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Where Once They Sailed: Hodge's Cove son serves in both World Wars


James Drover was just a boy of 16 years when he enlisted with the Royal Naval Reserve. He spent his naval days on the high seas aboard the HMS Hilderbrand sailing between the ports of Devonport, England and Sengal, Africa. When the Commission Government of Newfoundland asked for volunteers during the Second World War, he once again stepped forward and sailed overseas. This time he became a foreman with the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit, Scotland.

James Drover was the son of Willis and Elizabeth Jane Drover of Hodge's Cove. He was only two-years-old when his mother died on Jan. 27, 1903 due to complications from childbirth. His only sibling, Cyril, died on Sept. 29, 1903.

His father remarried on March 10, 1909 to Rebecca Jane Peddle, daughter of John and Rosanna Peddle of Hodge's Cove. They had three children Chesley, Evelyn and John.

Family folklore has it that James, Harvey Peddle and Leander Drover ran away to St. John's to enlist with the Royal Naval Reserve. Church records show that he was born on Jan. 8, 1901 leaving him just turning 16 upon enlistment. However, on his enlistment papers with the Royal Naval Reserve, he listed his birthday has Jan. 8, 1899 making him two years older than he actually was at the time.

An article entitled "Offered Since March 15" that appeared in the Evening Telegram on March 30, 1917 list Harvey Peddle, Leander Drover and James Drover among the new recruits aboard the HMS Briton. He started his training on March 26 and completed eight months of training before deployment overseas.

He arrived in England and was assigned to HMS Vivid III, a shore-based facility at Devonport that was being used for the Trawler Section, Royal Naval Division.

After completing his training at HMS Vivid III, he was assigned to HMS Hilderbrand. The Hilderbrand was ordered by the Booth Steamship Company and built in 1911 during the height of the Brazilian rubber boom.

The ship was requisitioned by the British Admiralty and assigned to Force B of the 10th Squadron, Northern Patrol. Seaman Drover joined this ship at Devonport on Aug. 20, 1918 and spent the next four months between Devonport, England and Dakar Roads, Senegal, Africa.

During that time period the ship was responsible for delivering mail to Dakar Roads and accompanying convoys. Records shows that on Sept. 4, the ship delivered 20 bags of mail, while on Oct. 9, the HMS Hilderbrand delivered nine bags of mail and three confidential bags to Dakar.

The average time sailing between Devonport and Dakar Roads was 10-12 days, but the return trip usually took longer because the Hilderbrand was part of a convoy of ships. He completed his final voyage from Dakar Roads on Jan. 8, 1919.

He spent four more weeks at HMS Vivid III and was transferred home to the HMS Briton. An Evening Telegram article reveals that he arrived at Halifax aboard the SS Adriatic on March 9, 1919. Accompanying him were four other sailors from the Southwest Arm area — Robert Avery, William Butt, Archer Peddle and Bartholomew Seward. 

He remained at HMS Briton until he was demobilized on April 10, 1919.

He returned to Hodge's Cove where he married his first wife, Selena, daughter of George and Sarah Peddle. They had six children before she passed at the age of 34 years in 1938.

James would once again travel overseas when the Commission Government of Newfoundland asked for volunteers to serve with the newly formed Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit. This unit was sent overseas to cut logs as pit props for the coal mines of Great Britain. This time he was joined by his two stepbrothers, Chesley and John.

After his first contract expired, he requested a second term and remained until the end of the war.

After the death of his first wife, James married Bertha, daughter of John and Belinda Dodge, of Little Heart's Ease. They had two more children and raised both families at Hodge's Cove.

James passed away on Jan. 19, 1967 and his buried next to both of his wives at the new St. Mary's Anglican cemetery Hodge's Cove.

Next week's column tells the story Seaman James Langdon of Hodge's Cove. He received a year of training at HMS Briton, St. John's, before being transported overseas to England where he would spend the rest of his Navy career. He received further training at HMS Vivid III before being drafted to the HMS Devonshire, an Armed Merchant Cruiser, that would become his new home on the high seas. The ship was assigned during his service to protect convoys crossing the Atlantic from England to Canada.

Recent column: Where Once They Sailed: A young boy determined to serve his country

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