Frederic Thornton Peters, VC, DSO, DSC and bar, DSC (U.S.), RN

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Captain Frederic Thornton “Fritz“ Peters, VC, DSO, DSC and bar, DSC (U.S.), RN would rate among the greatest Canadian war heroes on the basis of his gallant exploits in either the First World War or the Second World War. The combination of these accomplishments – including three major honours for valour in each of the wars – give him a special place in the pantheon of Canadian military heroes.

Frederic Thornton Peters, soon after joining the Royal Navy at age 15 in 1905. (McBride Collection)

Previous attempts to tell Peters` story have been stymied by the lack of a paper trail due to his involvement in top secret and controversial projects, his detestation of publicity and self-promotion, and never settling for long in one place. The heart of the new book The Bravest Canadian coming out in spring 2012 is a recently-discovered treasure trove of letters from and about Fritz Peters and his family that give insight into his life experience, what he was thinking, and what made him tick.   The author of The Bravest Canadian is Trail, B.C. writer Sam McBride, who discovered the collection of letters, and used them along with established sources as well as other new material to help unravel the mysteries of his granduncle Fritz’s amazing life.  The book also features an array of family photos made available for publication for the first time, as well as the Victor Comics feature on Fritz Peters’ valour at Oran harbour that earned him the Victoria Cross as well as the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross, which was the higher honour the U.S. could bestow on a non-American.

Acting Captain Frederic Thornton Peters, in 1942 on leave in Scotland, where he led the planning an training for Operation Reservist, the extremely hazardous mission to capture Oran harbour intact for the needs of the massive Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942. (McBride C9llection)

Peters’ Maritime establishment family revered war heroes in its ancestry, ranging from Loyalist officers in the Revolutionary War, through the wars and British Empire skirmishes of the 19th century.  As a young boy, Frederic Thornton Peters was expected to live up to this tradition, which he did in spades.   His love of military life was reflected in the Germanic nickname of “Fritz” by which he was known by relatives and friends.  He was a loveable eccentric, in the best traditions of the Royal Navy in which he served.

His is a world-wide story, encompassing boyhood on both coasts of Canada, naval service at the romantic China Station, tense battles with German U-boats in both wars, a mysterious career in the spy world, and culminating as leader of a modern-day Charge of the Light Brigade inside the harbour of Oran, Algeria against Vichy French guns lined up against him in every direction.

Peters Family Papers: Family History Documents

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Photo collage above: clockwise, from top left — Col. John Hamilton Gray, c. 1860; sisters Margaret Gray (sitting) and Florence Gray, with cousin Edward Jarvis at left, in 1868; and lower photo is their elder sister Harriet Gray, dated 1864. (McBride Collection)

by Sam McBride

The following documents are transcriptions of handwritten letters or notes about the Peters and Gray ancestors going back to the 1700’s.  Some are first-person accounts and other documents are copies (in handwriting) of correspondence among cousins.

#1 – Notes on the Gray ancestors by Florence Gray Poole

This letter, written in about 1919 by Bertha’s older sister Florence for her children, has interesting information about 1) John Hamilton Gray’s grandfather George Burns; 2) Gray’s grandmother Mary Stukeley’s family in England; 3) Gray’s mother Mary and his brothers and sisters; 4) Gray’s experience in the British military, including service in India and South Africa; 5) Gray’s attitude towards politics on Prince Edward Island

This is the first page of the Florence Poole document, as copied in her sister Bertha Gray Peters' handwriting.

My grandfather Robert Gray, who had raised and commanded a Regiment for the King in the American War of Independence, married, in Prince Edward Island, when about 60 years of age, Mary Burns, daughter of Major Burns.  Of the Burns family I know absolutely nothing, except that my great-grandfather (Major Burns) was on the Guard of Honour of the Coronation of George the Third, and that he and other officers who formed the Guard were given large grants of land in the North American colonies, his share being the north shore of P.E.I.

My father used to say that he (Burns) had been a very “fast man about town”, and I know he had been a “four bottle man”, and my father and his brother blamed his ability to dispose of unlimited port for their inheritance of gout.  Major Burns’ wife, my great-grandmother, was nee Stukeley.  She belonged to a very old family in Huntingtonshire, where the places Stukeley Magna and Stukeley Parva took their names from the family.  Her marriage to Major Burns was a romantic one.  She met him when she was on a visit to Bath, and was persuaded by him to a runaway marriage.  She and her sister were co-heiresses to their mother, and each had what was then looked upon as a large fortune.

Major Burns laid out some of the money in fitting out a ship with a Lancar crew (probably bought slaves) and took them out to work on his property in Prince Edward Island.  The descendants of the Lancars lived for many years in what was called “The Bog” in Charlottetown.  I have an original letter from Squire Adelard Stukeley of Stukeley House (my great-great-grandfather) written to his daughter Mary (“Molly”) at Bath, complaining of her not writing to him.  He mentioned her “brothers” – I believe they were both soldiers who were subsequently lost off the coast of South Africa in a troop ship.  I also have a miniature, found in this letter, which is supposed (from the dress and date) to be a likeness of Squire A. Stukeley (Bishop Courtey pronounced it to be a “Cosway”).

Then too I have a letter from my great-grandmother to her daughter Mary Burns, afterwards Mrs. Gray.  I am sorry I cannot send you copies of these letters, but unfortunately they are stored with all our furniture, but when we get access to these letters I will have them copied for you, and will send you a copy of the miniature.  My sister in law Miss Poole met a Mr. Prentice whose mother was a Stukeley.  He was interested in hearing of Adelard’s daughter, and said that her sister married an Orme of Yorkshire, and that her descendants are living there.  He also said the Stukeley pedigree, of which he had a copy, dated from the 12th century, and he very kindly sent me a drawing of the Stukeley coat of arms.  I tried to get a copy of the pedigree, but my sister in law had met Mr. Prentice at a County Archaelogical Society, and he did not turn up at their next meeting.  I have his letter to her, with the information I have given you; it is stored with the rest of my papers.

My father’s mother died young, leaving two sons and three daughters — the eldest, Uncle Robert, lived nearly all his life in London.  He managed the Worral and Fanning Estates.  He died unmarried at age 94.  One daughter, Aunt Elizabeth, married in P.E.I. Chief Justice Jarvis and left one son, who died unmarried.  Another daughter married a W. Cambridge (uncle of my stepmother) and had several children, all dead.  Aunt Stukeley lived in Ebury Street in London and died unmarried.

My father was sent to England very young as his father had been promised a commission for him.  I suppose the Stukeleys had forgiven his grandmother’s runaway marriage, as he stopped often at Stukeley House.  I remember his telling me he was taken to see an aged nurse who welcomed him as “Miss Molly’s boy”.  For a few months my father was in a Hussar regiment (18th I think) and there was a cornet in the 7th Dragoon guards, and was nearly 20 years a captain in that regiment.  Promotion in those days was by purchase, and as many of the men were rich it was unusually slow.  My father married when very young a Mrs. Chamier, sister of Sir William Sewell.  She died shortly after their marriage, and he was a widower many years until he met my mother, a young girl of 17, in India, she was just out from school.

Florence Gray with her grandmother, Lady Pennefather (Margaret Carr Bartley) - McBride Collection

My grandmother (Pennefather) used to tell me that my father was a very distinguished man, and his entertainments etc. much talked about in the Cantonment.  The men in the regiment were a very smart set.  My father’s principal friend was Capt. Bentund (father of the present Duke of Portland).  Sir George Walker and Sir Harry Darrel were also great friends, and many tales were told of their joint escapades.  The only one of my father’s brother officers who came to Canada was Gen. Sir Graham Montgomery-Moore, who commanded in Halifax.  I knew him well there, and he liked talking of the old days in the 7th D.G.  He told me that when as a young Cornet he stood before his Captain, he thought him the realization of his idea of a soldier!  Capt. Hamilton Gray was a “splendid figure”, he said.  He also told me my father fought a sensational duel and “winged his man”.  In those days dueling was encouraged, and every man who joined a crack corps like the “Black Horse” was given a pair of dueling pistols to uphold the honour of the regiment.  Soon after my father’s marriage the regiment was ordered out to South   Africa, and my eldest sister was born in a troop ship in the Red Sea!

Photograph of Sir Harry Darrel's depiction of the action in South Africa where Col. John Hamilton Gray led a charge of mounted policemen against a gun emplacement.

The first Boer War was going on then, and my father performed an act of gallantry which would in these days have won a Victoria Cross.  The general described it to me.  The regiment was drawn up in line in a place surrounded by Kopjes, concealed Burghers were potting them on all sides, and a machine gun in a narrow lane was turned on the unlucky cavalry and they were simply mown down, unable to charge or use their sabres.  My father took four mounted police men and galloped to the gun, spiked it and cut down the gunners, and two of the police men were killed.  Sir Harry Darrel who was an artist painted two pictures of this incident, and for years one hung in the D.G. mess.  I have a photo of it, which is fortunate as your Uncle Arthur had the original, and it, with everything else he owned was destroyed in the Halifax explosion during the war.

There was a long period of peace after the war in South Africa, and every one of the wiseacres prophesied that there would never be another war.  My father tired of inaction, and having also kept memories of the fine sport in P.E.I., sold out of the service just the year before the Crimean War and went back to P.E.I.   A year later when war broke out he was desperate and did his best to get back to his regiment, but he had received ₤9,000  for his Troop, and in those days a man who sold out could not get back in.  Then he went on my grandfather Pennefather’s staff hoping to get out to the seat of war, but the “extra” A.D.C.’s had no chance and peace came before he could arrange to enter another regiment.  Highly disgusted, he returned finally to P.E.I. where he ended his days.  He tried to take an interest in politics, but I don’t think he ever cared for a politician’s life.  The only thing that interested him was the Confederation of the Maritime   provinces.  My mother’s death occurred soon after Confederation and he retired from “The House”.

#2 – A short account of his life by Col. Robert Gray,

King’s American Regiment

This short autobiography by John Hamilton Gray’s father Robert has interesting information about 1) his roots in Scotland, among many Grays near Glasgow, 2) the origin of the “Hamilton” name, in honour of the mentor who helped him get established in business, 3) the loss of his property in Virginia in the Revolutionary War, and 4) details of his arrival as a Loyalist in the Maritimes and how he was rewarded with land and appointments.

As it may afford some satisfaction to my dear children to know something of the early life of their father, I have put in writing the following brief memoirs:

I was born on the 7th Sept. 1747 (old style) in Dunbartonshire, Parish of Kirkentilloch1 in my father’s house, a place rented by him but which had belonged to my ancestors, but sold through reverse of fortune by my grandfather to Robert Gray, a distant relation.  My father’s name was Andrew, my mother’s Jean (of the Grays of Lanarkshire, cousins).  In a circuit of many miles both in Dunbartonshire and Lanarkshire, many of the principal families were Grays and nearly related to my family by blood or marriage.  My father being far from affluent, I was articles for four years to John Hamilton Esq. of Dowan to go to Virginia where his four nephews (sons of Thomas Hamilton of Overton) carried on an extensive mercantile business.

signature of Robert Gray.

The same Thomas Hamilton raised a regiment during the American rebellion (now called the Revolutionary War) and was distinguished for his gallant conduct at the battle of Camden where he was severely wounded.  He was afterwards for 22 years His Majesty’s consul for Virginia, and was godfather to my youngest son John Hamilton, and to my deep and undying regret died in London 1816.  These gentlemen, the Hamiltons, being anxious to open an establishment in Norfolk, Virginia, I was taken into partnership and for four years carried on a successful business by sea and land, until the breaking out of the American rebellion.  Towards the end of the year 1776 all business being at a standstill, Lord Dunsmore the Governor of Virginia, having removed the seat of government from Williamsburg to Norfolk, I entered a corps of volunteers which he was forming to co-operate with His Majesty’s 14th Regt-of-foot in checking the progress of the rebels.  In the course of this service I was dangerously wounded, being shot in two places, the rebels having obtained the ascendancy by land.  His Majesty’s loyal subjects and the troops embarked on board the shipping in Norfolk Harbour.  The Town was soon afterwards burnt to ashes by the damned Rebels, and all the valuable property in our warehouses consumed in the flames or plundered by the enemy.  I remained in Virginia with Lord Dunsmore on the fleet carrying on a predatory war against the enemy till the month of July when we sailed for New York where Sir William Howe had arrived with a large army.  There I met Col. – now General – Fanning, who being about to raise a regiment for His Majesty, appointed me to command a company and also to be paymaster to the King’s American Regiment.  I remained with the Regt in various parts of North America, from Rhode Island to Georgia both inclusive.  I was in several actions at the siege of Rhode Island and commanded the Fort-of Goal-Island when it was cannonaded by the French fleet under Count D’Estaing.  I was also honoured with the command of Port Georgetown when it was evacuated.  At the end of the war 1783 the Regt being reduced I was placed on half pay.

In the autumn of 1783 I arrived inHalifaxand in the following spring was sent with a commission of “Surveyor of Land” to superintend the settlement of the Loyalists in thecounty of Shelburne,Nova Scotia, where I was employed for three years having 13 deputy surveyors under me.

In 1787 I received pressing invitations and flattering promises from Gen. Fanning who had been appointed Governor of Prince Edward Island.  I arrived in Charlottetownon the 11th July that year, and was appointed Judge of the Supreme Court – a member of His Majesty’s council and private secretary to Gen. Fanning.  In 1790 I went to London by way of Portugal on private affairs and returned at the end of the year.  In 1792 I was sent to London with full powers to conduct the defence of Gen. Fanning and other Crown officers against complaints preferred against them and having successfully performed my mission returned in 1793.  Next year I had the principal share in raising a corps of men for the defence of theIsland, which I commanded until the Peace of Amiens in August 1792.

#3 – “Relating to my Mother” by Florence Gray Poole

My mother, Susan Ellen Bartley, was an only child.  Her father, a Lieut. In the 22nd Regiment, died at a very early age (about the year 1825) when quartered in Jamaica.  His widow married Major Pennefather, also of the 22nd Regt, and afterwards General and G.C.B.  There was no second family, and Maj. Pennefather treated my mother as his own child.  I believe she did not know of the “step” relationship until she married.

Painting of Margaret Carr Bartley c. 1830, around the time of her marriage to Major Sir John Lysaght Pennefather

One of my grandfather’s brothers, Sir Robert Bartley, was a distinguished soldier in the Peninsular War.  There is a monument to his memory in some English, or Irish, cathedral or church.  I remember a print of it hanging in my mother’s bedroom in Prince Edward Island.  I have tried by writing to Notes and Queries to find out where this monument is but without success.  The man who answered my question knew all about Robert’s fame and wrote that he died at sea on his way home, but did not know where the monument is.  It would be interesting to find it.

The only Bartley relation I ever saw was my “Great Aunt Jessie”.  I was taken to see her when a small child in Dublin.  It is a pity that my mother did not correspond with this aunt, as I have been told that she lived to a great age, and either not knowing or forgetting that she had four grand-nieces in Prince Edward Island, left her money, or a fair amount I believe to her companion!

One of the Bartleys married a Cowell.  Their grandson Major Cowell was Governor to Prince Alfred (the Duke of Edinburgh) and afterwards when Sir John for many years “Controller of the Household” to QueenVictoria.  Sir John was with the Duke of Edinburgh when he visited Canada.  I remember his coming to see my mother, incidentally bringing the Prince to the great wonderment of the P.E. Islanders.  We knew Sir John’s sisters, one married a Major Beadon, but I have never met any of the present generation.  One of Sir John’s daughters married Admiral Curzon-Howe.  I think I have told you now all I know.

Your great-grandmother’s maiden name was Carr.  She and her sister were orphans when very young and were brought up by an uncle at his place inTipperary “Little Island”.  Another uncle was named Senior – any of their descendants of whom I have heard were soldiers.

My grandmother’s sister married a Carr cousin.  His grandson I have known since we were children.  Lt. Col. Lawless R.A.M.C. is the only survivor of a family of cousins.  He has interesting miniatures of the Carr family.  One (an aunt of my grandmother) has a romantic story.  She was a beauty and toast in Dublin…

#4 – Letter from Florence Gray to G.E. Lawless

This letter was written by Bertha’s sister who had taken an interest in the family history.  She is corresponding with a distant cousin.   The main focus of this letter is the Bartley side of the family. Florence’s maternal grandmother was Margaret Carr, who married Lieut. William Bartley and had a child Susan before he died of illness while serving inJamaicain the 1820’s.  Margaret later married William’s commanding officer General Sir John Pennefather and became “Lady Pennefather”.  Susan married John Hamilton Gray.

I am afraid I cannot tell you very much about your mother’s people – I wish I had listened more attentively when  my grandmother discoursed about her “young days”, for of course during my 30 years in Canada I lost sight of my Irish connections.  Our grandmothers, Margaret and Ellen Carr, were sisters; their parents died when they and their brother Richard were young.  The girls were brought up by their maternal uncle Morton of “Little Island” Tipperary, Richard being sent to a London Counting house to make his way.

From what my grandmother used to say, I think “Little Island” was a family place of some importance, and the girls went out a great deal.  Your grandmother married her first cousin William Carr; my grandmother married Wm. Bartley, Lieut. In the 22nd Regiment and went to Jamaica, where my mother was born and my father died very young.  His brother officer Major Pennefather brought my grandmother and her child home, and a year later they were married.  My mother was sent to a French convent while her parents were in India.  She used to spend her holidays with your grandparents, and she and your mother, both called Susan after their grandmother, were great friends.

Your grandparents were very well off then, and I well remember my mother’s grief when she heard of your grandfather’s loss of fortune and a little later of his death.  I do not know the particulars, but remember that my father and mother often spoke of “Uncle William” having been exceptionally honourable.  My grandmother often talked of another uncle called Senior, I think he was in the Service.  I know some of his sons and grandsons were soldiers.

I only met one first cousin of our grandmothers, a perfectly delightful old lady, Mrs. Fitzgerald.  She spent a winter in London when we were in Crawley Place.  Her son, or nephew, Capt. Fitzgerald (known to us as Dicky) afterwards commanded the 69th Regiment.  I have tried to find him.  I think he must be dead.  I have a photo of a very good looking Anna Maria Morton, granddaughter of Morton of Little Island.  She married a man in the service whose name I forget, and went toIndia, I think she was the last of the Mortons of Little Island.

          My grandmother and her husband Gen. Pennefather objected to the “step” connection known.  I believe that my mother did not know of it until she married.

Susan Bartley Pennefather Gray

This has been rather hard on us, as we have never been in touch with our grandfather’s relations (with the exception of the Cowels who claimed cousinship), and your sister in law tells me that our grandfather’s youngest sister died a few years ago, leaving a large fortune to her companion as she had “no near relations”.  The silence about our grandfather was so marked that I fancied all sorts of things and was relieved when dear George told me that when he first went to Newfoundland 40 years ago he dined with the Governor (whose name he did not remember) and the subject of Jamaica coming up, the Governor told him his dearest friend “young Bartley of the 22nd regiment was buried there, and that he was the nicest fellow he ever knew.

#5 –  Letter from Prentice to Miss Ellen Poole      March 25, 1899

62 Shrewbury Road,Birkenhead

Dear Miss Poole:

I have read with great interest the notes you have kindly sent me about the Stukeleys and you will be glad to hear that I can give you their pedigree back to about 1150 and a good deal of information about the family.

A.S. Stukeley (Adlard Squier Stukeley) the father of Mary (Mrs. Florence Poole’s great-grandmother) was brother to my progenitrise Margaret Stukeley, so curiously enough Mrs. Poole and I are far away cousins.

The Stukeleys came originally from Great Little Stukeley in County Huntington and one of the family about 350 years ago marrying the heiress of the Fleets of Fleet in County Lincoln settled at Holbeach, close to where they owned considerable estates, their residence was at Stukeley house, where my mother was often resident with her grandmother Mrs. Sturton (her husband was Private Secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham when Prime Minister and first cousin of Mary Stukeley) and my cousins the Stukeleys still live at Holbeach.  The Stukeley house has, I am sorry to say, changed hands.  Dr. William Stukeley the famous antiquarian was of the Holbeach branch and was born there.

It has always been a mystery to us what became of the other Stukeleys after leaving Holbeach, as they were supposed to be fairly well off and they seemed to have suddenly disappeared, the information contained in Mrs. Poole’s notes evidently solves the mystery.

Mary Stukeley’s (baptized at Holbeach 13 March 1744) sister Sarah married Walden Orme of Peterborough and left issue, something about them I might be able to trace.

There is a splendid old church at Holbeach where most of the Stukeleys were buried, and in it remain some of their monumental inscriptions.  I was there about 4 years ago.

As I think Mary and Sarah Stukeley were the only surviving issue (of a large family) and eventually co-heiresses of Adlard Squier Stukeley they would carry the arms of Stukeley quartering Fleet in to their husbands’ families. …it is just possible therefore that failing surviving male issue of the Burns and Gray being the descendants of Mary, your brother’s (he means Henry Poole) children may be entitled to quarter these arms with those ofPoole.

#6 – Helen Dewdney’s family history notes     c. 1950’s

Judge Peters was my grandfather.  He died when I was three years old but I remember him perfectly.  He seemed to always be in bed.  A fine-looking man with quantities of white hair.

Helen Peters in about 1895 in Charlottetown when her father Frederick Peters was premier of Prince Edward Island.

His youngest daughter Maggie – who adored him – was always fussing over him.  The old doctor was generally in attendance, but Maggie insisted on another opinion.  He was 85 – had Aunt Maggie never heard of old age?  …The judge was very fond of his dogs.  He had three of them.  One bit a grandchild and Aunt Janie was upset and said “the dog must be shot!”.  “What!”, cried the judge, “if any shooting is to be done, it won’t be a dog.”  So nothing was shot.  But I think he must have been pretty nice.

He was very fond of his daughter Carry (Caroline), and when she was going to marry a Bayfield he thought it would be a kind gesture to have the wedding in the Bayfield Church.  It was Anglican as was the Peters’ church, but very “low” whereas St. Peters was very “high”

#7 – Notes of Helen Dewdney                              c. 1970

She was apparently writing on note paper while waiting in a doctor’s office.  She had just read a book called “My First Hundred Years” (not sure of the author or date of publication, but it would be some time before she died in November 1976)

“…She called her Father ‘Papa’ and her mother ‘Mamma” just as my mother did, except my mother always referred to her mother as ‘my dear little Mamma”.  Dear little momma, my grandmother, lived in London with her father and mother in one of those old-fashioned London houses.

Her father was General Sir John Pennyfeather.  She was the only child.  I have her picture painted by a wonderful artist.  Only 16, a beautiful face, with dark curtains of hair on each side making her look about 30.  At 16 John Hamilton Gray met her and married her.  He was much older than she and an officer in the army.

He took her to various places, and she had a baby in so many different places.  I don’t think there was one born where another was.  First there was my aunt Harriet.  Later my great-grandmother Lady Pennyfeather adopted aunt Harriet and left her everything she had.  Lady P lived till she was 98.  Her eyesight and hearing were perfect, but she did admit the stairs tired her a little.  Aunt Harriet married when she was older.  I never did know what age.  When I was young it wasn’t considered quite nice.  I never knew my mother’s.  In any case she died a few months after Great-grandma, and everything went to the husband as the child died too.  So we don’t have many mementos of Great-grandma.  Well, anyway, after Aunt Harriet came Aunt Margaret who lived and died in Charlottetown– much loved and living until she was 98.

Then came Aunt Florence who married Henry Poole a mining engineer.  Six children they had – three boys and three girls.  I remember staying with them once when I was 7 or 8 along with Fritz my brother (who was) 2 years younger.  He cried so much they were obliged to send him home to theIsland(P.E.Island) where we lived.  I remember feeling it a pity he had no bravery.  Funny isn’t it… he lost his life and received the V.C. in Oran in Africa, his seventh decoration.  No bravery, eh.

Uncle Henry Poole was 6 ft 3 inches or so tall and had a beard and moustache.  I was simply terrified of him.  He was a very honorable man and brought up his six children with a very high sense of honour.  He was a very good father.  If he loved one more than another it was Edward, who was brilliantly clever.  He passed first in Kingston, became a mining engineer and went up to some lovely spot up north where almost immediately he contracted typhoid and died very quickly.  A young man he scarcely knew happened to be there.  “Stay with me,” said Edward, “till it’s over”.  It seemed so sad – so young, and he must have put so much effort in being first and all.  Just seems like wasted.  Uncle Henry was walking along in a railway station and he received this telegram: “your son is dead, what shall we do with remains?”  He fell in a dead faint.

Edward’s twin sister Dorothy was beautiful, not just pretty.  I knew her when she was 19.  She stayed with us in Victoria.  Great dark eyes and hair reddy brown wavy luxuriant.  Lucy her sister was rather plain, but if there was a crowd anywhere laughing and talking vociferously, you’d know Lucy would be in the middle.  Uncle Henry would say “The men come for Dorothy but stay for Lucy.”

After Florence, John Hamilton Gray and Susan Pennyfeather had two more daughters: Mim (who married Abbott) and Mother.

The Pooles for a while lived in Stellerton, a mining town in the East.  They also had a son Ray who had a son and daughter; Evelyn who died; Dorothy who died; Eric who died; Edward who died.  Lucy married a man called Kenneway who was quite well off and in later years became stone deaf from the guns in a war.  Someone once asked me which war was it, the first or second?  I said it was the Boer War … I forget I am so old.  The Kenneways had a son who was killed in war and a girl Monica.

…The judge (James Horsfield Peters, father of Frederick) must have been a dear, but quite an autocrat around the home and I think at times he bore down on Sarah the cook a bit.  Sarah would sniff and say she’d better be leaving , she couldn’t stay in a place where she didn’t give satisfaction.  I am sure she never would have left.   She loved Grandmama and Grandmama would slip a five dollar bill in her hand.  “Oh Sarah, pay no attention to the judge.  You know how he is.  He’s just like that.  He’ll get over it.”  And Sarah allowed herself to be comforted by just about the sweetest person who ever lived – Mary Peters, born Mary Cunard.  Granted the five dollars came easily (her father Sir Samuel Cunard died a millionaire), but the sweet and lovely way she did it to Sarah was her own.  When she died, she died in Sarah’s arms.  You can see in her photograph that she was overweight and probably no exercise – in those days they just didn’t know…

My mother used to love going over to the Peters house.  It was so different from her own.  There were always 3 puddings on the table, because Fred was so fond of one thing, and Uncle Spruce and Uncle Thom could not be without their so and so.

…The Mellish family was in Hodsock Priory, Worksop, Nottinghamshire.  There was Henry Mellish, Agnes Mellish and Evy Mellish.  The last I heard of the place it was empty.  So sad.  I always thought Cousin Aggie was so pretty.  They were Father’s relations – Cunards