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A Sailor’s Life: Sidney loses Second World War veteran at 103

Peter Godwin Chance served his community right up to his death April 9

The Saanich Peninsula is mourning the loss of longtime resident and Second World War veteran Peter Godwin Chance, who died April 9 at the age of 103.

Residents may remember him as the flying centenarian, or among the veterans handing out poppies outside Peninsula establishments.

Before any of those things, Chance participated in momentous military skirmishes including the Battle of The Atlantic and D-Day. That made him an ideal honorary president of the Saanich Peninsula branch of the Royal Canadian Legion from 2015 until his death.

“Peter was fortunate to enjoy a long and happy retirement where he enjoyed travelling, spending time with friends, and trying new things,” said Ryan Trelford, president of the Saanich Peninsula Branch No. 37.

RELATED: Forged in fire: D-Day remembered by 99-year-old navy commander

Chance had been a member of Saanich Peninsula Legion since the 1970s.

Born Nov. 24, 1920 in Ottawa, Chance joined the Royal Canadian Navy, in 1938. He served as the navigation officer on the destroyer HMCS Skeena during D-Day and, for the ship’s crew, it was more a period of weeks than a single climactic day, preparing for the invasion and then shielding the area afterwards.

The Skeena was part of Escort Group 12 and patrolled the seas around northwestern France. On D-Day, the brief was to block enemy submarines from the landing zones. Afterwards, they were to continue their sweeps and destroy any submarines sent to claw back the initiative. In the days that followed D-Day, Skeena narrowly dodged torpedoes and attacked submarines and their flak trawler escorts.

He also served in the Korean War and Cold War before his retirement from the military in 1969.

Chance penned his memoirs, publishing “A Sailor’s Life: 1920 to 2001” in 2012.

RELATED: Remembering: Sidney’s Peter Godwin Chance led a sailor’s life

After the navy, he took a job at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Ontario and lived there with his family for many years, until they retired to Sidney in 1974.

Still, Chance worked for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and the National Association of Federal Retirees.

“Peter was involved with the Duke of Edinburgh Award program for many years where he took great pride in working with youth and encouraging young Canadians to get involved in their physical fitness and community,” Trelford said.

In more recent years, he was a regular volunteer at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital, continued to canvas for the poppy campaign and lay a wreath at the cenotaph each Remembrance Day.

Active right to the end, last year at 102, the staunch sailor fulfilled a long-held dream to return to the skies, thanks to his friend Paul Seguna and the Victoria Flying Club.

It took him back decades, recalling learning to fly Tiger Moths in England during the Second World War – between fighting German submarines in the Battle of the Atlantic and surviving the sinking of his ship off the coast of Iceland.

In perfect flying weather, with clear skies and excellent visibility, he even took the stick.

Do you have a memory of Peter Godwin Chance to share? Email

RELATED: ‘Excitement beyond measure’: Sidney veteran takes to the skies once again at 102

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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