Memorable Images from Maritimes Book Tour

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Magnificent Cape Breton coast

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Enchanting covered bridge in New Brunswick

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The author signing books at Indigo East Point in Saint John (photo taken by Kathy Wilson of the New Brunswick Historical Society, who came by to chat and bought copies of the book as gifts)

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With help from the PEI Genealogical Society, we were able to find the tombstone of Fritz`s grandfather, the Father of Confederation Col. John Hamilton Gray, at Sherwood Cemetery near Charlottetown Airport.

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Next to the Col. Gray tombstone was one for his daughter Rosie, who died at age 4 in 1874.

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Spectacular pumpkin farm between Fredericton and Alma, NB.

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Legislature at Province House in Charlottetown, where Fritz`s father Frederick Peters and uncle Arthur Peters served as premier and attorney general

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Meeting room in Province House where Col. Gray and other Fathers of Confederation met in September 1864 during historic Charlottetown Conference.

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Views of the extensive collection of models and memorabilia of Fritz`s great-grandfather Sir Samuel Cunard at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

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McBride doing a slide presentation on the Fritz Peters story at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

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Author McBride doing interview with CBC radio reporter while signing books at the Chapters Fredericton

Maritimes Book Tour Generates Surge of Interest in the Story of War Hero Fritz Peters

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by Sam McBride

My two-week book tour through the three Canadian Maritime provinces was a wonderful experience, and exceeded all expectations in publicizing “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars“ throughout New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, as well as Prince Edward Island, where Fritz was born and his story is best known.

It was a thrill to meet so many people who came by my book signing sessions and either bought copies of the book or expressed interest in Fritz and the book.  These included several current members of the Canadian military, as well as relatives who told me about the heroes of their own family.

I particularly enjoyed meeting several third cousins for the first time, as well as leaders of the PEI Genealogical Society, the New Brunswick Historical Society and the Cunard Steamship Society who I have corresponded with extensively in the past, but not met in person.   Extremely pleased that my enthusiastic supporter in St. John`s, Newfoundland, Dr. David Peters,  came to my presentation at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and we had a good chat afterwards.

Several people I talked to noted that next year, 2014, will be present opportunities to raise awareness of the Fritz Peters story across Canada. These are 1) the 150th anniversary of the historic Charlottetown Conference, in which Fritz`s family had a central role; 2) the centennial of the start of World War One, where Fritz Peters earned three major honours for valour; and 3) the 75th anniversary of the start of World War Two, where Fritz again received three awards for valour, including the Victoria Cross and the highest medal of the United States.

I have attached scans of a sample of print publicity from the book tour, and the links below have some, but not all, of the TV, radio and social media coverage.  I did about 10 interviews by phone before i travelled, and then about another dozen while in the Maritimes between September 24th and October 5th, 2013.

 

http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1013315&binId=1.1145463&playlistPageNum=1

http://thechronicleherald.ca/book/event/1154374-the-bravest-canadian-fritz-peters-the-making-of-a-hero-of-two-world-wars-by-sam-m

https://www.facebook.com/myWaterfront

http://www.armyrats.com/posts/tag/battalion/

http://www.news957.com/category/listen/rick-howe-show/page/2/

http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/Local+Shows/Maritimes/ID/2408922242/

https://twitter.com/ns_mma

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front page of Moncton newspaper, with long story on inside pages

 

 

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from PEI events BUZZ

 

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one of many newspaper listings publicizing the book tour events

 

Book Signings Going Well in PEI, NB and NS

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Our book tour for “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars” has generated a flood of publicity in the newspapers and broadcast media, including several stations of CTV and CBC in the three provinces.  Most of the people who bought books at the book signing sessions said they saw or heard about Fritz Peters in a recent media story.

The tour is winding down, but I am looking forward to returning to Prince Edward Island for a booksigning at the Indigo Charlottetown on Oct. 5 from 11 am until noon, and also meeting with representatives of the PEI Genealogical Society.  With the 150th anniversary of the historic Charlottetown Conference coming up in 2014, there is a great amount of interest in Fritz’s grandfather (and my great-great-grandfather) Col. John Hamilton Gray, who was head of the PEI government in 1864 and served as host and chairman of the conference.  On the evening of Saturday, Sept. 3, 1864 Gray invited the Fathers of Confederation home to his residence known as Inkerman House (named after his father-in-law’s famous victory in the Crimean War) for an after-dinner party, where much liquor was consumed and the conference delegates got to know each other on a social basis.  As they arrived, they were introduced to Gray’s family, including two-year-old Bertha, Fritz’s mother.  Later in life, Bertha introduced herself to new acquaintances as “a Daughter of Confederation.”

My presentation at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic was well-received by about 20 interested attendees who came out for the event despite heavy rain in Halifax.  I had not been to the museum since 1992, and was greatly impressed with his improvements, including a wonderful section on Fritz’s grandfather Sir Samuel Cunard.

 

 

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Maritimes Book Tour of “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC“ Begins Wednesday, Sept. 25th in Charlottetown

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Here is the updated schedule of the upcoming 10-day book tour.

 

Prince Edward Island (pop. 140,204)

Wednesday, Sept. 25, 12-1pm – Charlottetown Bookmark store, book signings; 172 Queen St., Confederation Court Mall, Charlottetown, PE  C1A 4B5.  (902) 566-4888

Saturday, October 5, 11am-noon – Charlottetown Indigo, book signings; 465 University Ave., Charlottetown, PE  C1A 4N8  (902) 569-9213

 

New Brunswick (pop. 751,171)

Friday September 27, 3-4:30pm – Chapters Fredericton. book signings; Regent Mall, 1381 Regent St., Fredericton, NB E3C 1A2.  (506) 459-2616,

Saturday September 28, 12-2pm – Chapters Moncton, book signings; Crystal Palace, 499 Paul St., Dieppe, NB  E1A 6S5

Sunday September 29, 12-2pm – Indigo Saint John, book signings; East Point Centre, 41 Fashion Drive, Saint John, NB E2J 0A7. (506) 693-6987

 

Nova Scotia (pop. 921,727)

Tuesday October 1, 12-1:30pm – Chapters Bayers Lake, Halifax, book signings; 188 Chain Lake Drive, Halifax, NS  B3S 1C5.  (902) 450-1023

Tuesday October 1, 2:30-4pm – Chapters Mic Mac Mall, Dartmouth, book signings; 41 Mic Mac Boulevard, Dartmouth, NS B3A 4Y8.  (902) 466-1640

Tuesday, October 1, 7:30pm – presentation, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic; 1675 Lower Water Street, Halifax, NS  B3J 1S3.  (902) 424-7490

Wednesday October 2, 12-1:30pm – Coles Truro Mall, book signings; 245 Robie St., Truro, NS B2N 5N6. (902) 895-4929 

Wednesday October 2, 3:30-5pm – Coles Highland Square Mall, New Glasgow, book signings;   689 Westville Rd., New Glasgow, NS  B2H 2J6


 

Strong Maritime Heritage of Fritz Peters, VC

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Canada has many war heroes, but the only one to receive multiple awards for valour in both world wars, including the highest honour of the Victoria Cross, is a true child of the Maritimes: Captain Frederic Thornton “Fritz“ Peters, VC, DSO, DSC and bar, DSC (U.S.), RN.

Born in Charlottetown in 1889, Peters has a special place in the hearts of Prince Edward Islanders as the only P.E.I.-born Victoria Cross recipient, but he came from a family which also has an extraordinary impact on the history of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Three sides of his family were United Empire Loyalists who stayed loyal to King George the Third in the American Revolution, and had to move en masse to the Maritimes after the victory of the rebels. Both of Fritz`s grandfathers – Col. John Hamilton Gray and Judge James Horsfield Peters – were direct descendants of United Empire Loyalists, as was his paternal grandmother Mary Cunard. His other grandmother, Susan Ellen Bartley Pennefather, was born in Jamaica, raised in Anglo-Irish aristocracy, and was residing in India when she married John Hamilton Gray, who brought her to his native Prince Edward Island after resigning as a British cavalry officer.

Ancestor James Peters led a large group from Long Island, New York who settled in the future site of Saint John, New Brunswick in the spring of 1783. Later settling in Gagetown, New Brunswick, his sons and grandsons included attorneys general, magistrates, militia chiefs, lawyers and assembly members who would dominate public life in New Brunswick in the late 18th century and through the 19th century.

Judge James Horsfield Peters

Judge James Horsfield Peters

Fritz Peters` paternal grandfather, Gagetown, N.B.-born Judge James Horsfield Peters, married Nova Scotian Mary Cunard of Bushville/Miramichi, who was a daughter of the famous Halifax-based industrialist Sir Samuel Cunard, and they settled in Charlottetown, where James Horsfield Peters was lawyer and agent for Cunards before his judicial appointment. Two of their sons – Fritz`s father Frederick Peters and his brother Arthur – would serve as premier and attorney general of P.E.I.

Fritz`s maternal grandfather, Charlottetown-born Col. John Hamilton Gray, earlier served as premier and had the distinction of hosting and chairing the famous Charlottetown Conference of 1864 that set the stage for the creation of Canada as a self-governing, sea-to-sea country. Gray`s father Col. Robert Gray was a Loyalist from Virginia who helped raise a King`s regiment and was in the thick of fighting against the rebels in the Revolutionary War.

Col. john Hamilton Gray, c. 1864

Col. john Hamilton Gray, c. 1864

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Sir Samuel Cunard

Another ancestor, Loyalist shipbuilder Abraham Cunard from Pennsylvania, met his future wife Margaret Murphy from South Carolina on a Loyalist evacuation voyage to Nova Scotia in 1783, and they settled in Halifax and later in Rawdon, N.S. Several of their sons were deeply involved in businesses that were central to economic development in all three Maritime provinces , most notably Sir Samuel Cunard, the founder of Cunard Steamship Lines and one of the greatest businessmen in Canadian history.

As a boy, Fritz Peters heard stories of his famous ancestors and resolved to live up to their standard of leadership, excellence and public involvement.

The biography titled “The Bravest Canadian – Fritz Peters VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars“ by Fritz`s greatnephew Sam McBride is based on a recently-discovered treasure trove of family letters of the Grays and Peters going back to the 1700s, including 27 letters written by Fritz that give insight into his personality and motivations that resulted in exceptional courage and coolness in battle.

The author will sign books and meet with Maritime genealogy and history buffs in a book tour September 25-Octotber 5, 2013 through Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, including a presentation on Tuesday, Oct. 1st at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.

“The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC“ author tour in P.E.I., New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Sept. 25 to Oct. 5, 2013

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by Sam McBride 

I am very pleased to announce a book promotion tour for “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars“ in the Maritimes Sept. 25 to Oct. 5, 2013.   The tour includes 10 events in eight cities and three provinces.

 

Prince Edward Island

Charlottetown – noon to 1 pm, Wednesday, Sept. 25 – Charlottetown Bookmark store, book signing

Charlottetown – 11 am to noon, Saturday, Oct. 5 – Charlottetown Indigo store, book signing

 

New Brunswick

Fredericton — 3-4:30 pm, Friday September 27 – Chapters Fredericton store, book signing

Moncton — 12-2 pm, Saturday September 28 – Chapters Moncton store, book signing

Saint John — 12-2 pm, Sunday September 29 – Indigo Saint John store, book signing

 

Nova Scotia

Halifax — 12-1:30 pm, Tuesday October 1 – Chapters Bayers Lake store, book signing

Dartmouth — 2:30-4 pm, Tuesday October 1 – Chapters Mic Mac Mall store, book signing

Halifax – 7:30 pm, Tuesday, October 1, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic presentation

Truro — 12-1:30 pm, Wednesday October 2 – Coles Truro Mall store, book signing

New Glasgow — 3:30-5 pm, Wednesday October 2 – Coles Highland Square Mall store

 

I am particularly pleased to be in the events program of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, one of Canada`s great museums.  I went through the museum in 1992 and was very impressed. Lots of interesting stuff on the Cunards, the Titanic, Halifax Explosion and the Royal Canadian Navy.   I am going to talk about Fritz Peters`  Maritime heritage, including the Peters, Grays and Cunards who were all United Empire Loyalists or descendants of Loyalists, and prominent throughout the region.  http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mmanew/en/home/whattoseedo/programsandtours.aspx

In February 2013 the book received a Heritage Award from the Prince Edward Island Museums and Heritage Foundation, and in June 2013 it won first prize in the British Columbia Genealogical Society`s Family History Book Awards.

Books are available at bookstores across Canada, or through amazon.ca, amazon.com or amazon.co.uk, or through the publisher at http://www.granvilleislandpublishing.com.

If you have suggestions for the book tour or comments on the book, I would be very pleased to hear from you.  Email BravestCanadian@shaw.ca or Twitter @BravestCanadian.

 

 

Fritz Peters’ Future Nephew Landed in Sicily 70 Years Ago

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By Sam McBride
While this blog generally focuses on my mother’s uncle, Capt. Frederic Thornton “Fritz” Peters, VC, DSO, DSC and bar, DSC (U.S.), RN, my thoughts today are on heroes on my father’s side of the family — specifically, my dad Leigh Morgan McBride and his brother Kenneth Gilbert McBride, who both grew up in Nelson, British Columbia and served as officers with the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada regiment in the thick of much of the heaviest fighting of the Italian Campaign of 1943-44 .

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Leigh McBride, 25, in 1942.

Exactly seventy years ago, on July 10, 1943, Leigh hit the beach at Pachino on the southern tip of Sicily as part of the massive Allied invasion of Sicily. A year earlier he had enlisted immediately after graduation in law at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant at the Gordon Head Military Camp in Victoria, and then went to Currie Barracks in Calgary where he was commissioned as a lieutenant in November 1942.

In mid-November1942 Leigh returned to Nelson for a short period before heading overseas for further training in Britain. While in Nelson he met up with his friend, fellow law student and fraternity brother Frederic Hamilton “Peter” Dewdney, who signed up with the Royal Canadian Navy along with his close friends Hammy Gray (future recipient of the Victoria Cross) and Jack Diamond at about the same time that Leigh enlisted in the army. Peter’s decision to opt for the navy was largely influenced by the family tradition established by his uncle, godfather and namesake Fritz Peters. Peter never met Fritz, but often heard stories of him from his mother Helen, who was Fritz’s older sister, and a very close friend during their childhood in Charlottetown and Victoria. In the summer of 1942 Fritz was already famous for his heroic exploits in the First World War, as well as earning a bar to his British Distinguished Service Cross for anti-U-boat action on modified trawlers early in the Second World War.

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Kenneth Gilbert McBride (1920-1944)

As it turned out, Peter trained at Royal Roads in Victoria at the same time that Leigh was training at Gordon Head. Peter served through the war on motor launches in anti-U-boat service off Canada’s east coast. Peter also knew Leigh’s brother Ken, but was closer with Leigh because they were the same age, and Ken was three years younger.

In 1948 Leigh would marry Peter’s younger sister Dee Dee. In 1952, after the death of her husband Ted Dewdney, Helen came to live with her daughter Dee Dee McBride’s family. As a result, when I was growing up in Nelson the walls were filled with framed photographs under glass of Helen’s brothers Fritz Peters, Jack Peters and Gerald Peters, as well as Leigh’s brother Ken McBride – all of whom died in the two world wars.
Leigh also never met Fritz Peters, though he trained in Scotland near where Fritz had trained a few months earlier, and he was in North Africa en route to the invasion of Scotland just a few months after Fritz’s memorable bravery in Oran, Algeria.

Ken was in the midst of studies at the University of British Columbia when he enlisted, following in his older brother’s footsteps as an officer with the Seaforths. Ken was not in Sicily, but joined the fight in mainland Italy and was immediately in heavy action against top quality German forces who used Italy’s rugged terrain to full effect in holding g off the Allied invaders.

The story of Leigh and Ken McBride’s unforgettable exploits in Italy – and Ken’s tragic death in action – is told through scanned images of photographs, letters, news clippings and army documents that can be viewed either through the Seaforth link at http://seaforthhighlanders.ca or my personal blog in May 2013 at http://www.sammcbride-bc.blogspot.com.

 

How Canadian was Frederic Thornton Peters?

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by Sam McBride

F.T. “Fritz“ Peters is excluded from some lists of Canadian Victoria Cross heroes because 1) he spent his adult years based in either Gold Coast colony in West Africa, or England; 2) he served in the Royal Navy and with the British Secret Intelligence Service; or at sea with the Royal Navy; and 3) he rarely mentioned Canada as his nation of birth and boyhood.

A long-time friend and naval colleague, Commander David Joel, wrote in unpublished memoirs that he had heard that Peters returned to Canada for a time in the inter-war period, but he had no details.

The last record of Fritz in Canada was his father Frederick Peters` funeral in Victoria, British Columbia in August 1919, which Fritz organized and attended. His mother Bertha Gray Peters later wrote that her son Fritz would have joined the Royal Canadian Navy if there was one, but when Fritz enlisted at age 15 in 1905 the only navy to sign up with was the Royal Navy, which had a large profile in the Victoria region where Fritz resided due to its Pacific Station base in Esquimalt. The Royal Canadian Navy was still five years away from existence.
The latest publicly available censuses Fritz is on are the 1901 and 1911 censuses. Interestingly, he and his family are included in both the Canada census and the England census for 1901, when the family continued to be based in Oak Bay, B.C. but spent considerable time at Bertha`s stepmother Sarah Caroline Cambridge Gray`s community of Bedford north of London, where the children attended private school. Fritz was also counted twice in 1911, as his family included him as a resident of Esquimalt where they lived, and, as a sub-lieutenant on HMS Otter, Fritz was also included in the 1911 England census. He listed his nationality as Canadian, with “British subject“ in parentheses. Fritz listed his ethnic background as Scottish, as did all of his siblings except elder sister Helen, who said she was of English heritage.

Fritz`s Canadian origins are clearly stated in his Royal Navy file, and his best friends Swain Saxton, Cromwell Varley and David Joel were aware that he was Canadian. While it is true that Fritz did not mention being Canadian in his dealings with Americans in the Second World War, but tended to keep his personal life and background to himself as a matter of principle, and in sync with the top secret work he was involved in. Fritz`s letters home show that he detested self-promotion. Even if he were not involved in secret projects, he would not be showing off a c.v. or talking about his achievements because he thought such bragging was unseemly.

It is true that Fritz would have travelled on a British passport, because there were no Canadian passports until 1949 – seven years after his death. It is only in recent years that the concept of all Canadians being British subjects has faded away.

There are two other measures in which Fritz`s Canadianness stands out. Firstly, his ancestry goes back to an original proprietor of P.E.I., and three of his four grandparents (Peters, Gray and Cunard) were direct descendants of United Empire Loyalists who came to the Canadian Maritimes after the American Revolutionary War. If Canadian roots could be measured in loyalty and length of residence, Fritz was about as Canadian as you could get.

Secondly, Fritz deserves recognition as a Canadian because two of his brothers, Private John Francklyn Peters and Lieut. Gerald Hamilton Peters, died early in the First World War fighting with the 7th British Columbia Battalion. Another brother, Noel Quintan Peters, served with the Canadian Forestry Corps.

And Fritz was always proud to be a grandson of a Father of Confederation, Col. John Hamilton Gray. Fritz’s letters show that he spent time in London researching his grandfather and other Fathers of Confederation.

Also, the name of Fritz Peters is not found in British lists of Victoria Cross recipients from England, so if he is also not on Canadian lists he is overlooked in the overall picture.

If you talk to people in Charlottetown, they will tell you they are proud of him as a Canadian hero, particularly as he is the only P.E.I.-born recipient of the Victoria Cross.

So the answer is that yes, Fritz Peters was most definitely a Canadian!

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New images in Fritz Peters ancestry

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by Sam McBride

During my recent visit to Prince Edward Island I had an opportunity to see, and copy, information and photographs gathering over the years by my relative (second cousin, once removed) Hugh “Pete“ Paton of Charlottetown. Pete is a grandson of Arthur Peters (premier of P.E.I. 1901-1907), who was the younger brother of Frederick Peters (premier of P.E.I. 1891-1897), who was Fritz Peters` father and my great-grandfather.

Several years ago Pete came across paintings of Thomas Horsfield Peters and his wife Mary Sharmen at a gallery in New Brunswick and photographed them. I was thrilled to see them, as they are the first of the pair that I have come across. For many years large framed photographs of their son, Judge James Horsfield Peters, and his wife Mary Cunard hung on a wall in my mother`s house. About a dozen years ago through internet forums I acquired images of Thomas Horsfield Peters` parents, the United Empire Loyalists James Peters and Margaret Lester.

The new images of Thomas Horsfield Peters and Mary Sharman fill empty spaces in the pictorial Fritz Peters family tree going back three generations. You can see that the only ones with blank spaces in the tree are Susan Duffus (wife of Sir Samuel Cunard, and mother of Mary Cunard); Lieut. William Bartley (first husband of Lady Pennefather, and mother of Susan Gray, wife of Col. John Hamilton Gray, P.E.I. premier and Father of Confederation); and Mary Burns (daughter of original proprietor Capt. George Burns and mother of Col. John Hamilton Gray). I do not have an image of the United Empire Loyalist Robert Gray (father of John Hamilton Gray), but I do have his signature featured in his box on the tree. I have photographs of Lady Pennefather`s second husband, General Sir John Lysaght Pennefather, who became young Susan`s stepfather.

One would think that there would be paintings of Susan Duffus Cunard because of the prominence of her husband as a steam travel magnate, but to date I have not been able to locate any images of her. She died at age 33 after having nine children with Sir Samuel. As a prominent Loyalist who formed an led a regiment in the American Revolution, there should be paintings or sketches of Robert Gray, but I have not come across any.

Click on the family tree image below, and it will be much bigger on your screen and easy to read.

Fritz family tree updated june 2013

Estate of Fritz Peters Valued at £254

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by Sam McBride

I recently was notified by ancestry.com that they had an image of the probate record of Capt. Frederic Thornton Peters.

Fritz left an estate of 254 pounds, most of which probably went to pay off loans and debts. The record says the probate went to Rosalind Varley (wife of Cromwell Hanford Varley), which confirms that she was executor (or executrix, as she described herself in a letter to Fritz`s mother) of Fritz`s will. Rosalind Varley said in her letter that she would forward Fritz`s personal effects to his family in Canada when the war was over and sea transport was safe. I recent had an enjoyable phone chat with Rosalind`s daughter Juliet who had many happy memories of Fritz`s regular visits to the Varley home.

The probate went through on Feb. 1, 1943 and was registered at the Llandudno registry in north Wales. They listed the Peters address as: care of the United Service Club, Pall Mall, London, which was the address he noted in his March 1942 letter to his sister Helen Dewdney, the last correspondence the relatives received from him. That same address was also on passenger lists for several voyages Fritz took in the years between the wars.

The date of death in the record was November 13, 1942, further confirming information from the Admiralty Office of Fritz`s date of death in a flying boat crash in Plymouth Sound

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