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STAR’s Double Olympian

In April of 1942, a former liquor salesman by the name of Bob Pearce was commissioned at HMCS STAR as a Temporary Lieutenant (Special Branch).  He served during the war as a Recruiting Officer and Sports Officer.  After the war, he became an Area Officer for Sea Cadets, also serving as the XO of the Princess Alice Sea Cadet Camp on Georgian Bay.  He was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in 1948 and retired in 1956.

Lt Pearce with the STAR shinny squad (thanks to http://www.forposterityssake.ca/)

What makes this particular officer special is what he did before joining in STAR.  Born in 1905 in a suburb of Sydney, Australia, both his father and grandfather had been champion scullers.  He entered his first race at the age of six.  After a stint as a carpenter, fishermen and then in the Australian army, he became a full-time sculler, winning the Australian Amateur Championships in 1927.  He was selected for the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, carrying the flag in the procession and winning a Gold Medal, despite stopping part way through his winning race to allow a family of ducks to cross his path.

Bob Pearce in his element

He tried to enter the 1928 Henley Diamond Sculls in England but was disqualified as a former carpenter since “artisans” were not allowed to compete.  Unemployed during the Great Depression, he made his way to Hamilton in 1930 with the help of contributions from family and friends where he won his event in the British Empire Games.  His win attracted the attention of whiskey magnate and sculling enthusiast Lord Dewar, who offered him a job as a liquor salesman with Distillers Company of Canada.

No longer an artisan, he entered the 1931 Henley Diamond Sculls, racing for the Leander Boat Club of Hamilton, and won by six lengths.  The next year he drove his car to Los Angeles with his scull on top and won a second Olympic gold at the LA Olympics.  In 1933, he entered the Professional Championship of the World in Toronto and finished first by eight lengths.  He defended his championship again in 1934 and 1938 and retired undefeated after that.

A collection of his sculling medals sold at auction in 2012 for £49,250

Bob Pearce’s medals

Hamilton RNCVR sailor lost at sea in 1916

Wireless Telegraphy Operator Ernest Clement, VR-0058, RNCVR, son of Thomas H. and Margaret A Clement of 84 Burton Street, Hamilton.  Aged 19, he was washed overboard in a storm and lost on 12 December 1916, along with five others, while the former yacht HMCS GRILSE was en-route down the east coast of Nova Scotia.  The ship itself was initially believed lost.

HMCS GRILSE
GRILSE alongside in Halifax with NIOBE and another cruiser, probably HMS HIGHFLYER, in the background.