Sailor Spends Naval Career on HMS Berwick

Reprinted from The Packet, February 28, 2019
by Lester Green

Albert Drover served his King Country in both World Wars and witnessed many tragic events during his service. However, the greatest tragic event was witnessing the lost of his son in 1976.

HMS Berwick and Seaman Albert Drover, Hodge’s Cove (insert)

Albert was the son of Samuel and Hannah, born on May 24, 1897. He spent his entire overseas naval career on the HMS Berwick which began with his enlistment in the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve on April 5, 1916. Three weeks later he boarded the RMS Pretorian and sailed overseas to England.

Upon arrival, he reported to HMS Vivid I and completed two months intensive training before being transferred to the HMS Berwick. The naval vessel offered protection to convoys and patrolled the waters of the Atlantic from England to the Caribbean.

Volunteers from the area heading to Scotland onboard Chrobry with Overseas Forestry Unit, WW2. (Photo courtesy of Marv Picther-Sargent / Bill Meadus)

The Berwick was a heavily armed, protective cruiser that carried fourteen 6-inch guns. Four of these guns were mounted on two twin-gun turrets. In addition, the ship was armed with protection against torpedo boats with ten quick firing 12-pounders. Below deck, the ship was equipped with two submerged 18-inch torpedo tubes.

When Seaman Drover joined the Berwick’s crew on June 22, 1916 at Birkenhead, England he discovered Elias Avery of Long Beach had joined the ship five days before him.

The Berwick left Liverpool on July 6 and arrived at Halifax on July 14. The vessel then patrolled the waters around Chesapeake Bay, USA for three weeks boarding ships and completing inspections for contraband goods. The ship then returned to Halifax.

Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve engagement papers. Source TRPAD_GN 182.14

In August, the HMS Berwick steamed to the Caribbean’s and began a tour of duty in its waters. Arriving at the naval base in Bermuda on August 22, she set sailed to patrol the area and journeyed as far south as Grenada Island.

During this excursion, the ship stopped at the ports of Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Jamaica and the Bahamas. On March 4, 1917, after spending two months at Bermuda, the ship weighed anchor. The Berwick made a temporary stop at Halifax for supplies before departing for Liverpool on March 14.

Using information extracted from Royal Naval Log Books for the HMS Berwick, a chart was composed showing the dates and location of each trip across the Atlantic. The chart confirms that he completed at least four trips across the Atlantic from England.

The final voyage for Seaman Drover occurred on July 3, 1918 when the HMS Berwick weighed anchor at Greenock, England and crossed to Halifax, arriving on July 10. The ship returned to Plymouth and made its final anchorage at Chatham on August 3.

On August 19, he was transferred to HMS Vivid III at Chatham where he remained for the next five months serving on smaller vessels.

Voyages of HMS Berwick 1917-1918. Source Royal Naval Log Books

On February 19, 1919, he returned home to HMS Briton where he was demobilized on April 10, 1919.

He returned to Hodge’s Cove and married Olivia, daughter of Jacob and Minnie (Seward) Spurrell on November 5, 1923 at Hodge’s Cove.

With the outbreak of Second World War in September 1939, the Commission Government declared the Newfoundland Forestry Act and authorized the formation of the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit. The government requested volunteers to serve with the unit overseas.

At the age of 42 years, Albert again stepped forward to serve his King and Country. He served his time with the Forestry Unit as a foreman and remained there for the duration of the war.  

Naval Reservist. Source Evening Telegram, 1916-04-11

The greatest tragedy for Albert and Olivia was yet to come. On December 23, 1976 they lost their son, Hedley, during a boating accident. Both Hedley and Willis Thomas were drowned when their boat was swamped, and their bodies immersed in the cold water near Mooring Cove, Southwest Arm.

The witnessing of this tragic event took an emotional toll on Albert and he died two years later on May 26, 1978. He is buried at St. Mary’s Anglican Cemetery. Olivia died 10 years later and is buried next to him.