Author of Letter: Noah C Draper, 29 yrs old
Dated: Dec. 13 1916
Mailed from: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Attached to: HMCS Niobe
Profession: Farmer, Temporary Sailor
Rank: Ordinary Seaman
Addressed to: Mrs. N.C. Draper, Keswick, Ont.
Writing instrument: Fountain Pen with Black Ink
Writing Paper: Smooth paper, 8 1/2" x 11" with letterhead from St. Mary's Army and Navy Club, No 6, Barrington Street, Halifax, Canada
People mentioned in this letter:
Percy - Noah's older brother, lives near Adams, Saskatchewan
Aunt Mary Ann Draper - widow of paternal uncle Elemuel Draper, lives in Toronto
Flossy Folliott - Noah's 1st cousin paternal side, lives in Toronto
- Mildred aka Midge, 3 yrs old
- James David aka Jay, 6 months (later called JD)
Places/things mentioned in this letter:
- Keswick - where Noah's family lives (the ones who didn't move west)
- Halifax - historic, protected harbor on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia
- The Olimpic - HMT Olympic**
- The Grolse (battle cruiser)**
Word or Phrase Use:
not - "...but I like writing (not)"
* Look under the Categories/Labels in the right side column for more posts on this
person/place/thing, or use the search box in the header at the top of this page
** see Genealogy Notes below
Halifax, Canada, Dec. 13 1916
Mrs. N. C. Draper,
Dear Ethel; -
Well this will make 3 letters this week am
I not breaking all records. HaHa.
We have no idea when we will be
leaving halifax but not this week I guess
the Olimpic is still in harbour & will
likely go tomorrow or next day. but no one
knows for shure.
Well I have got that paper for the Patrotic
fund at last so am sending it. We had
Saturaday afternoon night of and can go out every
night untill Eleven. & have this afternoon
off so you see we are not worked to hard
It has been raining every day but 2 since
we arrived here.
There was a great storm yesteraday the
Grolse a battle cruser which left here
yesteraday at 2 oclock & had one of the fellows
chum aboard went down last night at 11.20
with all hands on board. about 300 miles
from here. there has been no trace found
of the ship since she sent word she was
Well I suppose Percy has left for home
before this. Was you at Uncle Lewise's
funneral. I wish I could have been there.
Tell Aunt Jennie I am sorry I did not
get over to see them again before I left but
will see them when I return, say the
first time you are in Toronto go and
see Aunt Mary Ann Draper or did you
see them before you left.
Did you see Flossy Folliott I must
write to her, but I like writing (not)
Well I guess I will have to close
for this time. Hoping you are all
well I remain as ever your loving
P.S. Noah C. Draper
Kiss the babies night and morning
for me, Ethel I miss you all, but if
we all do our duty as we see it I guess
we will get along all O.K. eh. some
After posting Noah's last letter dated Dec 9, 1916, I received a message from Noah's grandson, John Draper, explaining the HMT Canada designation found on the image of Noah and crewmen doing mess duty. He said the HMT stands for Hired Military Transport and the ship, Canada, was used for troop movements.
Genealogy Note 2 - The Olympic
As for the Olympic, it was the largest of 3 sister ships, with the other two being the RMS Titanic and the HMHS Britannic. The Olympic also had the longest life of the three.
In May 1915, the Admiralty requisitioned the Olympic as a troopship and installed 12-pounders and 4.7-inch guns. On 24 Sep 1915, the newly designated HMT Olympic began its military service with 6,000 soldiers onboard. From 1916 to 1917, HMT Olympic was chartered by the Canadian Government to transport troops from Halifax to Britain.
In 1917, she gained 6-inch guns and was painted with the "dazzle" camouflage scheme you see in the image in the top of this post. The dazzle coloring of brown, dark blue, light blue, and white made it more difficult for observers to estimate her speed and heading. Noted Group of Seven artist Arthur Lismer made several paintings of her in Halifax including this one:
Genealogy Note 3 - The Grilse
Noah wrote that the Grolse went down in a storm with all hands lost. After searching for a couple of hours for this ship without finding any record of it, I turned to Noah's navy grandson once again. Shortly after, John Draper messaged back that the ship was actually the Grilse, one of Canada's own.
Can you believe I had the book, The Ships of Canada's Naval Forces 1910-1981 sitting on my desk and hadn't turned the 2 pages past my research on the Niobe?
Accordingly, HMCS Grilse started life as Winchester, an American yacht. Canada bought her in June 1915, outfitted her with 2 twelve-pound guns and a fourteen-inch torpedo tube, and commisioned her in July 1915 as a torpedo boat.
The main mission of HMCS Grilse was protecting Canada's coast against U-Boat attacks. This next image from www.warmuseum.ca shows the Grilse at dock in Halifax, the busiest harbour on the east side of the country during WW1.
On Dec 11, 1916, the Grilse left Halifax for the Caribbean. According to a detailed description of the events found in the book, The Seabound Coast: The Official History of the Royal Canadian Navy, 1867-1939 Volume 1, the Grilse ran into heavy weather one day out of Halifax: "...With seas breaking inboard and the ship rolling violently, a party of seamen went on deck to throw the extra fuel barrels over the side and reduce the top weight. By the time the task was completed at 1710 hours, one seaman had broken his leg when he was thrown against the torpedo tube, and two other sailors were missing overboard. An hour-and-a-half later, a large wave carried away the aerial trunk for the wireless..."
The fascinating account reveals the valiant efforts made by the wireless operator to transmit a distress call with their location, while horrendous waves damaged the ship, crushed the after funnel, and took more lives.
By Dec 13, the day Noah wrote his letter, Halifax reported that the last words from the Grisle was that they were sinking. Rescue efforts began.
On Dec 14, still without word, or sight, of the Grilse, the Navy responded to inquiries from anxious relatives with telegrams stating, "...Grilse was lost at sea with all hands."
Noah's upcoming letters don't mention anything further about the Grilse, or Grolse as he wrote it.
However, the account goes on to say, "Only shortly before midnight that same day did Ottawa receive a message from Shelburne that Grilse had limped into harbour."
And that explains why I didn't find it in any historical records as being a ship lost at sea during 1916.