Naval ca­reer be­gan with Hal­i­fax ex­plo­sion

The story of Sea­man Char­lie Toope

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Editorial - Lester Green Where Once They Sailed

Sea­man Char­lie Toope’s naval ca­reer be­gan in Cana­dian wa­ters with the Royal Cana­dian Navy, but ended over­seas with the Bri­tish Navy.

He ar­rived at Hal­i­fax two days af­ter the ex­plo­sion and as­sisted with the in­jured. In June 1918 he was de­ployed over­seas to the Bri­tish Navy.

Toope was born at Ireland’s Eye on July 28, 1897 to John and Har­riet Toope. He spent his early years on the wa­ters of Smith’s Sound as­sist­ing his fa­ther in the pur­suit of the fish­ery.

On Aug. 23, 1917, Toope en­listed with the New­found­land Royal Naval Re­serve list­ing his age as 20. He recorded his birth­place as Ireland’s Eye but noted that his usual place of res­i­dence was at Tray­town, Ireland’s Eye.

His mother had passed away by the time of his en­list­ment and there­fore he listed his fa­ther as the ben­e­fi­ciary of an al­lot­ment to be de­ducted be­gin­ning on Sept. 6, 1917.

Sea­man Toope be­gan his train­ing at the HMS Bri­ton and com­pleted 107 days of naval train­ing at St. John’s by De­cem­ber 1917.

His first naval or­ders were to re­port to the Royal Cana­dian Navy where he was as­signed to the HMCS Niobe, a Naval De­pot lo­cated at Hal­i­fax. He ar­rived at the port of Hal­i­fax two days af­ter the Hal­i­fax ex­plo­sion and wit­nessed the dev­as­ta­tion caused by the col­li­sion of the Norwegian ves­sel SS IMO with the French cargo ship SS Mon­tBlanc that was trans­port­ing a full cargo of high ex­plo­sives.

His mil­i­tary records in­di­cate that he spent time serv­ing on the Royal Cana­dian Navy coastal drifter CD-26 pa­trolling the wa­ters around the Hal­i­faxCape Bre­ton re­gion. He served with the Royal Cana­dian Navy un­til April 12, 1918 and was trans­ferred back to the Royal Naval Re­serve at HMS Bri­ton, St. John’s where he was granted fur­lough to visit fam­ily.

On June 1, 1918 he was de­ployed over­seas with the Bri­tish Navy at the HMS Vivid III, Devon­port, Eng­land. The base was an ac­count­ing fa­cil­ity used for the Royal Naval Trawler Sec­tion.

His pay was at­tached to this base un­til the end of his over­seas duty.

Dur­ing this time pe­riod, Toope served on De­fen­sively Armed Mer­chant Ships (DAMS). How­ever, his doc­u­ments do not list the name of the ship.

He re­turned to the HMS Bri­ton on March 12, 1919 and was de­mo­bi­lized on May 1, 1919. He served his King for a pe­riod of 20 months and was now free of all mil­i­tary obli­ga­tions. Toope re­turned home to Ireland’s Eye.

On Oct. 5, 1919, he mar­ried Elsie Maud Wat­ton of Ireland’s Eye at St. Mary’s Church, St. John’s. He ini­tially re­mained at Ireland’s Eye and started his fam­ily. How­ever, the 1935 cen­sus for St. Jones Within records that he was now a res­i­dent of that com­mu­nity.

Ac­cord­ing to his fam­ily and the 1945 cen­sus, he up­rooted his fam­ily again and moved to Gambo.

By Novem­ber 1951, Toope made his fi­nal move to Corner Brook where two of his broth­ers were re­sid­ing. He worked in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try un­til he re­tired.

He re­mained at Corner Brook un­til his death in Jan­uary 1975. His beloved wife, Elsie, died a month later. Both are now rest­ing at Mount Pa­tri­cia Angli­can Ceme­tery Corner Brook.

One of Toope’s son, Al­fred, fol­lowed in his fa­ther’s foot­steps. He en­listed with the Royal Navy and served over­seas dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. He re­turned af­ter the war with his war bride, Su­san Ew­ing, of Stone­brae, Scot­land.

Next week’s “Where Once They Sailed” will re­veal the story of Sea­man Fran­cis King’s ex­ploit’s on the high seas. He was present on the leg­endary ship, HMIS Duf­ferin, dur­ing Arab up­ris­ing led by Lawrence of Ara­bia against the Turk­ish Army.


Sea­man Char­lie Toope’s en­gage­ment pa­pers.


Sea­man Thomas Pond’s naval ser­vice ledger.


Char­lie and Elsie Toope vis­it­ing their son’s gravesite.

Royal Cana­dian Navy Coastal Drifter CD-26.

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