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  #1  
Old 27-08-2009, 20:02
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Default Frederick Thornton Peters, VC

Frederick Thornton Peters V.C.

Frederick Thornton Peters, VC , DSO , DSC & Bar (September 17, 1889 - November 13, 1942) was a Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Frederick Thornton "Fritz" Peters was 53 years old, and a captain in the Royal Navy during the Second World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC:

Operation Reservist (part of Operation Torch, the Allied landings in French North Africa) was an attempt to capture Oran Harbour, Algeria and prevent it from being sabotaged by its French garrison. The two sloops HMS Walney and HMS Hartland were packed with British Commandos and soldiers of the 6th US Armored Infantry Division.

On 8 November 1942 Captain Peters, commanding in Walney, led his force through the boom towards the jetty in the face of point-blank fire from shore batteries, the sloop La Surprise, and the destroyer Epervier. Blinded in one eye, he alone of 11 officers and men on the bridge survived. Walney reached the jetty disabled and ablaze and went down with her colours flying. Captain Peters and a handful of men managed to reach the shore, where they were taken prisoner. Hartland came under fire from the French destroyer Typhon and blew up with the loss of half her crew. The survivors, like those of Walney, were taken prisoner as they reached shore.

Captain Peters was also awarded the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Cross for the same actions. The citation, issued in Allied Force Headquarters General Orders No. 19 of November 23, 1942, stated that "Captain Peters distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism against an armed enemy during the attack on that post. He remained on the bridge in command of his ship in spite of the fact that the protective armor thereon had been blown away by enemy shell fire and was thereby exposed personally to the withering cross fire from shore defenses. He accomplished the berthing of his ship, then went to the forward deck and assisted by one officer secured the forward mooring lines. He then with utter disregard of his own personal safety went to the quarter-deck and assisted in securing the aft mooring lines so that the troops on board could disembark. At that time the engine room was in flames and very shortly thereafter exploded and the ship turned on its side and sank."

The survivors were released on November 10, 1942 when the French garrison surrendered. In the meantime, the French systematically destroyed the harbour facilities at Oran: Operation Reservist was thus a complete failure.

Captain Peters was killed in an air crash three days later. Mount Peters near Nelson, British Columbia, where his mother lived in her last years with the family of her daughter Helen Dewdney and her husband E.E.L. Dewdney, was named in his honour in 1946.

Fritz Peters' parents were Frederick Peters (Premier of Prince Edward Island 1891-1897) and Roberta Hamilton Susan Gray (daughter of John Hamilton Gray who was Premier of P.E.I. at the time of the Charlottetown Conference of 1864). Two of Fritz's brothers died in action on the Western Front in World War One -- John Francklyn Peters in April 1915 and Gerald Hamilton Peters in June 1916. In addition to his service with the Royal Navy (which he joined in Esquimalt, B.C. in 1905 at age 16), Fritz worked with British Naval Intelligence and advised Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Russian spy Kim Philby noted his admiration for Naval Intelligence instructor "Commander Peters" in his book My Secret Life.

Further information

Killed on 13 November 1942 in a Sunderland seaplane which crash landed in Plymouth Sound, at the entrance to the Royal Navy's Devonport Dockyard, Nr. Plymouth Devon. No bodies were recovered after the crash. Grave/memorial at Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Hampshire, England. Panel 61. Column 3.
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Last edited by qprdave : 27-08-2009 at 21:33.
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Old 27-08-2009, 21:30
Dave Hutson Dave Hutson is online now
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Default Re: Frederick Thornton Peters, VC

Thanks Dave I will now go on here in Plymouth to find the exact location of the crash and if I can initiate an annual memorial will start the family trace for permission.

Regards

Dave H
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Old 27-08-2009, 21:32
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Default Re: Frederick Thornton Peters, VC

BZ the two Dave's!! wish you every success Dave H

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Old 27-08-2009, 21:44
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Default Re: Frederick Thornton Peters, VC

Additional information

Joined the Royal Navy as a Cadet in January 1905.

"Fritz" Peters was 16 years old at this time.

In 1906 he went to sea as a midshipman and was commissioned as a Sub*Lieutenant in 1909.

He was awarded the Silver Messina Earthquake medal from the Italian government in recognition of his service in leading shore rescue parties during the evacuation of the population in danger from the erupting volcano, Mount Messina in 1908.

He operated gunboats on "The China Station" prior to World War One.

He was in the Royal Navy on the outbreak of World War One and on 24th January, 1915, he was serving at First Lieutenant in HMS Meteor when his ship tried to launch torpedoes against the German ship 'Blucher'. 'Blucher' was able to hit HMS Meteor with an 8.2 inch shell, seriously damaging HMS Meteor. Lieutenant Peters was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and a Mention in Despatches.

In March 1918, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) "for services in Destroyer and Torpedo Boat Flotillas during the period ending 31 December 1917."

World War I summary

PETERS. Frederick "Fritz" Thornton, WW.I, Lt, RN

MID~[15.1.15] DSO~[3.3.15] DSC~[8.3.18] "For service in Destroyers and Torpedo Boat Flotillas during the period ending 31 Dec 1917"

At the beginning of the Second World War, he was promoted to Commander and given command of a flotilla of small boats operating against German submarines. The flotilla sank two German Submarines and in 1940, he was awarded the Bar to his Distinguished Service Cross. Supplement to the LONDON GAZETTE 11 July 1940, page 4257. "The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following award for good services in the Royal Navy since the outbreak of War:

-* Bar to the Distinguished Service Cross: Commander Frederick Thornton PETERS, DSO, DSC, HMS "Thirlmere".

PETERS, Frederick Thornton, Captain, DSO, DSC* - VICTORIA CROSS (VC) - RN - Awarded as per London Gazette of 18 May 1943.

He was sent to Gibraltar to plan the attack on the harbour at Oran which was protected by the Vichy French. The Task Force Commander, Admiral Cunningham, had determined that the boom defences in the harbour of Oran, Morocco had to be destroyed. Peters planned the assault but the plans were known by the French defending Oran and the operation called off. After, a brief period, the operation was determined necessary. 'Fritz' Peters decided since it was a suicide charge, he would take command of the two ex*American coast guard cutters HMS 'Walney' and HMS 'Hartland' personally and lead the charge. The ships had three main tasks to perform. The first was to break the boom defences. The second was to land 17 officers and 376 enlisted men from the US Army Rangers 6th Armoured Corps and to take the seize the shore installations, immobilize the French warships (14 in total ranging from a submarine to a heavily armed cruiser). The third task was to launch motorized mines from six canoes that would be put overboard once the ships were in the harbour. To fully appreciate what happened in this naval action, you must read both the citations for the two decorations he was awarded that day:

The American Army Distinguished Service Cross and the highest gallantry award, the Victoria Cross. The American DSC was gazetted in the London Gazette 19/01/43 and the citation reads:

"While in command of the ship carrying Landing Forces of the United States Army into the harbour of Oran, Morocco, in the early morning of 8 November 1942, Captain Peters distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism against an armed enemy during the attack on that port. He remained on the bridge in command of his ship in spite of the fact that the protective armour thereon had been blown in by enemy shellfire and was thereby exposed personally to the withering cross*fire from shore defences. He accomplished the berthing of his ship, then went to the forward deck and assisted by one officer, secured the forward mooring lines. He then, with utter disregard of his own personal safety went to the quarter*deck and assisted in securing the aft mooring lines so that the troops on board could disembark. At that time, the engine room was in flames and very shortly thereafter exploded and the ship turned on its side and sank."

The citation for the Victoria Cross published in the London Gazette 18 May 1943 was made to sound very bland so that the French would not be offended. The citation is as follows:

"Captain Peters was in the 'suicide charge' by two little cutters at Oran. 'Walney' and 'Hartland' were two ex*American coast guard cutters which were lost in a gallant attempt to force the boom defences in the harbour of Oran during the landings on the North African coast. Captain Peters led his force through the boom in the face of pointblank fire from shore batteries, a destroyer and cruiser * a feat which was described as one of the great episodes of naval history. The Walney reached the jetty disabled and ablaze, and went down with her colours flying. Blinded in one eye, Captain Peters was the only survivor of the seventeen men on the bridge of the 'Walney'. He was taken prisoner but was later released when Oran was captured. On being liberated from gaol, he was carried through the streets where the citizens hailed him with flowers." Winston Churchill described the action as the greatest naval battle since Trafalgar. The first objective of breaking the boom defences was achieved in the full frontal attack on a heavily armed port and allowed a floating dockyard to be brought into the harbour for the 'Torch' Operation landings. The second objective of landing US Rangers and a few Royal Navy Commandos was a failure as 9 officers and 180 men were killed and 5 officers and 152 enlisted men wounded. Only 3 officers and 44 men from the other units aboard the two vessels survived. The motorized mines did not work. The 'Hartland' was not able to launch the canoes as they were crushed when placed overboard. Only one of the canoes was successfully launched from the 'Walney' and it slipped into port unnoticed. Unfortunately, the motorized mines did not work and this part of the operation was a total failure.

To complete the story of this gallant attack, the following is taken from Jack McIntyre's story of the attack, code named "Operation Reservist":

"In the early morning hours of 8 November 1942, Peters small ship was being pounded by devastating shellfire at point blank range from shore batteries and from French warships anchored in Oran Harbour. As Walney proceeded down the harbour, a destroyer decided to break out. Peters promptly ordered an attempt at ramming the Frenchman. Walney missed. The destroyer responded by raking Walney with broadsides at a few yards range. The little vessel lurched but continued to limp down the harbour. The toll in death and destruction was mounting. Walney's position was hopeless and Peters knew it. Soon she came under fire from a French cruiser berthed alongside the jetty at the far end of the harbour. Walney took a direct hit in the engine room. The bridge exploded in flame from another, blowing Peters off the bridge, the only survivor of eighteen officers and men, wounded in the shoulder and blinded in one eye. The devastation above and below decks was indescribable. Many of the troops had come above decks to lob grenades and spray small arms fire at the enemy ships close by. The wounded were taken to the wardroom. It took a direct hit, the shell exploding in the cramped space, killing everyone there. By now ammunition stores were exploding, as well as depth charges stored below decks. Still Peters drove on undeterred, taking his crippled ship into the jetty and the French cruiser berthed alongside. Walney's situation was hopeless, the objective reached but the ship dying. By now it was a matter of trying to get any troops off who still survived. Some jumped from the harbour to come under machine gun fire from French gunners. Peters went forward from the bridge to help put mooring lines ashore. Then he went aft to do the same thing there. He ordered the ship to be abandoned and jumped into the water and swam ashore. Walney turned on her side and sank in shallow water, the side of her hull showing above the shallows. Her day was finally done. She went down with American and British ensigns still flying. Peters and the other survivors were taken prisoner by the French authorities and given medical treatment. They were liberated days later when allied soldiers, who landed up and down the coast, took Oran from the land. Peters, it was said, was treated as a hero by the French civilian population and borne through the streets of the town on the shoulders of a crowd of people in a strange sort of victory parade." Peters was taken to Gibraltar for further medical treatment and to be flown back to England. It was flying that was to be his undoing something the seas had not been able to achieve. On Friday the thirteenth of November, 1942, Peters with four other naval officers left Gibraltar in a Sunderland Flying Boat of the Royal Australian Air Force. The weather was very good at the start of the flight but worsened as the aircraft approached England. Due to the heavy fog, the plane flew lower and lower and finally crashed into the sea near the Plymouth breakwater. The plane flipped over but all occupants escaped. Flying Officer Whyn Thorpe, captain of the aircraft, spotted a body in the water kept afloat by a lifejacket. The two of them were in the water for 90 minutes before being picked up by a search boat. The accident and the cold water were too much for the brave Canadian and he died that night.

PETERS, Frederick Thornton, Captain, VC, DSO, DSC* - Distinguished Service Cross (USA) - Royal Navy - Awarded in 1943. See Victoria Cross Citation

WWII Summary.

Cdr RN, Bar to DSC~[11.7.40] "The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following award for good services in the RN since the outbreak of War". Capt RN, (Canadian) DSC (USA)~[19.1.43] VC~[18.5.43] Deceased [13.11.42]

Medal of Captain Frederick Thornton PETERS, VC, DSO, DSC*, RN:

VC * DSO (George V) * DSC (George V) and bar (George VI) * 1914 Star * British War Medal * Victory Medal with MID * 1939/45 Star * Atlantic Star * Africa Star * Defence Medal * 1939*1945 War Medal * Italy's Silver Messina Earthquake Medal (1908) * USA Army Distinguished Service Cross.
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Old 03-04-2012, 13:29
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Default Re: Frederick Thornton Peters, VC

The captain of HMS Walney was Lt. Cdr. Peter Capel Meyrick. He was undoubtedly commanding the ship from the bridge until it was destroyed. He was only 'mentioned in despatches'.

Captain Peters conceived and executed a 'suicide mission' with other people's lives, gallant men who carried out his orders without question. I would hope in all the revelry about the awarding of a VC to this man that the bravery of the the rest of the crews of both HMS Walney and HMS Hartland will also be recognised.
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