Where Once They Sailed

Part One: Sto­ries of ad­ven­ture, mys­tery and in­trigue en­cour­age Ped­dle brothers to en­list


David Ped­dle and his wife Mary Ann were mar­ried in 1885 and raised a fam­ily of three sons and three daugh­ters. Abi­jah was the old­est and among the first to join the New­found­land Naval Re­serve from the re­gion when the navy was in still its in­fancy.

Abi­jah’s nephew, James Ped­dle, can re­call many of the sto­ries told by his un­cle who joined the New­found­land Naval Re­serve in 1904 at the age of 18. An ar­ti­cle that ap­peared in the Evening Telegram in Novem­ber 1905 en­ti­tled “The Boys Who Cir­cum­nav­i­gate the At­lantic” speaks to young boys board­ing a Bri­tish con­voy of three ships for naval train­ing.

The HMS La­toha car­ried a crew of 40 sailors from the naval re­serve. The HMS Scylla had a com­ple­ment of 40 and among them, our very own Sea­man Abi­jah Ped­dle. Other sailors on­board the con­voy from our re­gion in­cluded Thomas Lam­bert, Isa­iah Seward, Edgar Soper and Isaac Soper.

These two ships had left St. John’s a few days ear­lier des­tined for Hal­i­fax. The HMS Sap­pro was pre­par­ing to leave Nov. 4 with the re­main­ing 37 sailors. This brought the to­tal to 117 naval re­servist who were go­ing to met at Hal­i­fax har­bour and sail down the sea board of the New Eng­land states, past the Gulf of Mex­ico, along the coast of Brazil and on to the Rio Grande, Ar­gentina.

Then the ship was to turn and cross the South At­lantic and travel up the west coast of Africa and fi­nally to Liver­pool, Eng­land. It would then leave and cross the North At­lantic for St. John’s and re­turn home the lat­ter part of April.

Un­cle Abi­jah told sto­ries such as one about his dra­matic ex­pe­ri­ence on the Caribbean French is­land of Mar­tinique. He al­ways re­mem­bered the tremen­dous and hor­ri­fy­ing dam­age done by the vol­cano Mount Pelee in the har­bour of St. Pierre that erupted three years ear­lier, killing 30,000 peo­ple.

The har­bour still showed ev­i­dence of dam­age to sunken ships and flat­tened build­ings as if a war had ram­paged three years ear­lier. He told many other sto­ries of what he had wit­nessed on his voy­age around the world.

It may have been these sto­ries of ad­ven­ture, mys­tery and in­trigue that led his brother Alexan­der and first cousin, Caleb, to travel with him to St. John’s in Novem­ber 1907 to join the New­found­land Re­serve. Alex spent the next seven years train­ing with the re­serve.

Their younger brother Archer would have been ex­posed to many sto­ries sit­ting around the ta­ble un­der the glow of a dimly lit lamp, with a group of men yarn­ing about their worldly ex­pe­ri­ences. These sto­ries likely en­cour­aged him to join in De­cem­ber 1913.

Archer’s son James re­lates the story of how his fa­ther’s fam­ily got the news about the war:

“They were on the Labrador fish­ing in the sum­mer of 1914 when they were boarded by the mag­is­trate who in­quired if any of the crew were Royal Naval Re­servist. Grand­fa­ther replied yes, he had sons aboard that re­ceived train­ing. The mag­is­trate in­formed them that war had bro­ken out in Europe and all re­servists were be­ing called to duty.

“There was a steamer com­ing down the coast pick­ing up re­servists and that they should pre­pare to leave and go home. The ad­mi­ralty would con­tact them with news of re­port­ing to the HMS Ca­lypso. Abi­jah did not re­turn but re­mained with grand­fa­ther be­cause he had com­pleted his con­tract obli­ga­tions with the naval re­serve in Jan­uary 1911 and did not sign up again.”

Part two of this story will con­tinue in next week’s pa­per and re­late the story of how Archer waited on the docks of Grimsby, Eng­land on the morn­ing of May 28, 1918 wait­ing pa­tiently for the re­turn of his brother’s ship, HMT Dirk, which came un­der the at­tack of Ger­man sub­ma­rine, UC-75.

Alexan­der Ped­dle.

Abi­jah-Ped­dle (1886-1980)

Archer Ped­dle (1894-1974), cour­tesy of his son Jim Ped­dle.

HMS Scylla. Evening Telegram, Nov. 4, 1905.

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