A highly trained Southwest Arm reservist

Reprinted from The Packet, 25 October 2017
by Lester Green

Alexander Peddle (Photo courtesy of the Peddle Family)

Alexander was born at Hodge’s Cove in 1889 to David and Mary Ann (Benson) Peddle. He was raised with five other siblings and was involved in the fishery, logging, and sealing industry. In November, 1907 he travelled to St. John’s with his cousin, Caleb Peddle, where he enlisted at the age of 18 with the Royal Naval Reserve. He completed 5 years of naval training.

Alexander re-enlisted again, passed his medical and was determined by the ship’s surgeon of the HMS Calypso to be medically fit on November 13, 1912. He signed his application for the Royal Naval Reserve and continued with training.

Front of Alexander Peddle’s Honour Medal

Alexander dated and married Julia Ann, daughter of Samuel and Leah Jane (Lambert), Hatchet Cove on January 3, 1914. The couple welcomed a boy, which they named Ralph, on June 25, 1914. Seaman Peddle spent very little time with his infant son because of the war being declared that summer in Europe.

With the outbreak of the Great War, he was called to active duty by Royal Proclamation on October 22, 1914. Drill records show that he had spent 230 days of training between 1907-1914, making him one of the most trained Newfoundland Naval Reservist from the Southwest Arm region.

He travelled overseas, along with his brother, Archer, aboard the HMS Franconia on November 06, 1914. He was assigned to HMS Pembroke, a shore-base establishment at Chatham, England. Between 1914 and early 1917, he served onboard the HMS Cornwallis. While serving on this ship, he participated in Dardanelles campaign, where the allies bombarded Ottman Turkish forts and assisted in getting troops to and from Gallipoli. The HMS Cornwallis was struck by a torpedo from U-32, a German submarine on January 9, 1917. She remained afloat long enough for most of the crew to be rescued. However, fifteen sailors lost their lives. Seaman Peddle’s nephew, James Peddle, claims that his Uncle was onboard, along with Alex’s first cousin Isaac John Soper. Both survived but it foreshadowed his eventual death at sea.

On January 17, he reported to the naval base at HMS Pembroke I where he remained until he was sent home to HMS Briton in May 1917, where he remained until December 1917. He received furlough to visit his young family at Hodge’s Cove. His granddaughter recalls how her Dad, Ralph, who now was three years old, had one vivid memory of his father. Seaman Peddle brought a kids sailor suit home to his son. Ralph claimed that both decked out in their sailor suits. He was so proud to be dressed like his Dad.

Alexander Peddle’s completed drill register.

He returned overseas to HMS Pembroke I in mid-December. On February 12, 1918, he was assigned to Wallington, an Auxiliary Patrol Base at Grimsby, England. Seaman Peddle did not normally serve on the HMT Dirk but was assigned to the ship  that fatal day. The HMT Dirk was a converted trawler used for mine-sweeping operations in the North Sea. She was leading a convoy of ships off Flamborough Head, Yorkshire, England, on May 28. The vessel was struck by a torpedo from UC-75, a mine-laying submarine. Twenty sailors lost their lives, among them Seaman Alexander Peddle. Three days later UC-75 met her destiny when it was rammed and sunk by two ships, SS Blaydonian and HMS Fairy.

The family of Seaman Peddle received his medals which included The Star, Victory Medal, British War Medal, and the Next of Kin Memorial Plaque and Scroll. A young bride and son were left to mourn the lost his life. Julia Ann later married Silas Boone of Hodge’s Cove and had one daughter, Annie Maria. The Southwest Arm region had lost its sixth son to a war that was still raging overseas.

Seaman Edgar H. Smith enlisted on March 18, 1914, a few months before the outbreak of the Great War. The war was finally ending and men could soon start returning home. On the morning of November 12, 1918, he received orders to serve as a gunner and accompany a ketch Trebiskin, for a load of coal from Swansea, England. The assignment appeared to be routine but sometimes the sea and ships can be unforgiving. Read his story in next week’s edition Where Once They Sailed.