70 Years Ago Gen. Eisenhower Awarded U.S. DSC to Capt. Frederic Thornton Peters

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ABOVE: Nov. 29, 1942 letter from Eisenhower (Peters Family Papers).

In the letter above, dated Nov. 29, 1942, Lt. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, overall commander of Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa, advises the British Admiralty that he is awarding the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross to Acting Captain Frederic Thornton “Fritz” Peters of the Royal Navy.

The letter was forwarded to Peters’ mother as next-of-kin as a memento of her son who tragically died when the flying boat transporting him back to England crashed in heavy fog in Plymouth Sound in the evening of Nov. 13, 1942. It was likely sent to Mrs. Peters in 1943 by either Adm. A.M. Peters (no relation to Fritz) or Adm. Sir Frederick Dalrymple-Hamilton, both of whom served terms as Secretary of the Admiralty and wrote letters to Mrs. Peters in response to her inquiries after Fritz’s death. While A.M. Peters was a casual acquaintance of Fritz, Dalrymple-Hamilton was a longstanding friend and naval colleague who was a fellow student with Fritz at Cordwalles Boys School in Maidenhead in the 1901-1904 period. The letter was retained by Mrs. Peters and her descendants, and is part of the Peters Family Papers on which the new book “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters, VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars” is based.

In the letter Eisenhower applauds Peters for “extraordinary heroism during the attack on Oran, Morocco in the early morning of 8 November 1942”. It is interesting that Eisenhower mistakenly says Oran is in Morocco, when it is actually the second largest city of Algeria. This may have just been a clerical oversight, or it may be a reflection of Eisenhower’s poor knowledge of North Africa geography.

It is also interesting that Eisenhower says Gen. Lloyd Fredendall, in command of the Centre Task Force to capture Oran in Operation Torch, had made the recommendation for Fritz’s American DSC medal. Fredendall strongly disliked his British allies and encouraged his staff to mock them with fake English accents. At the time this letter was written, Eisenhower was still a strong supporter of Fredendall, but in February 1943, after the humiliating defeat at Kasserine Pass, Fredendall was replaced as commander of II Corps by Gen. George S. Patton, and sent back to the States.

Feature in Victoria’s “Monday Magazine” Nov. 8-12, 2012 Issue

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The above feature on “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters, VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars” appeared in Monday Magazine in Victoria during the week leading up to Remembrance Day. Great write-up, but note that the book is non-fiction biography — not a novel. The support of this high-quality publication is much appreciated.

Author’s Presentation on Fritz Peters VC Nov. 10, 2012 at Royal B.C. Museum

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Author's Presentation on Fritz Peters VC Nov. 10, 2012 at Royal B.C. Museum

Telling the Fritz Peters Story at the Royal B.C. Museum

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By Sam McBride

Many thanks to the folks at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, B.C. for including my presentation and display about the book “The Bravest Canadian” and the life of Capt. Frederic Thornton “Fritz” Peters in their Remembrance Day program. 

While at the museum lobby-level exhibition area throughout the museum’s opening hours on Saturday, Nov. 10 and Sunday, Nov. 11 I enjoyed conversing with a steady stream of visitors, most of whom were learning about Fritz Peters for the first time. 

I also enjoyed meeting and chatting with fellow exhibitors and military history buffs such as Bart Armstrong and Paul Ferguson, both of whom were familiar with the story of Fritz Peters and his rare achievement of multiple medals for valour in both world wars.  Bart, who is a member of the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the United States, believes Canadians such as Fritz Peters who received the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross with the idea that it was the highest medal the U.S. could award to a non-American, should in fact have qualified for the Congressional Medal of Honor, as it had been awarded to non-Americans on other occasions.  He thinks the possibility exists that Fritz might retroactively receive the Medal of Honor.  What an incredible turn of events that would be!

Paul Ferguson’s presentation on visits to battlefields in Belgium, France and Turkey got me extremely interested in visiting Ypres where Fritz’s brothers Private John Francklyn Peters and Lieut. Gerald Hamilton Peters died in action and their cousin Second Lieut. Eric Skeffington Poole was executed for desertion.

Other Remembrance Day program exhibitors included the Victoria Genealogical Society (VGS), a wonderful organization dedicated to developing genealogical research expertise among its members, and preserving and making records available for family tree purposes.  I have a sentimental attachment to the VGS because my first cousin (once removed) Judge R. Blake Allan (1916-2009) was extremely active in the VGS, serving on the group’s executive in several capacities, doing several one-name studies, and producing family trees for several fellow judges who were prominent in Victoria history.  It was Blake who inspired me in the early 1990s to take up genealogy as a hobby. 

While at the museum I enjoyed viewing two first-rate exhibitions upstairs in the main area of the museum.   If you have a chance, be sure to take in “The Navy – A Century in Art”, an exhibition on loan from the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa that will be at the Royal B.C. Museum until Jan. 27, 2013; and “For Valour: The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s):100 Years of Service in Peace and War”, on show until Dec. 2, 2012. 

Once again, my heartiest thanks to Janet MacDonald, Learning and the Visitor Experience Manager, and other museum staff for the opportunity and experience. 

 

 

“The Bravest Canadian” Selling Well in B.C. and P.E.I.

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by Sam McBride

Word from friends, relations and other contacts is that “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters, VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars” is on shelves and selling well in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the first shipment of books to The Bookmart Store in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, sold out in a couple of days.

I was pleased to get a call yesterday (Saturday, Nov. 17th) from the Coles book store at the Nelson mall saying their box of books had arrived and were now up for customers. 

It takes time for distributors to get the books out to stores, but gradually we are getting out to the key markets.  The plethora of publicity in the month before Remembrance Day (and, coincidentally, the 70th anniversary of Capt. Frederic Thornton Peters’ Victoria Cross action) was crucial for getting out the first distribution of books. 

Many thanks to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, the Charlottetown Guardian, Oak Bay Times, Monday Magazine, CBC Almanac, CBC Kelowna, News 1130, CKNW, CFAX, www.thecommentary.ca, The Stuph Files for their interest and coverage.  Thanks also go to other newspapers and broadcast media across Canada who picked up on the coverage, and to the veterans organizations, museums and historical associations who are publicizing the book in their meetings and newsletters.

 

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