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

 

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“.

sep 13 2013 charlottetown 027

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.

100 Years Since the Battle of Dogger Bank where Fritz Peters Earned His First Award for Valour

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by Sam McBride Frederic Thornton “Fritz“ Peters received his first medal for valour in the Battle of Dogger Bank exactly 100 years ago on January 24, 1915.   It was the Distinguished Service Order, second in rank only to the Victoria Cross, which he would earn 27 years later for an attack on a heavily-fortified port in Algeria.   However, several men who witnessed his heroism at Dogger Bank felt he really deserved the Victoria Cross for that action rather just the DSO.

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Fritz Peters as a newly-commissioned officer in 1912

German warships had been shelling the eastern coast of Britain, hoping to draw out British warships so they could be attacked by u-boats.  The conflict led to a chase in the North Sea at Dogger Bank above Denmark, about half way between Britain and Germany.  It was the war’s first significant battle between British and German warships in the North Sea. Lt. Fritz Peters, 25, was first officer of the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Meteor under Captain Meade.   The speedy Meteor was setting up to torpedo the slower, but much larger, German cruiser Bluecher when it was hit by one of the last rounds from the cruiser before it sank – an 8.2-inch shell that caused extensive damage to Meteor’s engine room.  With incredible calm and coolness, Lieut. Fritz Peters rushed to the engine room – a scary place of fire, scalding water and boiler explosions when damaged in battle – and made it safe.  In the face of  leaking oil in the engine room threatening to explode, he was credited with saving the lives of two ratings and perhaps many more on board if there was an explosion or bursting of the boilers.  Another report said he also pushed an unexploded shell overboard.

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DSO medal

For these actions, Fritz was the first Canadian in the Great War to receive the DSO medal, second in rank only to the Victoria Cross as a British honour for bravery in battle.  It was the highest honour bestowed in the aftermath of the Dogger Bank conflict.  He initially received a Mention in Dispatches for the heroism, and then on March 3, 1915 King George the Fifth presented him with the DSO medal. Writing from the Ypres front to his brother Gerald in Montreal on March 11, 1915, Private Jack Peters said:  “I suppose you know about Fritz winning the D.S.O. and being mentioned in dispatches.  Won’t Father and Mother be tickled to death!  I dare say he is quite satisfied, but I should think that it certainly should help his promotion a lot.“  Gerald wrote to his mother Bertha in B.C.: “How proud you must be about Fritz.  I got your letter and Aunt Florence’s on the same day telling me of it.“ The one person Bertha did not hear from regarding the DSO was Fritz himself.  He detested boastfulness and self-promotion, and never raised the topic of the DSO unless asked.

In early 1918, Peters received the Distinguished Service Cross for heroic anti-U-boat action, and then 22 years later, in 1940 in the Second World War, he earned a bar to his DSC for sinking two U-boats.   For anyone else, this would have been an extraordinary record, but there was more to come for Fritz Peters.    At age 53 he earned the Victoria Cross for leading the attack on Oran Harbour in the Allied invasion of North Africa at 3 am on Nov. 8, 1942.   For the same action, American General Eisenhower awarded him the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross which, for non-Americans, was the equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor as the highest award for valour against enemy forces. There is video on You Tube of the Battle of Dogger Bank , including footage of the Bluecher sinking. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2tQgvmE8s8

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Prince Rupert newspaper report

front of 1914 Christmas card

front of 1914 Christmas card

inside of meteor xmas card 001

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Citation for DSO in Royal Navy records

Peters, Dewdney and Cunard memorabilia displayed in Family Historians interview

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by Sam McBride

I was recently interviewed for the Go Kootenays community TV show about family history in general, and the West Kootenay Family Historians Society in particular.

The reporter came to my home in Castlegar, and got video shots of some of the paintings, photos, letters and other memorabilia that was safely stored for many years by my grandmother and then my mother, and has been passed on to me.  The show can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsnVAac4SlM or http://shaw.ca/ShawTV/Cranbrook/ShawTV/

Most of the material shown came from two great-uncles: the Hon. Edgar Dewdney, who was a major figure in Western Canada political history in the 19th century (and is best known in the Kootenay region as the builder in the 1860s of the Dewdney Trail from Hope across several mountain ranges to Wild Horse Creek near the current site of Cranbrook); and Frederic Thornton Peters, the subject of my book “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars”.   The file of original letters shown in the footage is part of the collection of letters home that were of central importance in telling Fritz’s story.   The Christmas card with the image of the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Meteor was sent home by Fritz in Christmas 1914 while he was serving as first officer on Meteor.   Just a month later, on January 24, 1915, Fritz earned a Distinguished Service Order medal for heroism in saving lives after the engine room of Meteor was hit by a German shell.  The photograph under glass in an antique frame of a lady in the video is of Mary Cunard, who was eldest daughter of the Cunard Steamship Lines founder Sir Samuel Cunard, and mother of Frederick Peters, Fritz’s father.

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The top hat displayed in the TV report, along with its customized leather bucket that has enabled the hat to remain in good condition for more than a century. The story in the family was that the hat was owned and worn by the Hon. Edgar Dewdney, while he served as Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia in the 1890s

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Original portrait of Edgar Dewdney, painted in about 1884 when he was Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories, based in Regina.  He was uncle and legal guardian of Ted Dewdney, who married Fritz’s sister Helen Peters in 1912.

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Envelope used for letter Fritz Peters sent to his mother Bertha in 1916 when she was staying with her sister Florence Gray Poole In Guildford, England

page 1 and 4 of 1916 letter from Fritz

The first and fourth panels of 1916 letter from Fritz to his mother.

front of 1914 Christmas card

front of 1914 Christmas card shown in the video

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inside of 1914 Christmas card with image of HMS Meteor. It is signed by Fritz, but with a joke nickname “Mangle Jangle”

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Photo of Fritz’s paternal grandmother Mary Cunard in original frame, featured in the Go Kootenays TV show. Below, close-up of Mary Cunard.

mary cunard jpg

A Tale of Two Identical Fathers of Confederation

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by Sam McBride

One of the great coincidences of Canadian history is that there were two unrelated Fathers of Confederation named John Hamilton Gray  — one in Prince Edward Island (born in Charlottetown in 1811 and died in Charlottetown in 1887) and the other in New Brunswick (born in Bermuda in 1814 and died in Victoria, B.C. in 1889).

The P.E.I. Gray was Fritz Peters` grandfather and my great-great-grandfather.  He had the more prominent role among the J.H. Gray`s at the Charlottetown Conference of September 1864 because, as head of the P.E.I. government at the time, he was the official host of the conference and was elected by delegates to be chairman of the conference.   Both J.H. Grays were fervent supporters of Confederation at a time when many of the men also known as Fathers of Confederation were lukewarm or actively opposing it.   The two men were also alike in qualifying for the title of Colonel Gray — the P.E.I. Gray as a career officer in the British cavalry, and the New Brunswick Gray as an Lieutenant-Colonel in his colony`s militia.

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ABOVE: Col. John Hamilton Gray of Prince Edward Island shown about the time of the Charlottetown Conference he hosted in 1864. BELOW: The P.E.I. Gray in later years.

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col gray high school

The high school in Charlottetown is named after John Hamilton Gray of P.E.I.

In 2014, as part of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary (sesquicentennial) of the Charlottetown Conference, a sculpture has been commissioned which will depict the two John Hamilton Grays interacting at the 1864 conference.   The artist doing the bronze work is Nathan Scott from Vancouver Island.   See the recent CBC report on the project http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/fathers-of-confederation-statue-to-be-unveiled-this-fall-1.2519721 and information on the artist http://www.sculpturebynathanscott.com/1/post/2013/11/canadian-artist-nathan-scotts-latest-public-commission-the-two-john-hamilton-grays.html

The fact that the artist is from Vancouver Island is interesting because Victoria, B.C. is part of the story of the two John Hamilton Grays and their descendants­.    In 1872 the New Brunswick Gray moved to Victoria to serve as a judge on the Supreme Court of B.C.   He died in Victoria in 1889 and was buried in Victoria`s historic Ross Bay Cemetery, which has the graves of most of the famous B.C. names of the 19th century.   The people who lead tours of the Ross Bay cemetery point out that this Gray was the only Father of Confederation buried west of Ontario.

other jh gray

ABOVE: The New Brunswick John Hamilton Gray shown around the time of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference. BELOW: The New Brunswick John Hamilton Gray is later years when he was a judge in British Columbia.

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I think it is ironic that the burial site and tombstone of the New Brunswick Gray in Ross Bay is in the Anglican section of the cemetery just a few yards from the grave and tombstone of former P.E.I. premier Frederick Peters, who was a son-in-law of the P.E.I. Gray.   The person who organized Frederick Peters` funeral and burial at Ross Bay in August 1919 was his son Lt. Frederic Thornton “Fritz“ Peters, DSO, DSC, RN, who took leave from Royal Navy service to travel to Victoria to look after arrangements on behalf of his widowed mother Bertha Gray Peters.  It is quite possible that Fritz — who later received the Victoria Cross and the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross for valour in the invasion of North Africa in 1942 — chose the gravesite because of its proximity to the “other“ Father of Confederation John Hamilton Gray.  While they were not related, there was a bond between Fritz`s grandfather and the other John Hamilton Gray as builders of Canada.

Last October while in Charlottetown for a book tour I visited the gravesite of my great-great-grandfather J.H. Gray at Sherwood Cemetery for the first time.   I had visited the Ross Bay Cemetery on the other coast of Canada several times in recent years, but I paid closer attention to the Gray tombstone when I visited a couple of weeks ago while in Victoria.   The Gray tombstone at Sherwood is much bigger than the one at Ross Bay, but is quite faded from the effects of weather and time, while the Ross Bay one is in good shape.  Something they have in common is a small accompanying plaque installed years ago by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada for deceased Fathers of Confederation.   As can be seen on the accompanying images, the wording on the federal plaques is exactly the same, as both men attended the Confederation gatherings at Charlottetown and Quebec City, but not the one in London: “A delegate to the Intercolonial Conferences of 1864 (Charlottetown and Quebec) at which the basis was laid for the federal union of the British North America provinces in a new nation.  This grave is marked by the Government of Canada.“

The PEI Gray was long-retired and died of a lingering illness in bed at his home Inkerman House on August 13, 1887.  It must have been a difficult time for his daughter Bertha, who was about to give birth to her first child, Helen (my maternal grandmother), who was born August 31, 1887.   At age 75, the New Brunswick Gray was still serving as a judge in B.C. when he collapsed on June 6, 1889 while walking down a street in Victoria, according to a report the following day in the Colonist newspaper.   He was looking forward to a visit from his old friend (and fellow New Brunswick Father of Confederation) Samuel Leonard Tilley, who held the post of Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick at the time.  Tilley arrived to find that Gray had died while he was en route.   Tilley served as a pallbearer at Gray`s funeral, along with several Victoria judges, including the most famous of B.C.`s pioneer judges, Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, also known as “The Hanging Judge“, who would die five years later on June 11, 1894 and be buried at Ross Bay Cemetery just a few yards from the New Brunswick John Hamilton Gray.   Interestingly, Frederick Peters` father James Horsfield Peters was also an actively-serving judge when he died in Charlottetown on June 20, 1891 — in fact, at 80 years of age he had the distinction of being the oldest serving judge in Canada in the year he died.  http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/peters_james_horsfield_12E.html

Ancestry-wise, no one has ever established a family connection between the two John Hamilton Grays.  The New Brunswick Gray had roots in England, while the PEI Gray was the son of Robert Gray, a United Empire Loyalist from Virginia who was born near Glasgow, Scotland.  The PEI Gray`s mother, Mary Burns, was a descendant of the Burns family in Scotland, and the Stukeley and Browne families in England.   Robert Gray was a penniless young man with no prospects in Scotland when he was hired as an agent in Colonial America by the Hamilton family of tobacco traders.  He expressed his appreciation to his benefactors by naming his youngest son John Hamilton Gray. http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gray_robert_1828_6E.html  I do not have equivalent information regarding the naming of the New Brunswick John Hamilton Gray.

SHERWOOD PARK CEMETERY, CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI

The P.E.I. Gray tombstone at Sherwood in Charlottetown reads “John Hamilton Gray entered into rest Aug. 13, 1887.  Erected as a loving trbute to his most beloved memory by his wife and children.  Looking unto Jesus the auther (sic) and finisher of our faith.“  The wife who decided on the tombstone inscription was his third wife, Sarah Caroline Cambridge.   His first wife, Fanny Sewell Chamier, died in her first childbirth.   The second wife, Susan Ellen Bartley Pennefather, was mother to five daughters: Harriet Gray Stokes, Margaret Gray Lord, Florence Gray Poole, Mary Gray Abbott and Bertha Hamilton Gray Peters.  Sarah Cambridge Gray was mother to daughter Rosie Gray, son Arthur Cavendish Bentinck Hamilton Gray and son Hamilton Edward Jarvis Gray (born in 1880 when his father was age 69).   Of Sarah`s children, only Arthur survived to adulthood.

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The author Sam McBride beside the tombstone of his great-great-grandfather John Hamilton Gray of P.E.I. in October 2013

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Father of Confederation plaque beside the J.H. Gray tombstone in Sherwood Cemetery in Charlottetown.

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close-up of text on Gray tombstone at Sherwood

rosie gray stone

Buried next to the P.E.I. Gray at Sherwood Cemetery in Charlottetown is his daughter Rosie Gray, who died at age three in 1874.

http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gray_john_hamilton_1811_87_11E.html

ROSS BAY CEMETERY, VICTORIA, B.C.

The tombstone of the New Brunswick Father of Confederation Gray says “John Hamilton Gray, D.C.L.  17 years a Judge of the Supreme Court of B.C.  Eldest son of Wm Gray H.M. Vice Consul for Virginia U.S.A.  Died June 5, 1889.   Also, Eliza, his wife, daughter of Lt. Col. Ormondo H.M. 30th Regt Died Dec. 3, 1895.  Aged 75.“

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the tombstone and Father of Confederation plaque for J.H. Gray of New Brunswick at Ross Bay cemetery in Victoria, B.C.  One of the crosses behind the tombstone is for former P.E.I. premier Frederick Peters, son-in-law of the “other“ Father of Confederation named John Hamilton Gray.

close up of stone for the nb jh gray

Close-up of text on the Ross Bay tombstone.  The D.C.L. refers to the law degree Gray earned in New Brunswick.

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Father of Confederation plaque at Ross Bay

http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gray_john_hamilton_1814_89_11E.html

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The grave of Frederick Peters at Ross Bay, with the tombstone of John Hamilton Gray near the trees behind it.

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The number 26 at top side of the map is the location at Ross Bay Cemetery of the grave of John Hamilton Gray of New Brunswick. The X beside it on the right is the location of the Frederick Peters grave.

fred peters at about age 40

Frederick Peters, born in 1852 in Charlottetown, married Bertha Gray in 1886, died 1919 in Prince Rupert, B.C., buried in Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria B.C., served as premier of P.E.I. 1891-1897. He was a lawyer with the Tupper and Peters firm in Victoria and later was city solicitor and city clerk in Prince Rupert. His son F.T. “Fritz“ Peters won the Victoria Cross.

side stone for gerald

Text on a side of the base of the Frederick Peters tombstone in honour of his son Gerald who died in WW1.   The other side of the stone has a tribute to son Jack Peters who also died in action in WW1.  Both boys were among the dead at Ypres with no graves and no identified remains.

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Photo of the Frederick Peters gravesite and memorials soon after they were put in place at Ross Bay Cemetery after his funeral in August 1919. The small flat cross stone was in memory of daughter Violet who died at age 6 in 1905 due to a fireplace accident. Today that cross stone has disappeared — it either sank into the soft ground over time, or was stolen.

edgar tombstone

The other Gray/Peters family connection at Ross Bay Cemetery is the burial site of the Hon. Edgar Dewdney (1835-1916), senior Western Canada minister in Sir John. A. Macdonald governments and Lieut. Governor of B.C. in the 1890s. Dewdney was uncle and legal guardian of Edgar Edwin Lawrence “Ted“ Dewdney, who married Helen Peters (daughter of Frederick Peters and Bertha Gray) in Victoria in 1912.   As a widow, Bertha came to live full-time in the West Kootenay region of southeastern B.C. with her daughter Helen`s family, which grew to include son Peter Dewdney and daughters Eve Fingland and Dee Dee McBride.  The Edgar Dewdney grave is near the Frederick Peters grave in the Anglican section of the Ross Bay cemetery.

close up of edgar plaque

New edition of “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC“ Highlights Awards

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The recent re-printing of the book highlights two significant awards it receives in 2013 — one on Canada`s Atlantic coast, and one on the Pacific coast.

In February the book received a Heritage Award from the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation at the annual heritage awards night in Charlottetown. Then in June the book won first place in the British Columbia Genealogical Society`s Family History Book Awards at a ceremony in Burnaby, B.C.

cover of second printing of The Bravest Canadian 001

 

 

Sculpture of Two Col. John Hamilton Grays Will Commemorate 150th Anniversary of Historic Charlottetown Conference

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by Sam McBride

Very pleased to hear that a bronze sculpture of Capt. Frederic Thornton Peters` grandfather Col. John Hamilton Gray will be erected on Great George Street in downtown Charlottetown as part of the celebrations in Prince Edward Island of the 150th  anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference of 1864 which set the stage for the birth of Canada three years later.

The contract for the sculpture has been awarded to Vancouver Island artist Nathan Scott, who did two Terry Fox sculptures in B.C., among other projects.

The sculpture will depict interaction between two Fathers of Confederation named John Hamilton Gray at the time of the Charlottetown Conference in September 1864.  By great coincidence, there were two non-related men of the same name. – one in New Brunswick and my ancestor in Prince Edward Island.   By further coincidence, both men were known as “Colonel Gray“ — the P.E.I. Gray because he was a retired British Army officer, and the N.B. Gray because he held the rank of Lt. Colonel with the New Brunswick militia.   The two men were also direct descendants of United Empire Loyalists – the P.E.I. Gray from Virginia and the N.B. Gray from Massachusetts.

The P.E.I. Gray was host and chairman of the historic conference, while the other Gray was one of the delegates from the neighboring colony New Brunswick.  Both Grays were strong supporters of Confederation at a time when most of the politicians in their colony were against it.   The N.B. Father of Confederation J.H. Gray later went to parliament as an MP, but the P.E.I. Father of Confederation J.H. Gray resigned as leader of the government when his colleagues changed their minds and opposed Confederation.   P.E.I. later joined Canada in 1873 to overcome a financial crisis associated with railway debt, but the former Premier Gray`s attempts to re-enter provincial politics were unsuccessful.

The lifespans of the two Grays were quite similar.  The N.B. Gray was born in 1814 and died in 1889, while the P.E.I. Gray was born in 1811 and died in 1887, a couple of weeks before his granddaughter Helen Peters Dewdney was born, and two years before the birth of grandson Frederic Thornton “Fritz“ Peters, who would become one of Canada`s greatest war heroes, and the subject of my book “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars“.   Though Fritz never knew his famous grandfather, the stories he heard of him from his mother and aunts were strong factors in Fritz choosing a military career and considering going into politics.

Col. john Hamilton Gray, c. 1864

Col. John Hamilton Gray of Prince Edward Island, c. 1864

NB JHGray

Col. John Hamilton Gray of New Brunswick

The P.E.I. Gray never ventured West, but the N.B. Gray moved to Victoria, B.C. in 1872 to serve as a judge on the B.C. Supreme Court.   He is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria, not far from the gravesite of the P.E.I. Gray`s son-in-law Frederick Peters and granddaughter Violet Peters.   Established in 1873, the Victorian-style Ross Bay Cemetery has the graves of numerous frontier B.C. politicians and celebrities.  The P.E.I. Gray rests in Sherwood Cemetery, which today is very close to Charlottetown Airport, about three miles north of the city.

The new sculpture is in keeping with P.E.I.`s program to develop its history-oriented tourism industry.   Tourism in P.E.I. has increased substantially in recent years, largely due to the island province becoming a popular stop for cruise ships.

For further details of the statue project, view the links below.

http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2013-08-21/article-3358604/John-Hamilton-Gray-to-live-again-on-Great-George-Street/1

http://www.timescolonist.com/island-artist-nathan-scott-lends-talent-to-project-on-p-e-i-1.705881

http://www.sculpturebynathanscott.com/blog.html

 

 

 

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