Ceremony names ship after rescuer who died during mission, brings back memories, provides closure
It’s a ceremony Gregory Paul Peddle would likely have been surprised by — a new Canadian Coast Guard ship dedicated in his name, in honour of his bravery for giving his life to try to save another.
It took place Thursday, on what would have been his 59th birthday.
The CCGS G. Peddle S.C. is a Hero Class vessel. And Gregory Paul Peddle is a hero deserving.
On Oct. 15, 1989, a diver was caught in a rip tide off Middle Cove. Chief Officer Gregory Paul Peddle and his colleagues Pierre Gallien and Raymond Welcher set out in a fast-rescue craft to help the diver.
The sea conditions that day grew turbulent, the roar of the ocean echoing off the cliffs of the coast. Bravery and determination kept the crew going until their craft was overtaken by the sea and capsized.
Peddle, Gallien and Welcher all lost their lives.
Peddle was subsequently awarded the Star of Courage.
“I’m sure today, if Greg were here, he would be embarrassed of all the attention and honour bestowed upon him in the naming of this magnificent vessel in his name,” his mother, Susannah Peddle, told a crowd gathered Thursday at the Canadian Coast Guard base in St. John’s.
The crowd included family members, friends, crew members of the new vessel and other Canadian Coast Guard personnel and guests.
Susannah Peddle later proudly christened the ship by reading the dedication and swinging a bottle of champagne into the bow of the vessel as sunlight bounced off the harbour surface and was reflected on the ship’s bright red paint. A strong wind kept the flags fluttering above.
Senator Elizabeth Marshall, on behalf of federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, officially welcomed the new vessel into service.
The CCGS G. Peddle S.C. (the S.C. stands for Star of Courage) is the fifth of nine hero-class vessels to join the coast guard fleet. It will be used to support Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s conservation and protection programs.
Hero-class vessels are named for decorated soldiers, veterans and police officers, as well as employees of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard.
Gregory Joseph Peddle, son of Gregory Paul Peddle, said the event portrayed who his father was, but also brought back the memory of that tragic day.
“I was seven years old and I can remember that day like it was yesterday,” he said, pausing to contain his emotions. “It’s been hard, a lot of memories and stuff brought back.
“We are happy that his name is going forward honouring the families and coast guard. His body was never recovered, so it gives us some closure.
“He had a tattoo, ‘Death before Dishonour,’ and his selflessness to lay down his life for another man is definitely portrayed here today. You hear many stories from friends and family that he was a family man and his dedication to the coast guard was phenomenal.”
Marshall told the crowd that Canadians owe an enormous debt of gratitude to all those who have put themselves in harm’s way to save others.
“This new coast guard mid-shore patrol vessel will keep Chief Officer Peddle’s memory alive and will ensure his bravery will never be forgotten,” she said.
The vessel was built in Halifax by Irving Shipbuilding Inc. It is 43 metres long, with a top speed of 25 knots and a range of 2,000 nautical miles. It is able to stay at sea for two weeks without reprovisioning.
Bill Peddle, Gregory Paul Peddle’s oldest brother, said his brother seemed to always want to be a part of the Canadian Coast Guard. He said the vessel dedicated in his name Thursday is one his brother would have been proud to see. The ceremony, on the other hand, would be a little out of his comfort zone.
“He’d say, ‘What’s all this about?’ honestly,” Bill Peddle said with a chuckle.
“He was quiet, very much interested in what he was doing, very focussed in what he did. Right from the get go I think he had his mind made up where he was going to be, and that’s what he did.”