Sailors who became Lumberjacks

Reprinted from Downhome, July 2020
by Lester Green

Lester Green shares the stories of three men from one small town whose service spanned two World Wars.

Many volunteers stepped forward to serve in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve during the First World War. It is much rarer to see veterans from the Great War volunteering to serve again in World War II.

When the Newfoundland Commission Government (est. 1934) asked for volunteers, three Hodge’s Cove WWI veterans removed their sailor suits, grabbed their buck saws and axes, and sailed overseas. They were among fellow Newfoundland lumberjacks who levelled the forests of the highlands of Scotland to supply the war effort.

Seaman Silas Boone (Courtesy Eric Peddle)

Silas Boone, the oldest of the three, had enlisted with the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve in 1912. He had completed 84 days of training aboard the HMS Calypso when war broke out and was among the first deployment of sailors from St. John’s, NL, on the SS Franconia on November 6, 1914. Upon arrival in Europe, he was assigned to HMS Pembroke. Five days later he was deployed to HMS Fiona, an armed boarding streamer. He carried out his duties until December 1915.

Silas returned to the shore-based facility at HMS Pembroke and remained there until granted leave to return home to the HMS Briton on August 2, 1917. He returned overseas on November 13, 1917, where he remained attached to HMS Vivid III at Devonport, serving on different trawlers. He returned home after the war and married Julia Ann Peddle, widow of his best friend Alexander, who was killed on May 25, 1918 while serving on the HMS Dirk.

Seaman Albert Drover (Courtesy Albina Bursey)

Albert Drover, born on May 24, 1897, was the son of Samuel and Hannah Drover. His career with the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve began 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 joining HMS Berwick, the ship where he would spend his entire naval career. The Berwick offered protection to convoys and patrolled the Atlantic Ocean from England to the Caribbean.

Data extracted from Royal Naval Log Books for the HMS Berwick indicates that Albert completed at least four trips across the Atlantic from England to Halifax and down into the Caribbean Islands. On August 19, Albert was transferred to HMS Vivid III at Chatham, England, where he remained for the next five months, serving on smaller vessels. On February 19, 1919, Albert returned home to HMS Briton where he was demobilized on April 10, 1919. He settled at Hodge’s Cove with his new wife, Olivia Spurrell, on November 5, 1923.

Seaman James Drover (Courtesy Frank Drover)

James Drover, born on January 5, 1901 (January 8, 1901 according to baptism records), was the son of Willis and Elizabeth Jane Drover of Hodge’s Cove. Family folklore has it that James, Harvey Peddle and Leander Drover ran away to St. John’s to enlist with the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve. James’ enlistment records his birthday as January 8, 1899 making him two years older than he actually was at the time. He arrived in England and was assigned to HMS Vivid III.

After completing his training, he was assigned to HMS Hildebrand. The ship was requisitioned by the British Admiralty and assigned to Force B of the 10th Squadron, Northern Patrol. James joined this ship at Devonport on August 20, 1918 and spent the next four months between Devonport, England and Dakar Roads, Senegal, Africa. His final weeks overseas was spent at HMS Vivid III waiting for orders to return home to the HMS Briton.

 An Evening Telegram article reveals that James arrived at Halifax aboard the SS Adriatic on March 9, 1919, and from there returned to Newfoundland. He remained at HMS Briton until demobilization on April 10, 1919. He returned home and married Selina Peddle. They had nine children, of which five lived to adulthood.

Answering the Call Again

Overseas forestry unit camp in Scotland

On November 9, 1939, the Dominion of Canada sent a request to Newfoundland Governor Sir Humphrey Walwyn to recruit 2,000 men for a new civilian unit assigned to cut timber in the United Kingdom for the war effort. They would be paid $2 per day ($12 per week), with half of that automatically sent home to their families. Accommodation, transportation and medical requirements would be supplied. The men would supply their own appropriate clothing and footwear for logging. By the end of the war, 3,600 loggers would serve with the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit. 

All three former Newfoundland Royal Navy Reservist from Hodge’s Cove once again left their families and travelled overseas to do their duty in defending their motherland.

(L-R) James Drover, John Drover and Albert Drover, Scotland. (Courtesy of SWAHS)

On January 23, 1940, Silas Boone boarded the ship SS Chroby at St. John’s and sailed to Halifax. Onboard were close to 1,000 men who would harvest the Scottish timber for pit props needed for the coalmines of Great Britain. The ship crossed the Atlantic, sailed up the Firth of Clyde and docked at Glasgow, Scotland. Three hundred and fifty men, including Silas, were taken by train to Gourock, then ferried across the Firth of Clyde. On the other side, they walked a few miles on the road to Glenfinart Camps at Ardentinny.

The exact dates for Albert and James’ enlistment and travel overseas are unknown, but records show that they served with the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit. All three returned home to Hodge’s Cove after the war.

Silas passed away in Hodge’s Cove in 1969. He is buried next to his wife at St. Mary’s Anglican Cemetery.

After the death of his first wife, James married Bertha, daughter of John and Belinda Dodge, of Little Heart’s Ease. They had two children. James passed away on January 19, 1967 and is resting at the new St. Mary’s Anglican Cemetery, Hodge’s Cove.

On December 23, 1976, Albert experienced one of the greatest tragedies of his life, the loss of his son, Hedley, in a boating accident. Both Hedley and his friend, Willis Thomas, drowned after their boat was swamped near Mooring Cove, Southwest Arm. Two years later, on May 26, 1978, Albert died, they say, of a broken heart. He is buried at the new St. Mary’s Anglican Cemetery. Olivia died 10 years later and is buried next to him.


Transcribed by Wanda Garrett, November 2022.

These transcriptions may contain human errors. As always, confirm these as you would any other source material