Toope’s Naval Career Begins With Halifax Explosion

Reprinted from The Packet, October 25, 2018
by Lester Green

Charlie and Elsie Toope visiting their son’s gravesite. Courtesy of John Toope

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.  

Charlie 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 August 23, 1917, Charlie 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 September 6, 1917.

Seaman Charlie Toope’s engagement papers. Source TRPAD_GN 182.14

Seaman Charlie 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 Mont-Blanc 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 Halifax-Cape 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.

Royal Canadian Navy Coastal Drifter CD-26.

During this time period, Seaman 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. He returned home to Ireland’s Eye.

On October 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, Charlie made his final move to Corner Brook where two of his brothers were residing. He worked at 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.

Seaman Thomas Pond’s naval service ledger. Source TRPAD_ GN 182.6

One of Charlie’s son, Alfred, followed in his father’s footsteps. He enlisted with the Royal Navy and served overseas during WW2. He returned after the war with his war bride, Susan Ewing, of Stonebrae, Scotland.