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Where Once They Sailed: Sailor escorts secret cargo from Cape Town to Halifax

COURTESY OF ROCKY MARTIN
Seaman Andrew Peddle.
COURTESY OF ROCKY MARTIN Seaman Andrew Peddle. - Contributed

When Seaman Andrew Peddle of Hodge's received orders of his promotion from Seaman to Able Seaman and his deployment to the HMS Armadale at Cape Town, South Africa, he did not expect to be escorting a secret cargo.

It was his only assignment that crossed the South Atlantic to North America and back across the North Atlantic to Liverpool. The voyage would take 53 days.

Andrew was the second oldest son of William and Rosamond (Smith) Peddle of Hodge's Cove. Both church records and military documents agree he was born on November 29, 1896.

He travelled to St. John's with his friend, Gilbert Stringer, where both enlisted with the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve on April 30, 1916. Drill records indicate that Gilbert went overseas aboard the SS Sicilian but it is not clear whether Andrew went on the same boat or boarded the SS Scandinavian.

NAVAL-HISTORY.NET HMS Armadale Castle.
NAVAL-HISTORY.NET HMS Armadale Castle.

When Andrew arrived overseas on June 19, 1916, his orders were to report to the HMS Victory I, Portsmouth, England where he received an additional two months naval training.

On August 16, he received orders that he was being promoted from Seaman to Able Seaman. He was deployed to the HMS Armadale Castle. The steamship was originally built in Scotland for Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company Limited for delivering mail and other cargo between Europe and Africa. The ship was requisitioned by the British Admiralty as an Armed Merchant Cruiser on August 2, 1914.

He joined the ship at Simontown dry dock near Cape Town, South Africa. Regular ship maintenance was being performed at the time which consisted mostly of painting of the exterior/interior along with minor repairs to the steam engines.

On Sept. 12, the ship conducted sea runs and the following day began taking on coal for the engines. Coaling was completed on Sept. 18.

Loading of the ship's cargo began the following day and ended on Sept. 20. Just prior to weighing anchor, naval ship logs indicate the ship received 1,192 boxes that were said to contain gold.

The valuable cargo was the last item to be loaded and secured before the Armadale proceeded out of port. She left Cape Town and took about 20 days to reach Halifax, stopping briefly at St. Vincent, Verde Islands off the coast of Africa. On Oct. 11, its secret cargo was unloaded. The cargo was likely destined to pay for munitions that were being shipped overseas.

The ship remained at Halifax for 21 days and put to sea on Nov. 1 for Liverpool. On Nov. 11, the ship docked at Liverpool and began several weeks of repairs before joining the operations at North Atlantic Patrol in February 1917.

HMS Armadale Castle conducted a number of missions at sea by halting and boarding various merchant vessels. The landing party would have conducted searches for contraband goods and also escorted convoys between ports.

COURTESY OF MAX SMITH Andrew Peddle and Eleanor Peddle.
COURTESY OF MAX SMITH Andrew Peddle and Eleanor Peddle.

On July 11, 1917, Able Seaman Peddle was transferred to HMS Pembroke, where he spent two weeks before receiving orders that he was being sent home to the HMS Briton. Once he arrived at St. John's, he was granted furlough to visit family and friends.

Records indicate he returned to St. John's and was deployed overseas. Upon arrival at England, he was assigned to HMS Pekin, a shore station at Grimsby. His ship's ledger does not indicate the names of the ships that he may have been assigned to during this time period.

On Jan. 3, 1919, he received orders that he was going home. Records indicate he spent three more months at HMS Briton after his arrival at St. John's before being demobilized on April 7, 1919. He had completed three years with the Royal Naval Reserve. Able Seaman Peddle was now free of all naval obligations and could return home to family and friends at Hodge's Cove.

One year after the war, he married Virtue, daughter of John and Helen (Smith) Peddle of Hodge’s Cove. They were married in a ceremony at St. John's on April 29, 1920 and raised a family of five children at Hodge's Cove.

Seaman Andrew Peddle witnessed the declaration of the Second World War on Sept. 1, 1939. His two oldest sons, Nelson and Stewart, stepped forward and served overseas with the newly formed Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit. Unlike their father, who served at sea, their career was spent logging the forest of Scotland.

Andrew passed away suddenly on October 17, 1944 at the Come-by-Chance cottage hospital. He was 48 years old. The attending physician, Dr. M.G. Coxon, listed his cause of death as carcinoma of the stomach. He was 48 years old.

His wife, Virtue, lived for another 42 years and died in 1990. They both lie at rest in the new St. Mary's Anglican Cemetery, Hodge's Cove.

When 19-year-old Seaman Harvey Peddle signed his Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve engagement papers on March 22, 1917, his thoughts were of excitement, intrigue and adventure. Fate, however, placed him at Halifax Harbour on Dec. 6, 1917. He gives a firsthand account in a letter to his Mom detailing the devastation that occurred when two ships collided. That obliteration is more horrific if one ship carries a payload of munitions and a resulting spark ignites its lethal  cargo. Read his account in next week's Where Once They Sailed.

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