Anticipating his brother’s arrival at Grimsby Dock

Reprinted from The Packet, November 16, 2017
by Lester Green

Postcard of RMS Franconia (courtesy Jim Peddle)

On August 14, 1914, Archer was order by Royal Proclamation to report to the training base at HMS Calypso. He spent the next few months completing training and preparing for war overseas. Alexander did not receive his call to duty until November 14, possible due to his extensive training. Alexander used this extra time to spend with his infant son, Ralph, who was born in June 1914 and his wife, Julia Ann Bishop.

On November 6, 1914, both Alexander and Archer, along with 32 other sailors from the Southwest Arm area, boarded the RMS Franconia at St. John’s and steamed for overseas. The ship was an ocean liner operated  by Cunrad Line but taken into service and operated as a troop transport ship.

Seaman Alexander Peddle (1889-1918) lost his life on the HMT Dirk. (Photo courtesy of Don Smith)

When the ship arrived overseas, Alexander was ordered to report to HMS Pembroke, a shore based naval facility at Chatham, England. Archer was sent to HMS Excellent, a shore establishment at Portsmouth, England, where he was trained as a gunner.

In spring of 1918, Archer was attached to the Grimsby Minesweeping Division, at Grimsby, England. He was to learn that his brother was located at Immingham naval base 30 minutes away. Archer was first assigned to a small fishing trawler called the Rivere and then to a much larger ship, Princess Julinana. Both were converted minesweepers and used to clear minefields laid by German submarines.

Alexander naval base consisted of Fleet Sweepers, Minelayers and Patrol boat. He was assigned to a Patrol Boat called HMS Dirk, a converted private Yacht that was handed over to the Admirality during the war.

Archer Peddle (1894-1974) served with the Royal Naval Reserve. (Photo courtesy of his son, Jim Peddle).

Archer was looking forward to seeing his brother on the morning of May 28, 1918. His brother’s ship was sailing close-by in the convoy and Archer was at the wheel of the minesweeper Princess Julinana. The skipper asked Archer if he could take the wheel so that Archer could go up and signal the Dirk. Archer replied that there was no need because Alexander and himself had made arrangements to met when both ships got into port.

While waiting for his brother’s ship to arrive, Archer completed and posted a letter his girlfriend, Mariah Drover. He explained that everything was fine and that Alexander’s boat was steaming alongside but because it was a slower vessel, it would arrive later. He explained that they had made arrangements to met each other on the Grimsby dock.

A few hours later he spoke with some Newfoundlanders that were stationed on other ships out of Immingham. He asked them why they thought the Dirk was taking so long to come to port. They explained that the Dirk was not coming to port and that it had gone down Sunday morning at 1:00 am. She had been towing one of the slower vessels of the convoy and had been struck by a torpedo from the submarine UC-75. There were only two survivors and Alexander was not one of them.

We can only imagine the pain, the shock , and confusion that overtook Archer on that dreadful day. He strongly believed that the Dirk was in the convoy of ships. He immediately thought of the letter that he had posted and the confusion it was going to cause back home. His family would be shocked and puzzled to learn that their son was not OK but lost to the sea.

Confusion did occur back home in Hodge’s Cove when Mariah received Archer’s letter around the same time that Alexander’s wife, Julia Ann, received the postal telegraph informing about the death of her husband. How could he be dead? Archer said he was going to see him that day. There must be a mistake!

Ralph Peddle (1914-1997), son of Alexander and Julia Ann Peddle. (Photo courtesy of the Peddle family).

 Archer’s mother, Mary Ann, had difficulty accepting her son’s death. If Archer said Alexander was alive, then he must be alive! Family members say that their Grandmother wanted to see and read the letter sent by Archer. Eventually, she had to accept the death of her son when the confusion was corrected. Archer explained to the family that the ship alongside of them that morning was the sister ship of the Dirk and not the ship carrying his brother. His brother had already been lost.

Archer returned from the navy and married his girlfriend, Mariah Drover. He passed away in 1974 taking the burden of unknowingly thinking that his brother’s ship was alongside that morning and that they would be getting together after their arrival at port. He was oblivious to the fact that the Dirk’s crew  had already slipped into a watery grave.

His brother’s body was never recovered and will be forever remembered at Beaumont-Hamel Memorial. Lest We Forget.