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


The surname Drover was a common name in the community of Hodge's Cove during the Great War. When parents choose the same first name, confusion was bound to occur. Such was the case of another young Albert Drover associated with Hodge's Cove. He was the son of Albert and Amelia Jane born on Sept. 15, 1902 but listed his birth date as being Sept. 15, 1898. He was just a boy but very determined to serve overseas.

Albert and Amelia Jane Drover of Hodge's Cove had six siblings, two that were born at Hodge's Cove and the others born at Bull Arm, known today as Sunnyside.

Their oldest son Leander, born in 1887, enlisted with the Royal Naval Reserve in February 1906. He trained on the HMS Calypso for five consecutive years during the months of February and March. He fulfilled his naval contract for the five-year term. A notation on his naval documents records "discharged May 6, 1912 time expired." Leander did not renew his application with the Navy after that date.

According to his family, Leander's younger brother, Albert always considered himself as being from Hodge's Cove and therefore his story is listed among the sailors of the Southwest Arm region.

Albert's first attempt with serving King and Country did not start with the Navy. Records indicate his first attempt was to enlist with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment but he was refused. Evidence for this comes from two records.

In completing his engagement papers for the Royal Naval Reserve he had to declare: "That I have never been rejected for any of her Armed Forces on account of unfitness."

Interestingly, crossed out on his application are the words "never" and "any of H.M. Forces." The  words "any of H.M. Forces" have been replaced by the letters "RNR" and list a date of May 15, 1917 at the end of the sentence.

The second document was located in an article from The St. John's Daily entitled “Volunteers” published on May 16, 1917. Albert Drover’s name and the community of Bay Bulls Arm is recorded as a volunteer for the Army (Royal Newfoundland Regiment or RNR). A record for the RNR could not be found to determine the reason for his rejection with the Army but it was likely his age.

Albert was determined to serve his country.

He travelled again to St. John's in the fall of 1917 but this time his goal was enlistment with the Royal Navy. Because of his earlier experience with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment he knew that a false birth date was required on his engagement papers.

He signed his application with the Royal Naval Reserve on Nov. 29, 1917, six months after his attempt at enlistment with the Army listing his birth date as Sept. 15, 1898.

He sailed overseas sometime around late January, 1918. He was drafted to HMS Alsatian and would have recognized Seaman George Smith of Island Cove. Several months later they were joined by another sailor from Southwest Arm area, Seaman Leander Green of St. Jones Without, who had received the Distinguished Service Medal for his heroic rescue in 1916.

Albert served 12 months onboard the HMS Alsatian patrolling the waters and accompanying convoys around the English shorelines.

On Feb. 1, 1919 he received orders that he was to report to HMS Vivid III where he spent two months before receiving orders that he was being sent home to the HMS Briton.

The Daily News reported in an article on April 10, 1919 entitled Many of the Men Wear Decorations that the steamship Sagona had left Sydney with 100 reservists onboard that were returning to their homes. The sailors had arrived from overseas at the port of Halifax aboard the S.S. Caronia a few days earlier. Among these names were Seaman Albert Drover and several other sailors from the Random area.

He returned to Sunnyside and married Martha Kate Piercey of Sunnyside on April 10, 1926. They had at least six children that were listed in the 1945 Sunnyside Census.

Albert passed away in 1985 and is buried next to his wife, Martha Kate, who died eight years before. Both are buried at the Anglican-United Church at Sunnyside.

Next week's “Where Once They Sailed” reveals the dedication of James Drover, a boy of 16 years who  enlisted with the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve during the First World War. His naval days were spent sailing between the ports of Devonport, England and Sengal, Africa. He returned home safely. When the Commission Government of Newfoundland asked for volunteers during the Second World War, he once again sailed overseas and became a foreman with the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit.

Recent column:Where Once They Sailed: Sailor spends Naval career on HMS Berwick

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