“Dutchy” John Edwards visiting the Pyramids in Egypt during his time serving in the Mediterranean. (Edwards Family Photo)

“Dutchy” John Edwards visiting the Pyramids in Egypt during his time serving in the Mediterranean. (Edwards Family Photo)

The tales of one-time Oak Bay resident Dutchy Edwards

Athlete-turned-commodore once played tennis with King of Sweden

He played tennis with the King of Sweden, survived an escapade on a Q-boat, and even lived in Oak Bay.

The tales of John “Dutchy” Crispo Inglis Edwards are many, and they live on today thanks to his detailed daily journals.

“When he died [at 82 years of age in 1978], we put everything of his into trunks,” said Helen Edwards, retired Victoria resident and author of The History of Professional Hockey in Victoria. “Eventually, I went through it and his journals are incredible.”

Edwards was already a history fanatic when she uncovered the journals. It took most of the last year to put the book together – Dutchy’s Diaries: Life as a Canadian naval officer, in his own words and it has earned her many exciting reviews from military historians across the country.

READ ALSO: Victoria’s first century of pro hockey captured in new book

“It’s the detail that’s unlike other journals kept from that time,” Edwards said. “Most of the book is first-person, and the stories are not just about his naval experience but on everything, even a toothache. It makes him this human being that we can relate to [and] not just a photo of a naval officer on the wall.”

Reading the journals changed a lot of how Edwards saw her father-in-law.

“I used to see him as an old man, I thought of him as an old man,” Edwards said. “I see him now as this dashing young naval officer and I understand what he talked about, I understand his stories.”

Edwards’ husband, John [Dutchy’s son], died on Feb. 29 this year. It made John happy that he was able to see the book about his father make it to print. The couple presented it two weeks before he died during a book launch at a CFB Naden event.

“It meant a lot to him, and for our children, that he got to see it,” said Edwards, of the couple’s three daughters and one son.

Dutchy was born in Londonderry, Nova Scotia, in 1895, when it was a booming smelting industry. He graduated from the Royal Naval College in Nova Scotia (which was eventually destroyed in the Halifax Explosion of 1917) into the navy during the First World War.

Dutchy was a gifted athlete, and the book talks a lot about tennis and other sports he engaged in.

“In today’s world he probably would have earned a lot of money, but you didn’t then, when things were amateur,” Edwards said.

Most of Dutchy’s war assignments were in the Mediterranean including patrol around the Dardanelles where the British had suffered major losses in Turkey due to poor planning.

“He was in what you would call skirmishes more than he was in sea battles,” Edwards said.

At the time, the British navy was employing Q-ships, or decoys, and Dutchy was set up on one for nearly a month.

“Q-ships were set up to look like innocent little boats, like a fishing boat,” Edwards said. “Men would even dress up, sometimes in women’s clothing. If a submarine or enemy ship came close they had barriers they could quickly remove that expose guns.”

Dutchy escaped the inherit harm of the Q-ships and returned to other ships where he continued his progression through the ranks.

But it was his many exploits away from the war that stand out in his diaries.

In the 1920s he was stationed as an athletics instructor at HMCS Esquimalt and became the “dashing young navy man” who, by the many accounts of his journal, was a “who’s who” to have at the many high society parties in town.

In the 1930s Dutchy was promoted Lieutenant Commander and Commander at Esquimalt.

Dutchy married his wife Dorothy, or Dot, a fine tennis player and the two of them traveled and beat most couples in tennis. During one stop Dutchy was in Malta where he played tennis with the King of Sweden.

Come World War Two, Dutchy was stationed as the athletics instructor at HMCS Cornwallis.

“He was in his 40s, but he would compete with the young soldiers and the reports of the time match that he would often win,” he said.

While Dutchy was at HMCS Naden in 1946 his family lived in Oak Bay until they built their house in North Saanich.

Dutchy retired in 1951 as Commodore from the Canadian Navy. Fast forward a few years and Edwards, dressed as Santa Claus, was assigned the duty of giving out gifts to the four single men at the Department of National Revenue Christmas Party in Victoria. One of the single men was John, her future husband. Shortly after, she met his dad, Dutchy, and mother, Dot.

“He would tell stories that I wasn’t always sure were true, but a lot of them are in these journals and a lot of them have photos,” Edwards said.

The book is available in softcover from Munro’s Books and Bolen Books and on Amazon.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

Courage Remembered

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

From right: Brad Cameron, BCEHS superintendent of patient care delivery for Greater Victoria, with primary care paramedics Em Funk, Tyrone Trotter, Fiona Galvin and Peter Hill at the Leigh Road station. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore paramedics didn’t waver when faced with COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. Emergency Health Services personnel are this year’s Courage and Bravery Award recipients

February is Black History Month. (Photo: Government of Canada)
Camosun College highlighting Black content with research guide during Black History Month

The collection includes a range of works by Black authors and creators

Amy Morrison was surprised to find a note on her windshield for parking on a public street with no restrictions in south Oak Bay where she works. (Amy Morrison Photo)
Oak Bay resident uses notes to claim street parking

‘You must have noticed, we park in front of OUR HOUSE,’ note writer says

Debra Sheets, a University of Victoria nursing professor, is starting Victoria’s first Memory Cafe program for adults with dementia and their caregivers. (Photo: Debra Sheets)
Memory Cafe Victoria hopes to connect local dementia community

Adults with dementia and their caregivers will participate in weekly Zoom socializing and activities

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

After nearly 10 months of investigations, Mounties have made an arrest in the tripping of an elderly woman in Burnaby this past April. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Mounties charge suspect for tripping elderly woman near Metrotown in April

32-year-old Hayun Song is accused of causing bodily harm to an 84-year-old using her walker

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives to view the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Death threats mount against Dr. Bonnie Henry, sparking condemnation from Horgan, Dix

Henry has become a staple on televisions in homes across British Columbia since January 2020

Shoppers will be able to get their hands on signed bottles of Ryan Reynolds’ new gin at B.C. liquor stores this summer. (Twitter/Ryan Reynolds)
Ryan Reynold’s Aviation Gin autographed and coming to B.C. stores

This summer 100 bottles will be available to the public for purchase across five B.C. liquor stores

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
‘Stay local’: Dr. Henry shoots down spring break travel for British Columbians

B.C. is reportedly working with other provincial governments to determine March break policies

Most Read