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.
Archer Peddle (1894-1974), courtesy of his son Jim Peddle.
HMS Scylla. Evening Telegram, Nov. 4, 1905.