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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“The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC“ Wins B.C. Genealogical Society 2012 family history book award

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On June 12, 2013 the British Columbia Genealogical Society announced that “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars“ won the society`s 2012 Family History Book Award.

The award was presented to author Sam McBride at the B.C. Genealogical Society awards night in Burnaby, B.C.  The BCGS web site at www.bcgs.ca has more details on the annual book award.

This is the book`s first West Coast award. In February 2013 the letters-based biography of Capt. Frederic Thornton Peters, VC, DSO, DSC and bar, DSC (U.S.), RN was honoured with a Heritage Award from the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation.

http://www.abcbookworld.com/view_author.php?id=10982

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Certificate for BCGS family history book award

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information about the BC Genealogical Society family history book awards

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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Fritz Peters Book Recognized with P.E.I. Heritage Award

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On Tuesday, February 19, 2013, Sam McBride, author of “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters, VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars”, received a Heritage Award at the annual awards night of the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Authority.

The presentations were made at the Carriage House at historic Beaconsfield House in Charlottetown. The Honourable Robert Henderson, Tourism and Culture Minister handed out the awards.

The Heritage Award Citation reads: “Born in Charlottetown in 1889, Frederic Thornton “Fritz” Peters was one of the most decorated soldiers in Canadian history. Over the course of two wars he won siz awards for valour, including the Victoria Cross. Since he’s from here, many Islanders know the bare bones of his story, at least the part about winning the Victoria Cross. One of his great-nephews, Sam McBride, knew there was much more of the story to tell. In The Bravest Canadian: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars, McBride explores Peters’ life and career through family correspondence and presents a detailed examination of the battles he fought in. The result is an excellent history of one of the Island’s fascinating figures. In recognition for his work in creating The Bravest Canadian, we are pleased to present a Heritage Award to Mr. Sam McBride.”

heritage award plaque

award presentation

P.E.I. Heritage Award and Book Signings in Charlottetown

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Letter announcing the Heritage Award.

Letter announcing the Heritage Award.

By Sam McBride

I was very pleased last week to receive notification from the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation that they are giving me a Heritage Award in recognition of my book The Bravest Canadian – Fritz Peters, VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars. I will receive the award at the Annual Heritage Awards Ceremony at the Carriage House at Beaconsfield in Charlottetown on Feb. 19, 2013.

If all goes as planned, I will be in Charlottetown from Sunday, Feb. 17 until Sunday, Feb. 24. I have arranged to do book signings in Charlottetown at the Bookmark Store on Queen Street on Friday, Feb. 22nd at noon, and then at the Indigo Store at 465 University Avenue on Saturday, Feb. 23rd from 1-3 pm. In addition to book promotion activities, I plan to do further research on the Peters and Gray ancestors.

As part of the cross-Canada trip, I will be in Cranbrook Feb. 13-14, Ottawa Feb. 14-17, Ottawa again Feb. 24-26, and Cranbrook again Feb. 26-27. In Ottawa I plan to visit, and conduct research, in the Canadian War Museum and the National Archives, and visit bookstores and Ottawa-based veterans’ associations.

Once again, many thanks to the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation for the prestigious Heritage Award.

Biog readers with suggestions for book promotion events should contact me either through this blog, or by emailing sammcbridebc(AT)gmail.com.

“The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters, VC” Reviewed in Naval Association of Canada’s Starshell magazine

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The Winter 2012-2013 edition of Starshell, the national magazine of the Naval Association of Canada, features a review of “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters, VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars”.

The latest issue of Starshell can be viewed through the link http://www.navalassoc.ca/starshell.

Many thanks to Mike and Starshell editor Cdr (Ret’d) George Moore for helping spread word of the book on a nation-wide basis.

Interestingly, an article on Capt. Frederic Thornton Peters, VC, DSO, DSC and bar, DSC (U.S.), RN in Starshell magazine in 1992 was titled “The Bravest Canadian of Them All”. This was one of the sources that were the basis for the title of the new biography of Fritz Peters released in November 2012.

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Memorable descriptions of Frederic Thornton “Fritz“ Peters

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“His courage was massive, like his shoulders.” – United Press war correspondent Leo Disher

“He was strikingly calm, almost annoyingly so”. – Leo Disher

“Completely without fear, dedicated to duty or his own interpretation of it, and tough as old rope.” – Commander David Joel, RN

“His determination, his courage, his unquenchable gaiety” – British war correspondent A.D. Divine

“(Oran) was a desperate adventure against appalling odds and it was only Fritz’s grim determination and heroism against these odds which enabled the Walney to be berthed alongside the jetty“. – Commander Cromwell Varley, DSO

“Danger never had any bearing for him, and engaging the enemy was the one thing he lived for.“ – Rear Admiral Frederick Dalrymple-Hamilton

“This Oran business was Peters all over. A first-class man.” – Admiral A.M. Peters (no relation)

“He had faraway naval eyes and a gentle smile of great charm… Our trainees came to adore him“. – Kim Philby, who served under Peters in 1940 in a British Secret Intelligence Service spy school.

“A typical Elizabethan gentleman adventurer.” – Paymaster-commander S.W. Saxton, RN

“His courage was of a caliber which realized danger even if fear was unknown to him. – S.W. Saxton

“Where duty lay, so was his set purpose, and no sacrifice was too great to carry out that duty to its end.” – S.W. Saxton

“I have not yet met anyone who did not love him or admire him.“ – S.W. Saxon

“I propose that the bravest Canadian may well have been Frederic Thornton Peters, RN”. – Commander (ret.) F.J. Blatherwick

Memorable Quotes of Frederic Thornton Peters

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Capt. Frederic Thornton “Fritz” Peters wasn’t just a man of action. As evidenced in his letters home and in the quotes below, he was well-read, knowledgeable of history, articulate and had a wry sense of humour.

“ It is not given to every man to be so fortunate as to fight for his country.”
– September 1914

“I have a deep and I hope true love of Canada and perhaps some small idea of its future greatness and an undying firm belief in the absolute need of unity in the Empire.”
– 1916

“I pray God I fall in the same manner with my face to the enemy.”
– 1916, after the death in battle of his brother Gerald.

“A death in action — surely if we are judged for the vast eternity by this brief mortal span — must be something.”
– 1916

“There is only one thing — the King and Empire.”
– 1916

“Death is nothing compared to dishonour.”
– 1917

“Forget all you saw or heard in the last war. This is hell, but I still have my sword sharpened.”
– after the Battle of Narvik, 1940

“I am probably going to be killed, but it’s worth it.”
– October 1942

“This is my meat. I don’t feel my best until I smell the smoke of battle.”
– steaming towards Oran, Algeria. November 7, 1942

Nelson Star article on “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters, VC”

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star story 1 001

The image above is from “The Vurb” culture insert of the Nelson Star on Dec. 14, 2012. To see the full article, go to http://www.nelsonstar.com/news/183103291.html?c=y&curSection=/&curTitle=BC+News&bc09=true

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