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.

Copy of frritz yng

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

 

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From Inkerman House toddler to Victoria Cross mother: Bertha Gray Peters

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“I wish you could have known Dally,“ my mother, Dee Dee, said to me hundreds of times over the years.

peters pics imported aug 27 2012 011

Bertha with pet dog in Victoria, British Columbia, circa 1905.  Family ciollecgtion.

Also: “Dally was so smart!“, “Dally was interested in everything“, and “Dally would have known the answer to that question“.

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Bertha`s father, Col. John Hamilton Gray, who was host and chairman of the historic Charlottetown Conference of 1864, is featured in this sculpture in downtown Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.  Sam McBride photo.

Dally was the nickname used by Dee Dee and her siblings for their maternal grandmother, Roberta Hamilton Susan Gray Peters, who lived with her daughter Helen Dewdney`s family in southeastern British Columbia from 1916 until her death three decades later at age 84.  Her sisters in the Gray family called her Bertie, and she was known in the community as Bertha, which is how I choose to refer to her.  No one in the family recalled the origin of the nickname Dally.

As a boy, I found my mother`s lavish praise of her grandmother somewhat annoying.  My thinking was: she died five years before I was born – why talk so much about someone I am never going to meet?

In recent years, however, my research into the life of her son, Victoria Cross recipient Frederic Thornton “Fritz“ Peters, has given me insight into why Bertha was so memorable to Dee Dee, as well as other family members and friends.  I was impressed that one person`s life could span so much of Canada`s history, and that her spirit and sense of humour held up despite experiencing a stream of disappointment and tragedy during her years as a mother and widow.

inkerman house in colour

The Gray family residence known as Inkerman House, where two-year-old Bertha was introduced to the Fathers of Confederation who were invited to Inkerman by Col. Gray to an after-dinner party on Saturday, Sept. 3, 1864.  Family collection

At age two in September 1864, Bertha was brought forward and introduced to the Fathers of Confederation her father brought home to the Gray estate known as Inkerman House from the Charlottetown Conference for an after-dinner party.   Eighty years later, in February 1944, she received, as her late son Fritz`s next-of-kin, the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross medal from a delegation of American officers and brass band representing President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower.

Bertha was the youngest of five daughters of Col. John Hamilton Gray and Susan Ellen Bartley Pennefather.  Sister Mary Stukeley Hamilton Gray was three years older, and the other three sisters were much older.   The eldest sister, Harriet Worrell Gray, 19 years her senior, was out of the house before Bertha was born, as the parents sent her as a teen-ager to England to live with, and care for, her aging Pennefather grandparents.   Sisters Margaret Pennefather Stukeley Gray and Florence Hope Gibson Gray were, respectively, 16 and 14 years older than Bertha.

BC Coeurd'Arene 7-05 Scottsdale 11-05 00160

Painting of Bertha`s mother Susan Bartley Pennefather at age 17, shortly before her marriage to Col. Gray.  Family collection.

After Susan`s death in 1866, Margaret assumed the “mother“ role for her younger sisters.  Florence took over in 1869 after Margaret left home to marry shipbuilder Artemus Lord.  A couple of weeks after Margaret`s wedding, the widower Col. Gray married Sarah Caroline Cambridge, and they would have three children, of whom only Arthur Cavendish Hamilton Gray survived to adulthood.

In addition to tutoring their little sisters, Margaret and Florence did their best to shield them from angry outbursts of their stern father, whose career as a British Dragoon Guards cavalry officer left him obsessed with discipline and punctuality.

In a family of ardent readers, Bertha stood out as the most voracious reader of them all.  In addition to the large family collection of novels, poetry and history, Bertha`s thirst for knowledge led her to read through dictionaries and encyclopedias.   In later years, her wide-ranging knowledge helped Bertha win cash prizes as a solver of difficult crossword puzzles in contests sponsored by newspapers.

Bounding with energy, young Bertha was always up for outings, and encouraged her sisters to organize social events that included her.  Regarding her father with a mix of fear and admiration, she enjoyed participating in discussion of current events and politics at the dinner table.  As descendants of United Empire Loyalists, the Grays were wary of the United States of America, which was slowly recovering from its Civil War in Bertha’s girlhood.   The Grays saw no conflict in being strongly pro-British Empire and at the same time proud Canadians.  Throughout her life, Bertha introduced herself to new acquaintances as a “Daughter of Confederation”,  since her father was a Father of Confederation.

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

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

A common topic of sister talk among the Grays was the mystery of their grandfather Bartley`s family.  Their mother Susan was born in Jamaica in about 1825, the only child of Margaret Carr and Lieut. William Bartley of the 22nd regiment of the British Army.  As was common for soldiers stationed abroad in that era, Bartley became ill and died in Jamaica.   His commanding officer, Major Sir John Lysaght Pennefather of Anglo-Irish aristocracy, took charge of looking after the widow and baby.  He later married Margaret, who gained the title of Lady Pennefather.  Her new husband insisted on being recognized as Susan`s father.  Communication with the Bartley relations ceased, and Susan did not learn of her real father until told just before her marriage to John Hamilton Gray.

Bertha and her sisters speculated about titles and inheritances they could have missed out on because of the loss of contact with the Bartleys.  This led Florence to take on the role of family historian.  Bertha`s handwritten copies of Florence`s inquiry letters and replies exist today in the Peters Family Papers.

Florence left home in 1876 to marry mining executive Henry Skeffington Poole, settling first in Stellarton, Nova Scotia and after 1900 in Guildford, England.

By 1880 both Pennefather grandparents had died.  Released from caregiver duties,  Harriet married Rev. Henry Pelham Stokes in London later that year.

The Gray family was comfortable financially but not wealthy.  Years later, she told her daughter Helen that as a young girl she envied Frederick Peters and his brothers at Sidmount House because each boy was treated to his favorite dessert on festive occasions, while she was never presented with a choice.

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Bertha`s husband Frederick Peters with daughter Mary Helen Peters, their first child, born August 31, 1887 in Charlottetown.  Family collection.

All seats of St. Paul`s Church in Charlottetown were filled on October 19, 1886 for the marriage of Bertha Gray and Fred Peters.  The Examiner reported the union of “one of Charlottetown`s most popular and rising young barristers to one of Charlottetown`s finest daughters.“  Following the ceremony, the bride and groom left for a three-month honeymoon in England before settling in their Westwood home purchased from the Hon. Daniel Davies.   In future years, Bertha`s fondness for England continued, as she took every opportunity to travel there for extended stays, particularly in London, in her mind the Centre of the Universe.

The last Gray sister to wed was Mary, who in June 1888 married Montreal lawyer William Abbott, son of future prime minister Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott.  Actor Christopher Plummer is a grandson of William`s brother Arthur Abbott.

August 1887 saw the birth of Mary Helen Peters, first child of Fred and Bertha.  She would always be known by her middle name Helen.  The first son, Frederic Thornton Peters, born in 1889, gained the nickname “Fritz“ because of his great interest in toy soldiers and armies.  John Francklyn “Jack“ Peters was born in October 1892, and then the fraternal twins Gerald Hamilton “Jelly“ Peters and Noel Quintan Peters were born on November 8, 1894 – exactly 48 years before the action in Algeria where their brother Fritz would earn the Victoria Cross.  In 1899, after the family moved across the country to Oak Bay on Vancouver Island, another daughter, Violet Avis Peters, was born.

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Children Helen, Gerald (holding cat) and Noel in Victoria, circa 1905

Fred Peters worked in a law partnership with his brother Arthur Peters and Ernest Ings.  He gained a seat in the provincial legislature in 1890, and within a year became leader of the Liberal Party, and then premier and attorney-general.   Despite political success, the family was experiencing financial woes, as the Cunard inheritance received by Fred’s mother Mary Cunard had run its course.   Fred desperately wanted to improve his finances, as he and Bertha expected to continue to live to a style to which they had become accustomed.

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Son Frederic Thornton Peters, known to family and friends as Fritz, in 1901 in Bedford, England.

Bertha came to her marriage with high expectations, and was not pleased to hear of money problems.  Her demands that the children be educated at private schools in England were likely a factor in her husband abruptly resigning as premier in mid-term in October 1897 so as to earn higher income in far-off Victoria, B.C.

In raising the children, Bertha was the strict parent, emphasizing discipline and the importance of living up to the traditions of the family and the British Empire, while Fred was an affectionate, sentimental  father who read stories to his children and tucked them into bed at night.  She saw no need to treat her children equally, choosing Gerald as her favourite and Noel, who had a moderate mental disability, as her least favourite.

Early in the First World War she decided to travel to England on her own to be close to her sons in military overseas service, particularly Gerald, who was her best friend and soulmate as well as favoured son.   By the time she arrived in July 1915, Private Jack Peters had died four months earlier in the Second Battle of Ypres, but was listed as missing and believed to be a prisoner of war.   In late May 1916, while staying at a rented  cottage near Dover where she hosted Lieut. Gerald Peters on his leaves, word came from Germany via the Red Cross that Jack was definitely not a P.O.W., so was assumed to have died in action 13 months earlier.  Just a couple of weeks later she learned that Gerald was missing following a June 3, 1916 counterattack at Mount Sorrel, also in the Ypres Salient.   Four weeks later his death was confirmed.

Lieutenant Gerald Hamilton Peters, spring 1916

Lieutenant Gerald Hamilton Peters, spring 1916

Engulfed by despair over Gerald’s death, Bertha went to stay at her sister Florence Poole’s home in Guildford before returning to Canada.   As was common at the time, Florence indulged in spiritualism as a means to contact dead loved ones in the afterlife.  Bertha began participating in séances as a way to contact Gerald, which infuriated her son Fritz who saw her spiritualism and excessive grieving over Gerald as signs of weakness at a time when maximum strength was needed to defeat the enemy.

Returning to British Columbia in November 1916, Bertha couldn’t bear to return to the family home in Prince Rupert because it was full of memories of Gerald and Jack, so instead went to live with her daughter Hel en Dewdney’s family in the mining town of New Denver in the mountainous West Kootenay region of southeastern B.C., while husband Fred continued alone in the isolated port of Prince Rupert serving as city solicitor and city clerk.  After Fred’s death in 1919, she lived permanently with the Dewdneys.

The last time she saw her Fritz was in July 1919 when he came back from England to organize his father’s funeral in Victoria, B.C.   She and Helen had only indirect contact with Fritz until receiving a letter from him in March 1942.

As a widow in her fifties, Bertha tried to earn income by writing novels and short stories, but all were rejected by publishers.    Using recipes and cooking skills from her P.E.I. heritage, Bertha often cooked for the Dewdney family, who generally enjoyed her meals but were on edge because, as a perfectionist, she would erupt in anger if something went wrong with the dinner.

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Bertha, circa 1905

In a family of bridge aficionados, Bertha stood out as the best player, constantly striving to improve.     She rated each community in the Kootenay region by the quality of their bridge players.

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Bertha, circa 1910. Family collection.

Bertha was in good health until a fall down stairs in about 1935 left her a bedridden invalid.   As the only child left in the house after her siblings left for marriage and university, Dee Dee became Bertha’s caregiver and audience for her stories and ideas about history and politics.  Her chores included daily trips to the Nelson library to borrow or return books requested by her grandmother.

After Fritz’s death in an air crash on November 13, 1942, Bertha wrote a flurry of letters to England to find out more about the action in Algeria on November 8th for which Fritz would receive the Victoria Cross and U.S. Distinguished Service Cross.  Separately, she asked Fritz’s friends to fill her in on Fritz’s life between the wars.

She was thrilled to hear from the British Admiralty office that Fritz would receive the Victoria Cross, but later was flabbergasted that the Americans went all out in honouring her with a full presentation ceremony for their DSC medal, while Britain just sent the VC medal to her in the mail.

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Bertha after suffering a crippling fall down stairs at the Dewdney home in Nelson, B.C. in about 1935. Family collection.

Passing away July 30, 1946, Bertha was the last surviving daughter of Col. Gray.  Harriet died in London in 1882, Florence in Guildford in 1923, and Mary in Montreal in 1936.  Margaret, the only daughter to remain in P.E.I., was in excellent health until her death at age 96 in Charlottetown on December 31, 1941.

Inspired by her grandmother Bertha/Dally, Dee Dee became a professional librarian, and was an enthusiastic monarchist and anglophile.  Travelling to England in 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, she often mentioned in letters home that she wished her grandmother was alive to share the experience.

Today, when people ask me why I buy so many books on England and the monarchy, I lay the blame on my great-grandmother Bertha/Dally!

Sources:

The family history writings of Florence Gray Poole and Helen Peters Dewdney, and letters received by Bertha Gray Peters, in the Peters Family Papers; various newspaper accounts; One Woman’s Charlottetown:  Diaries of Margaret Gray Lord 1863, 1876, 1890; census, vital statistics and ship records; and the author’s recollection of family discussions.

Canadian Private Jack Peters Died A Century Ago in the Second Battle of Ypres

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The first of the Peters boys to die in battle was Private John Francklyn “Jack” Peters, born October 19, 1892 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, the second son and third child of Premier Frederic Peters and Bertha Hamilton Gray.

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Last photo of John Francklyn Peters, taken in Prince Rupert, B.C. in about 1913. He died in action at Ypres even before he could be photographed in uniform. Family photo.

The circumstances of his death in the Second Battle of Ypres on April 24, 1915 are one of the mysteries of the Peters Family History. He was in the thick of one of the fiercest battles in Canadian history, a conflagration made worse by the surprise use of poison gas by the Germans at a time when their opponents had no respirators or other protection against it.

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Jack Peters as a baby, with sister Helen and brother Fritz in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Family photo.

As a large number of Jack’s comrades in the 7th British Columbia Battalion were taken prisoner that day, Jack’s family hoped he was alive and safe as a prisoner while he continued to be listed as “missing”. Rumours that he was being held at the Celle Lager camp in Hanover proved to be wrong when the Red Cross reported in May 1916 that Jack was no among the POW’s.

His sister Helen Peters Dewdney (my grandmother) remembered Jack as a normal, happy-go-lucky boy, who would dutifully serve his country and Empire in wartime, but was happy to let older brother Fritz be the hero of the family. The Peters moved to Victoria, B.C. in 1898, and then to Prince Rupert, B.C. in 1911, as his father pursued better financial prospects.

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Young Jack with his bicycle. Family photo

At the outbreak of war in August 1914 Jack was working as a bank clerk in Prince Rupert. Unlike his younger brothers Gerald and Noel, Jack had no difficulty passing the medical examination for army enlistment. He trained with the First Contingent through the winter of 1914-15 in Salisbury Plain in England, and embarked for France in February 1915.

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Jack Peters as boy in Charlottetown. Family photo.

 

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Jack on a West Coast walking trail. Family photo.

Jack Peters was born October 19. 1892, the middle child of Frederick Peters and Bertha Gray of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.  Sister Helen Peters was five years older and brother Frederic Thornton “Fritz” Peters was three when Jack was born at the Peters family home known as Sidmount House.  At the time of Jack`s arrival, his father was the Hon. Frederick Peters, premier and attorney general of Prince Edward Island for more than a year.

 Two years later in 1894, fraternal twin brothers Gerald Hamilton Peters and Noel Quintan Peters were born.  In 1899, after the family had moved across the continent to Victoria, British Columbia, sister Violet Avis Peters was born, seven years younger than Jack.  His father had resigned as premier in October 1897, and moved his family to Victoria where he established a law practice with another well-known departing Maritimer, Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper.

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Jack in Bedford, England, about 1901. Family photo.

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Young Jack Peters. Family photo.

Jack attended school in Victoria, and then in 1900 he went to England with other family members.  They resided at Bedford, north of London, where his mother Bertha`s stepmother moved after the death of her husband John Hamilton Gray in 1887.  Jack and brother Fritz were students at the Bedford Grammar School in the 1900-01 school year, and sister Helen attended the Bedford School for Girls.  The following year Fritz transferred to Cordwalles School in Maidenhead, known as a preparatory school for future Royal Navy officers, in line with Fritz`s dream of a naval career.  Jack continued at Bedford Grammar school for another two years.  We do not have details of his further schooling, but it appears from his letters that he returned to Victoria where he attended school and participated in militia training.  In January 1905 brother Fritz enlisted in the Royal Navy, and in November 1905 younger sister Violet died in a fireplace accident in the family home in Oak Bay, immediately east of Victoria.

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Jack Peters is top left, in the yard of the Peters home in Oak Bay, B.C., around 1908. Family photo

In 1911 Jack moved with the family to the north coastal town of Prince Rupert where his father took the family when he accepted the position of Solicitor (lawyer) for the City of Prince Rupert.   At the time, it appeared Prince Rupert was going to be a boom town, and a port to rival Vancouver.   

feb 9 1916The following year sister Helen married Edgar Edwin Lawrence “Ted” Dewdney in Esquimalt, and the couple moved to Vernon where Ted was an accountant with the Bank of Montreal, with whom he had worked since 1897.  Perhaps assisted – or at least inspired – by brother-in-law Ted Dewdney, Jack went to work as a clerk at the Bank of Montreal branch in Prince Rupert.  About the same time, brother Gerald was employed as a clerk with the Union Bank in Prince Rupert.  Jack, Gerald and Noel all served in the Earl Grey`s Own  Rifles militia in Prince Rupert.

At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 he and brothers Gerald and Noel rushed to enlist, but only Jack was accepted for war service.   Like Jack, Gerald was tall at 6 foot, one and a half inches, but Gerald`s chest measurement was below the army standard, so he was rejected.  Gerald later travelled to Montreal to enlist there, and this time passed the physical exam.   Noel was rejected because of a slight, but noticeable, mental disability, and was not accepted for military service until he was allowed to join the Canadian Forestry Corps in Britain in May 1917.

Jack was in the First Contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, serving with the 7th British Columbia/Duke of Connaught battalion.   He trained at the Valcartier base in Quebec and then went overseas to England where he trained in Salisbury Plain with other Empire troops in the wettest winter weather on record.   He arrived in France in late February and was in minor trench action for the next couple of months, including the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.

In a letter home to his mother in January 1915 he said “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.” He was happy to let his brother Fritz be the war hero of the family.

However, Jack would be the first of three Peters brothers to die in the world wars of the 20th century.  He was killed on Saturday, April 24, 1915 in the 2nd Battle of Ypres when Canadian troops made a courageous stand against a massive German attack that used poison gas for the first time on the Western Front.

The use of poison gas in artillery shells was forbidden by the Hague Conventions which both sides had agreed to in 1899 and 1906, but the German commander at Ypres thought he could get away with spreading the gas directly from canisters and piping from their own trenches, depending on the wind to take it to the enemy.  The completely surprised French colonial troops on the Canadians’ left panicked and ran away from their positions upon experiencing the greenish-yellow cloud of chlorine gas late in the afternoon of April 22nd, which left the inexperienced Canadians to fill a four-mile gap in the Allied line protecting the headquarters at Ypres and the coastal ports.

 Reinforcements promised by the French never arrived.  The Germans did not expect the gas to have such a dramatic impact – wind conditions and temperature were ideal for distribution of the heavier-than-air gas, unlike a previous attempt to use poison gas on the Russian front — and were not prepared with reserves to immediately take advantage of the break in the line.  They were ready by the early morning of Saturday, April 24th, launching a full-scale offensive with gas directly against the Canadians.

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First page of letter home from Jack Peters in January 1915 from Salisbury Plain.

 

Jack in the 7th battalion would have been right in the middle of the vicious battle.  The Canadians found they could function somewhat under the gas by holding urine-soaked handkerchiefs against their faces and partially neutralizing the chlorine.  Records show that relatively few soldiers died from just the poison gas; they would be hit by bullets and shells when drawn away from their trenches by the gas and unable to defend themselves.  Flame-throwers were also introduced for the first time in the offensive, making a horrific situation even worse for the defenders.

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Envelope his war medal came in the mail to his mother Bertha.

jack file 1 001If the Canadians had not held the new battle line, the enemy could have easily encircled 50,000 Allied troops and marched to the North Sea to capture ports (as happened at Dunkirk in May 1940 in the Second World War), which would have been a devastating blow to the Allies.  British General Sir John French gave the Canadians credit for extraordinary bravery and said they “saved the situation”.  The Germans began respecting Canadians as adversaries after this battle.

While we don’t know exactly what happened to Jack in the battle (witnesses died too), it is noteworthy that he was a part of what was arguably the most important defensive stand in Canadian history.

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There were hundreds of Canadian prisoners taken in the shifting front that day, and for a period the military authorities thought Jack might be among prisoners in Belgium or Germany.  Dozens of soldiers of the 7th Battalion were taken prisoner after the Germans surrounded and captured the small village of St. Julien.  The Peters family felt 100% sure that Jack was safe as a prisoner, largely because Fred`s cousin Helen Francklyn in Bristol said a friend of hers in Switzerland found out that Jack was at the Celle Lager prison in Hanover.   However, the Red Cross found that the prisoner in question in Hanover was in fact someone else, so on May 29, 1916 Jack was officially presumed to have died “on or after April 24, 1915”.  Of 900 men and 24 officers in Jack’s battalion, 580 men and 18 officers were casualties in the 100 hours of frantic action that followed the first gas attack.  Four Victoria Crosses were awarded to Canadians in the battle, including Lieutenant Edward Bellew of Jack’s 7th battalion.  John McCrae, a surgeon in charge of a field hospital, wrote his famous poem “In Flanders Fields” on May 3, 1915, inspired by the death of a close friend in the same battle in which Jack died.

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Attestation papers signed by Lt. Col. William Hart-McHarg, commanding officer of the 7th B.C. Battalion. Both he and Jack died April 24, 1915 in the Second Battle of Ypres.

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St. Julien Canadian Memorial at Vancouver Corner, Ypres Salient. The inscription on the memorial, known as the Brooding Soldier, says: THIS COLUMN MARKS THE BATTLEFIELD WHERE 18,000 CANADIANS ON THE BRITISH LEFT WITHSTOOD THE FIRST GERMAN GAS ATTACKS THE 22ND-24TH OF APRIL 1915. 2,000 FELL AND HERE LIE BURIED

After being assured for so long that Jack was safe, his mother Bertha refused to believe he had died.   She did not accept his death until the war was over, and no further information on Jack had emerged.  She grieved much more for son Gerald, who died in the Battle of Mount Sorrel in June 1916.  Gerald was her favourite child, and they were exceptionally close.   A memorial plaque (image below) with the names of Jack Peters, Gerald Peters, their cousin Arthur Gordon Peters, and seven other Charlottetown boys who died in the war was installed at St. Paul`s Anglican Church in Charlottetown.  The names of Jack and Gerald Peters are also listed on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres that includes the names of thousands of Allied soldiers who died at Ypres with no identified remains.

 

 

 

 

 

plaque in St. Paul`s Anglican Church in Charlottetown (McBride Collection)

Black and white photo taken many years ago of the war memorial plaque in St. Paul`s Anglican Church in Charlottetown (McBride Collection)

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Colour photo of the above plaque taken in September 2014.  Note the addition of a newer plaque below with names of Fritz Peter and other PEI-born boys who died in Second World War.   .

 

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Another plaque installed at St. Peters Anglican Church in Charlottetown remembers Jack Peters, Gerald Peters and their cousin Arthur Peters among the Great War dead , and Fritz Peters and Noel Peters who fought in the war and survived. Sam McBride photo.

 

 

150 Years Since Edgar Dewdney Blazed A Trail Through the Kootenays

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Proje

The Honourable Edgar Dewdney (1835-1916)

By Sam McBride I have felt the presence of Edgar Dewdney for as long as I can remember.   Paintings and photographs of him lined the walls of our home in Nelson, and many of the books in our family library were inherited from him. His namesake (and my grandfather), Edgar Edwin Lawrence “Ted“ Dewdney (1880-1952), knew him intimately as uncle, godfather, and legal guardian after Ted became an orphan at age 11.  I never got to know Ted because he died when I was a baby, but his wife, my grandmother Helen Peters Dewdney (1887-1976), lived in our home as a widow and often talked about Ted and Uncle Edgar.

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Cary Castle, the viceregal residence of British Columbia, where Edgar and Jane Dewdney resided between 1892 and 1897 when he was Lieutenant Governor.

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Edgar as a young engineer

She referred to Uncle Edgar as a great man who was also an affable and courteous gentleman.  She said Edgar and his wife Jane Moir (who were called Ned and Jeannie within the family and among close friends), who had no children of their own, were fond of – and kind to — their many nephews and nieces.  In addition to Ted, Edgar`s brother Walter Dewdney (1836-1892) had a daughter Rose Valentine Dewdney (1879-1941) and son Walter Robert Dewdney (1877-1956).  And Jane`s sister Susan Louisa Moir Allison (1846-1937) in the Similkameen Valley of southern B.C. had 14 children, several of whom lived with the Dewdneys in the 1890s while attending school in Victoria. Ted`s only complaint about Uncle Edgar was that he insisted that Ted begin a career with the Bank of Montreal when he was just 16 years old.  Ted was keen on history and literature, wanted to attend university, and had no interest in banking, but he respected his uncle greatly and did what he was told, commencing service with the Bank of Montreal as a teller in Victoria in 1897, rising to branch manager at Greenwood in 1915, and retiring in Nelson in 1940 after 43 years with the bank. Helen said there was a special relationship between Uncle Edgar and Ted, as Ted was the youngest of his late brother`s children and lived with Edgar and Jeannie for the longest time.  Ted also shared Uncle Edgar`s interest in history and literature, though not to the extent that he would allow Ted to go to university as he longed to. In the end, Edgar left most of his historical memorabilia to Ted in his will, including substantial correspondence between Edgar and Sir John A. Macdonald when Edgar held the federal government`s senior positions impacting Western Canada from the mid-1870s to the early 1890s.  Since the 1960s the historically valuable letters have been held by the Glenbow Archives in Calgary as The Dewdney Papers.  The Glenbow Archives in Calgary acquired the letters from the Dewdney family in the 1960s, and organized them in a collection known as the Dewdney Family Papers that has been used extensively by researchers.

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Edgar`s wife Jane Shaw Moir  (1843-1906)

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Sketch by Edgar Dewdney, among his drawings while building the Dewdney Trail.

At the same time, the family donated Edgar`s ceremonial Lieutenant-Governor`s uniform and several scrapbooks of photographs taken by Edgar to the Nelson Museum.  Today the uniform is featured in the Touchstones Museum in Nelson and the scrapbooks are preserved in the Touchstones Archives.  One of the scrapbooks has an interesting note attached in Edgar`s handwriting that says: “Give this to Teddy when I die“.

I have often thought Edgar Dewdney had the type of life that someone could write a novel around.    His life reminds me a bit of the lead character the Forrest Gump movie – he ends up in the middle of history happening around him, whether he likes it or not.   He knew all of the colourful characters of British Columbia, from Governor James Douglas to Premier Richard McBride, including colourful Pacific Province characters like his close longtime friend Judge Matthew Begbie and his political enemy Willam A. Smith, who famously changed his name to Amor de Cosmos.   As premier of B.C., de Cosmo insisted that the CPR line be built via Bute Inlet over a series of bridges to the north part of Vancouver Island and terminate in Victoria, but Edgar was just as adamant that the best route was down the Fraser Valley to terminate at the future site of Vancouver, which is what happened.  He doubted that the other option was even possible, no matter what the cost amounted to.

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There was friendship and mutual respect between Edgar Dewdney and Chief Crowfoot.

Edgar was also part of the Canadian federal government, either as or an MP and cabinet minister or senior appointed official, for more than 20 years, and knew every prime minister from Sir John A. Macdonald to Sir Robert Borden, and including the Metis rebel Louis Riel, and all of the key players in the greatest project ever undertaken in Canada, the Canadian Pacific Railway.  He has the distinction of being the only person to serve as Lieutenant Governor for two jurisdictions — the Northwest Territories (1881-1888) and British Columbia (1892-1897). Compared to his contemporaries, particularly in the U.S., Edgar got along with the native peoples exceptionally well, beginning with the first leg of the Dewdney Trail between Hope and the Similkameen in 1861.  He was amazed at the work done by his Indian crews, particularly an older woman who carried a 120-pound bag of sugar up and down the steep slopes  of the trail, which largely followed  walking trails established over many generations by the First Nations people.  He was frustrated when trail workers refused to go beyond the borders of their tribe, but adapted and hired members of the next tribe along, as well as crews of white and Chinese workers.   There was mutual respect between Edgar and the two most famous chiefs of that era, Sioux Chief Sitting Bull (who met with Edgar after escaping with his warriors to Canada after defeating General Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn) and Blackfoot Chief Crowfoot.

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Edgar`s sister Charlotte Cave-Brown-Cave (1829-1909) was one of three Dewdney siblings in Devon to emigrate to B.C. after hearing enthusiastic descriptions from Edgar. Family photo.

The extinction of the buffalo on the prairies by the 1880s was catastrophic for the native peoples, as it disrupted their way of life and caused mass starvation.  As Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories and Minister of Indian Affairs in the John A. Macdonald government, Edgar Dewdney encouraged the chiefs to move their tribes from hunting to agriculture.  This initiative fell far short of its objective, as numerous difficulties were encountered, including corruption and poor performance by the agricultural trainers the government hired to work with the tribes.  The government`s efforts to distribute food to the starving tribes were often much too little, much too late.  As resentment from this crisis contributed to the Riel Rebellion of 1885, some observers have said that Edgar Dewdney deserved some of the blame for the rebellion breaking out.  However, it is generally agreed that there would have been many more casualties in the rebellion if Crowfoot had not met with Edgar and agreed to remain neutral.  After the rebellion`s Metis leader Louis Riel was convicted of treason in a Regina trial, the federal cabinet, led by PM Macdonald, decided that Riel must hang.  It fell to Edgar Dewdney to sign the death warrant.  He was subsequently derided the rest of his life by French-Canadians and other political opponents as The Man Who Signed Riel`s Death Warrant.   In his initiatives as senior federal minister for the Northwest Territories — which, in his era, included the jurisdictions that would later be the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — Edgar meant well, but, from a modern perspective, was certainly colonialist and patronizing, and had scant regard for the value of native culture.   Western Canada historian Hugh Dempsey, author of “Crowfoot: Chief of the Blackfeet“, commented on Edgar Dewdney:  “Although much of his career was marked with controversy, his relations with the Indians were good.“

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Edgar at the opening ceremony for the Qu’Appelle and Long Lake Railroad in Saskatchewan in 1886. BELOW: detail of the photo shows how Edgar (wearing white top hat at right) stood out in a crowd with his height of six feet, four inches. Jane, who was five feet, three inches in height, is to his right with a shovel. BOTTOM: Another view of the railroad commencement ceremony. Family photos.

deaildewd 002 another scene of long lake ceremony There is mystery associated with Edgar`s ancestry.   Some researchers say his parents were Charles Dewdney and Fanny Hollingshead, and others say they were John Dewdney and Elizabeth Parsons.  There were a number of Dewdneys with similar first names in the coastal communities of the English county of Devonshire in the 1830s, which has led to confusion.  Edgar`s birth day of November 8, 1835 is solid, but potential birth years for Walter range from 1833 to 1839.  I go with the date of July 16, 1836 which was used in a family history produced in the 1940s by Walter`s granddaughter Harriet Keating.   Neither Edgar nor his siblings ever commented on their parents.   The most likely parents are missing from the 1841 census, so they may have died.   In the 1851 census Edgar and Walter are listed as students at the Templeton School in Exeter, Devon.

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Edgar and Jeannie with dogs at their Regina residence, 1885.

Edgar studied engineering in Cardiff, Wales and then moved to London to work as private secretary to John Lorry Rickards, who had been in Indian at the time of the India Mutiny of 1857.  Before deciding to go to British Columbia, Edgar originally planned to go to India.   In 2009 a researcher published a report in B.C. History magazine that determined that Edgar`s father was a lowly boatman, so Edgar was pretending to be from a higher class after he arrived in B.C.   Personally, I do not think that it was that big a deal.  Once Edgar had built the Dewdney Trail, he was known as the trail-builder from Devon, with no specifics mentioned about his ancestry.  Somewhere along the line, someone provided the means with which he acquired a good education as well as engineering training that stood him in good stead with the projects he took on in B.C.

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Letter from Sir John A. Macdonald to Jane Dewdney on Macdonald`s 74th birthday in 1889. Family Collection.

Upon arriving in Victoria at age 23 in May of 1859, he stood out among other pioneers for two reasons: first, at six foot four and a muscular 200 pounds, he was literally head and shoulders above just about everyone else; and, secondly, he was a capable civil engineer at a time when such skills were in great demand in a colony burgeoning with gold discoveries, including some areas that could only be accessed by travelling through the United States and up river valleys.  This was a threat to the colony`s sovereignty at a time when many Americans subscribed to the Manifest Destiny concept of the U.S. eventually taking over all of North America.  The American interest in the north part of the continent was demonstrated when Alaska was purchased from Russia for $7.2 million in 1867.  Linking Alaska with the U.S. mainland by acquiring British Columbia — either by purchase or military conquest — seemed the logical next step for some Americans in that expansionist era. Edgar`s first substantial job after arriving in Victoria was to head a team of Royal Engineers to lay out New Westminster, the new capital of the mainland colony of British Columbia.   His success at this venture led to other contracts, most notably a mule trail from the frontier community of Hope to the future site of Princeton.  It was the first stage of what would become known as the Dewdney Trail, crossing a multitude of mountain ranges, waterways and heavily-forested areas.

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Reflections of Edgar`s sister-in-law Susan Moir Allison

In August 1860, travelling on a river streamer between New Westminster and Hope, Edgar met Thomas Glennie, a Scot who planned to homestead near Hope.  Accompanying Glennie was his wife Susan Louisa Moir Glennie, and her two daughters from a previous marriage Jane, 17, and Susan, 15.   The girls were born and raised in the colony of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in a genteel English colonial environment, but with hardly any money in the family.  Edgar, 25, was enraptured by Jane and took every opportunity to get together with her in subsequent years, culminating in their wedding at the Anglican Christ Church in Hope in March 1864.  Today, as the province`s oldest and longest operating church, Christ Church is a national historic site. Jane`s sister Susan married John Fall Allison in 1868 and became an enthusiastic outdoorswoman in a remote dwelling near the current site of Princeton.   Her story is colourfully told in the 1976 “A Pioneer Gentlewoman in British Columbia: The Recollections of Susan Allison“, edited by B.C. historian Margaret Ormsby, who described Edgar Dewdney thus: “A kindly man who had no children of his own, he was generous to his own and to Jane`s nieces and nephews.“

Unlike Susan, Jane in later years preferred city life to frontier abodes.  Jane thrived in the invigorating political scene in Ottawa, but her favorite home was in Oak Bay, immediately east of Victoria, where she enjoyed the mild climate, was close to many friends and relatives, and had wonderful gardens.  Through his career Edgar`s favourite job was in the 1890s as Lieutenant-Governor of B.C., where he and Jane held court in the vice-regal residence Cary Castle.

Susan Allison was in good health until close to her death in 1937 at 91.  She learned the Chinook language and had many friends among her native neighbours.  As her husband was often away from home prospecting or engaged in other business ventures, Susan relied on assistance from her Chinook women friends to deliver her babies.  Her diaries include a number of stories about Edgar and Jane that show them interacting as close relatives in everyday life.  One autumn day Edgar and Jane were visiting when Susan purchased a huge number of salmon from a native fisherman.   Edgar and Jane rolled up their sleeves and joined Susan and some friends in a work bee assembly line where they cleaned all the salmon and preserved the meat with salt and spices, so that Susan and her children were well-fed with fish through the winter months.

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Hon. Edgar Dewdney turns first sod for railroad from Calgary to Edmonton in 1891. At age 55, he was still an imposing figure of physical vigour in Western Canada.

The discovery of gold in the East Kootenay region in 1865 led the colonial governor, Frederick Seymour to offer Edgar a contract to extend the trail to Wild Horse Creek, near the site of today`s Cranbrook.  Edgar knew nothing of the country beyond the Similkameen Valley, but accepted the job, as long as he could choose his own men and be assured that they would be paid.   This would bring the total length of the Dewdney Trail to 450 miles across some of the most rugged and scenic terrain on the continent.  In a letter to Edgar dated April 10, 1865, Gov. Seymour said that, in addition to building the mule trail, “you will make accurate sketches of the different lines examined, with full notes of the nature of the soil and timber, the course and size of the different streams and rivers, the quantity and probable extent of prairie and grazing land, the nature of the different rock, and, where found, the heights of as many different points above the level of the sea as can be obtained, and if possible the latitudes and longitudes of all important points and such other general information as may be useful in preparing a map of the country through which you pass“

Dewdney, Chief Piapot and his warriors, and the Montreal Garrison Artillery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 1885

Edgar Dewdney bottom left, with Chief Piapot and his warriors, and the Montreal Garrison Artillery in Regina in 1885.

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Painting of Edgar Dewdney c. 1875.  Frame is 22 inches wide and 26 inches high. Family collection.

The timing of the trail work in the spring of 1865 was significant, because the U.S. Civil War essentially ended on April 9, 1865 with the surrender of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to Union Gen. U.S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.  With the war over, Britain and Canada faced the dire prospect of hundreds of thousands of trained soldiers of the victorious North invading and taking control of lands north of the 49th parallel, as Britain had sided with the South in several controversial incidents.   The fact that much of the planning of the conspiracy to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln occurred in Montreal was another reason to worry about American retaliation against Canada.  As it turned out, the only incursions from the U.S. were the small, poorly-organized Fenian Raids in Ontario and New Brunswick of groups of Irish-American soldiers aiming to strike at Britain – who they saw as oppressing their native Ireland – by attacking Canada.  The fear of invasion from the United States was a key reason that British North American colonies agreed to unite in the self-governing dominion of Canada in 1867.

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The existing Edgar Dewdney memorabilia includes a bible (sideways, lower shelf) presented to Edgar and Jane after their wedding ceremony at the Anglican Christ Church in March 1864.  Family collection

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Inside page of 1864 bible with inscription from Rev. Alexander David Pringle.  Author photo

So, in addition to building the trail, Edgar was on a mission of discovery and reconnaissance for a governor extremely curious about economic prospects for the land they were about to access through a west-east route – without having to approach it from the United States — for the first time. In 1998 the Boundary Museum Society based in Grand Forks, B.C. transcribed and published Edgar`s notes and letters as the trail was being built in 1865, in a binder called Edgar Dewdney: Diary Notes Written on the Trail.   As someone who grew up in Nelson, my favourite part of Edgar`s correspondence was letters associated with a sidetrip he took with an Indian companion in a birchbark canoe from the current site of Castlegar, up the churning Kootenay River (doing 14 portages to get through the rapids) to the current site of Nelson, and up the West Arm and then toward the North end of Kootenay Lake.  The purpose was to check out possible routes for the trail on the east side of Kootenay Lake.  They went to Crawford Bay and partly up the valley to the St. Mary`s River in the East Kootenay, but Edgar decided it wasn`t worth it because travelling miners would not want to pay to be ferried across the lake. In a letter to the governor dated June 29, 1865, Edgar said: “I did not reach the north end (of Kootenay Lake), thinking I should only be wasting my time, but I traveled up sufficiently near to take its bearing.   The scenery on both sides of the Lake is very bold and grand.  The greater part of the rock around the Lake is granite of the coarsest description with large quantities of quartz running in veins of different thickness north and south.  I explored several but could find no trace of gold.“

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Biography of Edgar Dewdney by Brian Titley.

“The Lake abounds in minerals, iron and large quantities of galena with which I fell satisfied there is silver but I had no means of testing it and unfortunately left my specimens behind,“ he wrote, demonstrating a keen eye for future industry in the region.   Returning to the project staging headquarters at Fort Sheppard (near the current site of Trail), Edgar and his companion Peter shot the spectacular Kootenay rapids in their canoe, and Edgar noted that Bonnington Falls was the most beautiful waterfall he had ever seen.  Years later he said in an interview that his favourite mode of transport in rivers and lakes was the birchbark canoe, which kept paddlers dry and could be easily repaired.

While they were better off than most pioneer couples, Edgar and Jane were never affluent.  In that era before pensions, Edgar was always worried about he and Jane running out of money in their retirement years.   His eager involvement in land speculation and investments in mining companies were almost like a gambling addiction.   He tended to lose much more often than gain from such speculation, but the fact that he was involved got him into trouble during his political career.   Opponents accused him of conflicts of interest, particularly when he influenced the location of the city of Regina to encompass land which partially owned through investment in a syndicate.   Everything was in the open and his boss John A. Macdonald had no problem with it, but the situation looked bad and was a stain on Edgar`s reputation for the rest of his life.  His response to accusers was to say he would have gained more money if the other option for locating Regina was chosen, because he had a larger stake in that ownership syndicate! One of the criticisms of Edgar as a politician and administrator was that he was “overly loyal“ to John A. Macdonald.   Like many Canadians, Edgar was a great admirer of the charismatic Macdonald, and proud of his loyalty to his Prime Minister and party leader.   But he was also a very close personal friend of Macdonald and his wife Agnes.  And Jane in turn was a good friend of Agnes and Sir John.   Macdonald`s high opinion of Edgar was shown when he named Edgar co-executor of his will (along with his son Hugh), and arranged with Edgar to be trustee of a fund to support Macdonald`s handicapped daughter Mary.   When Macdonald died in June 1891, Edgar was at his bedside along with members of Macdonald`s family.  A couple of years later, Lady Macdonald and Mary stayed at Cary Castle for several months as guests of the Dewdneys. Edgar owned and loved many dogs over the years and spoiled them.   Jeannie was not so keen on the dogs, and was particularly put out when one of the dogs insisted in sleeping under the bed when he was away. In 1897, Edgar took great pleasure in providing his assent as lieutenant-governor to legislation that established Nelson, Rossland and Grand Forks as municipalities.   He could remember going through those sites when they were just part of the wilderness.  In his retirement years Edgar travelled to the Kootenays several times to visit friends and check out investment prospects.   Reporters from the local newspapers would come to his hotel and enjoy  hearing his stories of the old days in the region.  He also had pleasant visits with his nephew and ward Ted Dewdney who was working as a bank clerk in Rossland.

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Existing Edgar Dewdney memorabilia includes this pendant with images of Sir John A. Macdonald and Jane Dewdney, who were Edgar`s two favourite people in the world.  Family collection.

After a long string of provincial and federal electoral victories, Edgar was defeated in the Nov. 7, 1900, losing to his Liberal opponent 1,772 to 1,627.  Ironically, he was defeated just two days after his 65th birthday while running in the New Westminster riding for the first time – the same community he laid out as a young engineer four decades earlier. Edgar would then experience déjà vu in another respect as a contractor.  The province of B.C. was in the midst of railway fever.   With the southern interior proving to be a land of great mineral wealth and logging prospects, the government and the CPR were worried that the dynamic Great Northern Railway led by James Jerome Hill would capture the freight and wealth of that region through branch lines off its main line near the Canadian border.  There was also great pressure on Premier James Dunsmuir from businesses in the Kootenays and the Lower Mainland for the construction of a Coast To Kootenay railway.  In July of 1901 Edgar Dewdney was commissioned to take charge of a government survey to determine the viability of a rail line through the Hope Mountains.  It was almost exactly 40 years since he faced the task of building a mule trail through the same terrain.  A big difference was that rail lines had to keep within an acceptable grade, or the trains could not pull their loads going uphill, or safely brake going downhill.

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Book on the Kettle Valley Railway includes Edgar Dewdney`s 1901 feasibility study for a railway through the Hope Mountains — 40 years after he built a trail through the same terrains.

In the book McCulloch`s Wonder: The Story of the Kettle Valley Railway, Barry Sanford notes that the government could hardly have picked an older man for the task, “but Dewdney`s long experience more than compensated for his lack of youthful agility.  He accepted the assignment with the vigor and enthusiasm he had shown for his assignment in the early 1860s, and promptly hired two of the most competent engineers in the country, Frank Moberly and Henry Carry, to assist him.“  An expedition of 30 men for the study left Victoria for Hope on August 1, 1901.  In March 1902 Edgar delivered his report to the provincial legislature.   He reported that three possible routes from Hope to Princeton were evaluated, but each option involved long stretches of severely adverse grades.  “The survey shows that the Hope Mountains cannot be crossed without encountering serious engineering difficulties which would necessitate a  very large expenditure of money, and I know of nothing so pressing, either in the way of development or along any line which might be determined on to warrant its construction.“ Many in B.C. were shocked that the growth-minded, ever optimistic pioneer Edgar Dewdney would recommend against building the rail line.  Despite his report, the project proceeded, and the Coquihalla Rail Line officially opened on July 31, 1916 – eight days before Edgar died.  He was proven to be correct in his conclusions, as the cost per mile of building the line through the Hope mountains was five times as expensive as the cost per mile of building the main line CPR through B.C., and it was a money-loser due to extraordinarily high operating costs, largely due to avalanches in winter, washouts in spring and forest fires in summer.   The railway eventually closed for good in 1959, and today parts of the line are a tourist attraction for biking and hiking.

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Edgar Dewdney memorabilia includes this souvenir card from Westminster Abbey from his visit to his native England in 1890. Family collection.

In January 1906 the Dewdney family experienced two deaths within three days, as Jane`s mother Susan, who was living with the Dewdneys in her early 90s, died on Jan. 27th and then Jane died on Jan. 30th.  Three years later Edgar travelled to England and married Blanche Plantagenet Kemeys-Tynte in Somerset, England.  In his earlier writings and interviews, Edgar said his intention when he left England for Victoria in 1859 was to stay for 10 years, earn the fortune he needed to live comfortably, and then return to his sweetheart who was waiting for him in England.  This led to a false story that Blanche was the sweetheart, and was still waiting for Edgar 50 years later in 1909!  A reason to think they are connected is that Blanche`s father, Charles Kemeys-Tynte, provided Edgar in 1859 with a letter of introduction to Colonial Secretary Edward Bulwer Lytton, who in turn provided Edgar with a letter of introduction to Governor James Douglas which he presented upon arrival in Victoria.  However, British census records indicate that Blanche was born in about 1854, so she would only have been about five years of age when Edgar left England, so she surely could not have been the sweetheart he left behind. Today Edgar Dewdney is remembered mainly in Western Canada, and particularly in British Columbia, his province of first residence and retirement.   He stood out among other men partly because of his height, but also because of his energy, optimism and confidence, his genuine love of outdoor frontier life, and his skills and vision as an engineer.

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Edgar as Lieutenant Governor of B.C. in 1893.   Family photo

He was the type of leader that people chose to name things after, like the municipality of Dewdney, Mount Dewdney, Dewdney Peak, Dewdney Creek, the Dewdney Trunk Road, Dewdney electoral constituency, Dewdney Schools, Dewdney Avenue in Regina and, most importantly, the Dewdney Trail.   And the City of Trail is named after Trail Creek, which in turn was named after the Dewdney Trail.  The City of Fernie is named after William Fernie, who was a foreman of Edgar`s in building the trail through the Kootenays.   Allison Pass at the top of the Hope-Princeton highway is named after Edgar`s brother-in-law John Fall Allison.

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Edgar`s official diary for 1894 exists in the family memorabilia. ABOVE: This Feb. 25, 1894 entry mentions a serious fire in Kaslo.  It is interesting that a brother of his future wife Blanche Kemeys-Tynte visited the Dewdney`s at the lieutenant governor residence Cary Castle on Feb. 26, 1894.  BELOW: Diary notes from Jan. 8-9, 1894, including William Cornelius Van Horne of the CPR, and Col. James Peters, who was a cousin of Edgar`s ward Ted Dewdney`s future wife Helen Peters, who at the time was still a young girl residing in Charlottetown.  Family collection.

edgar 1894 diary jan 9

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Postcard-style photographs of the Royal Family in Edgar`s personal scrapbook. At left is Queen Victoria with one of her daughters. At right is Carrie Trutch O`Reilly, who, with her husband Peter, was a long-time friend of the Dewdneys. Family collection.

Some observers have said the Dewdney Trail was of little consequence because it fell into disuse after a few years, which is true but a large part of Highway 3 of today follows the trail that Edgar blazed through the wilderness.   When the Salmo-Creston Highway was under construction in the early 1960s, it was proposed to call it the Dewdney Highway because it generally followed the Dewdney Trail, but officials decided instead to call it the Kootenay Skyway (locals just call it the Salmo-Creston).  In retrospect, the most valuable thing about the Dewdney Trail in its early years was a symbol of British and later Canadian determination to keep the Okanagan, Kootenays and other parts of southern B.C. free from control by the giant nation to the south.  And sections of the trail were used in several discoveries, including the Red Mountain find in 1890.

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Invitation the Dewdneys received for dinner in 1912. Family collection.

Edgar died in August 1916 during one of the bleakest periods of the First World War.  The lists of Canadian casualties in newspapers went on and on, but the publishers still felt that the end of the life of one of the province`s greatest pioneers deserved extensive coverage on front pages and in editorials. In an editorial the day after he died, the Victoria Times said: “He was an exceedingly loveable person.  He impressed everyone he came in contact with his geniality and fine open-heartedness.   He ever had a kindly word for all who sought his advice.“ Over the years there have been numerous magazine and newspaper articles about Edgar Dewdney, as well as a 1999 UBC Press book The Frontier World of Edgar Dewdney by Brian Titley, a professor of education at the University of Lethbridge.   Titley also wrote the Edgar Dewdney entry in the Canadian Dictionary of Biographies http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/dewdney_edgar_14E.html, which concludes that Edgar “was an accomplished engineer, an indifferent businessman, an adequate administrator, and an undistinguished politician.  His greatest fault, perhaps, was his partisan loyalty to John A. Macdonald, which clouded his judgement at critical moments. He deserves some of the blame for the North-West rebellion and the repressive policies that followed it.  The roads he surveyed in British Columbia were his greatest achievement.“  An interesting review of the Titley book by J. William Brennan is at http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3188&context=greatplainsquarterly

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Signed photo of Uncle Edgar, 1912, as a gift to nephew Ted Dewdney on his marriage to Helen Peters. Family photo.

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ABOVE: Photo of Edgar`s gravesite at Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria shortly after the funeral in August 1916. BELOW: the gravesite today, including BOTTOM: name plate. Family photos.

edgar tombstone close up of edgar plaque Edgar Dewdney Chronology November 5, 1835 – born in Bideford, Devon on the southwest coast of England, son of Charles Dewdney and Fanny Hollingshead*

1851 – Edgar and younger brother Walter were boarders at Templeton Mansion School in Exeter, Devon. April 1854 – brother Walter Dewdney joins the 17th Lancers as a private, rising quickly to Troop Sergeant Major January 1858 – death of sister Rose Johnstone Dewdney at 29 in Devon. March 5, 1859 – Edgar left England on the Hamurg mail line steamer, arriving in New York after a stormy passage. May 18, 1859 – arrived in Victoria after sailing to Panama, crossing to the Pacific side by land, and sailing north via San Francisco to his destination. 1860 – Hired by Governor James Douglas to build a pack trail from Hope to the mining camps in the Similkameen Valley

March 25, 1864 – marries Jane Shaw Moir at the Anglican Christ Church in Hope, B.C. Mid-September 1865 – Miners began travelling from Hope to the Kootenay gold fields on the new four-foot wide, all-Canadian Dewdney Trail June 1866 – Private Walter Dewdney retires from 17th Lancers of the British Army after 12 years of service and moves to British Columbia. July 1, 1867 – Canada becomes a self-governing nation under the British North America Act. Dec. 5, 1867 — sister Charlotte Dewdney marries Rev. Jordayne Cave-Brown-Cave in Sappeton, B.C. December 1868 – elected to represent Kootenay in the colony`s Legislative Council March 4, 1870 – Louis Riel`s Metis provisional government executes Orangeman Thomas Scott. July 20, 1871 – British Columbia becomes a  Canadian province, largely based on the federal promise to build a railway across Canada. July 20, 1872 – elected  to represent Yale district in the federal parliament Jan. 22, 1872 – elected again to represent Yale district in the federal parliament July 27, 1876 — sister Fanny Dewdney Lethbridge marries John Lawrence in Victoria, B.C. Sept. 17, 1878 – re-elected to parliament for Yale by acclamation December 3, 1881-June 30, 1888 – took on the additional responsibilities of Lieutenant-Governor of the Northwest Territories May 30. 1879 – becomes federal  Indian Commissioner, appointed by PM Sir John A. Macdonald. May 1880 – meets with  Sioux Chief Sitting Bull (defeater of U.S. Gen. Custer at Little Big Horn)

March 26-June 3, 1885 – The North-West Rebellion (also known as the Riel Rebellion). May 9-12, 1885 – Canadian forces under Major General Middleton decisively defeat Metis forces May 15, 1885 – Louis Riel surrenders and is taken to Regina November 7, 1885 – Pounding of the last spike marks the completion of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway. November 16, 1885 – Louis Riel is hanged in Regina.  Edgar Dewdney signed his death warrant, which made him persona non grata among French-Canadians for the rest of his life. Sept. 12, 1888 – elected MP in a federal by-election for Assiniboia East district Sept. 25, 1888 – June 6, 1892 – serves as Minister of the Interior and Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs under Prime Minister Macdonald. Sept. 25, 1888 – made a member of the Queen`s Privy Council, and thus holds the title of the Honourable Edgar Dewdney. April 25, 1890 — Chief Crowfoot dies.  Edgar writes: “He was beloved by his people, feared by his foes, esteemed by all.“ Sept. 9, 1890 – Edgar leaves for England on a mission to encourage emigration to Canada, and investment in Canadian business. March 5, 1891 – elected MP to represent Assiniboia East district June 6,  1891 – death of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald.  Edgar Dewdney was among the relatives and close friends at his bedside when he passed away. June 16, 1891 – Oct. 16, 1892 – serves as Minister of the Interior and Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs under Prime Minister Abbott Jan. 25, 1892 – death of Edgar`s brother Walter Dewdney in Vernon Nov. 1, 1892 – became Lieutenant-Governor of British Columba and moved to Cary Castle, the viceregal estate of Lieutenant Governors.  He succeeds Hugh Nelson, after whom the City of Nelson, B.C. is named. August 16, 1896 – gold discovered in Klondike River in the Yukon, leading to the Klondike Gold Rush March 4, 1897 – As Lt-Governor, he assents to the incorporation of Rossland, Nelson and Grand Forks as municipalities, under the Speedy Incorporation of Towns Act.

Oct. 28, 1897 – death of brother-in-law John Fall Allison at age 70. Dec. 1, 1897 – retires as Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia and moves to home on Rockland Avenue in Oak Bay, B.C. Nov. 7, 1900 – defeated by Liberal opponent in the federal election in the New Westminster riding 1,772 to 1,627 July 1, 1901 – commissioned to report on potential routes for a rail line through the Hope Mountains for the Coast-to-Kootenay Railway. March 1902 – presented his report to the B.C. legislature, concluding that none of the potential routes for a railway through the Hope Mountains was feasible. January 27, 1906 – Jane`s mother Susan Glennie, who lived with Edgar and Jane in Oak Bay, dies at age 95l January 30, 1906 – wife Jane dies three days after her mother, at 62. August 5, 1909 – death of sister Charlotte Wright, 80, in Victoria September 1909 – married Blanche Plantagenet Kemeys-Tynte in Somerset, England August 31, 1914 – death of sister Fanny Lethbridge Lawrence, 81, in Victoria August 8, 1916 – died of heart failure at age 80 August 12, 1916 – his funeral, followed by burial at Ross Bay Cemetery in the Anglican section. March 27, 1936 – widow Blanche Dewdney dies at Leycroft, Salterton Road, Exmouth, Devon. February 1, 1937 – death of sister-in-law Susan Louisa Moir Allison in Vancouver at 91.

dewdney stones at Ross Bay Cemetery July 2008

In a separate area of Ross Bay Cemetery, about 50 feet from Edgar`s memorial,  are the gravesites of, from left to right: Edgar`s wife Jane Moir Dewdney, his sister Fanny Lawrence, and his mother-in-law Susan Glennie. Author photo.

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Edgar Dewdney death certificate.