Day of remembrance held for cadet killed at area port

Day of remembrance held for cadet killed at area port

Stanley Peacock, 16, was killed in explosion at Hunter Boats in Orillia while working on Canadian Navy ship; ‘It’s important to remember the sacrifice,’ says relative

Exactly 80 years after his tragic death, Stanley Peacock was honoured during a sombre ceremony at the St. Andrew’s – St. James’ Cemetery on Friday afternoon.

Family members, members of the public, and officials from the Royal Canadian Legion gathered around Peacock’s grave to honour the Royal Canadian Air Cadet 99 Squadron member who was killed during the Second World War.

Peacock, 16, was working as an electrician apprentice in 1943 at Hunter Boats on the shore of Lake Couchiching, helping to build a Fairmile, a boat used for the Canadian Navy. The ships were used to patrol the St. Lawrence River to find German submarines.

“There was a total of 80 built in Canada with the first seven being built in Orillia,” explained Rob McCron, the public relations officer for Orillia Branch 34 of the Royal Canadian Legion.

On a crisp fall evening, a broken light bulb and a gas leak combinted to create an explosion on board the Fairmile Peacock was working on, taking his life, and injuring six others.

“The Orillia Fire Department responded quickly,” McCron said of the emergency response that fateful day. “There were 2,000 gallons of fuel on board and if the whole boat had blown up the Legion might not be there today.”

Without the Orillia Fire Department containing the blaze, McCron says everything up to Front Street likely would have been blown up. Two Orillia firefighters — Captain Elgin H. Jones and Lieutenant Daniel Macleish — were awarded the King George VI Police and Fire Services Medals for Gallantry.

Peacock, a student of Orillia District Collegiate and Vocational Institute, was standing right next to the hatch when the explosion occurred; he wasn’t found until the following day.

Whether he knew it or not, Peacock gave his life to the war effort, McCron says.

“It’s important that we pay our respects to Stanley,” he said. “He was a student from Orillia, an air cadet, and it just so happened that he was working on that day when tragedy happened.”

McCron notes that a memorial to the Fairmile boat, the air cadets, and the fire department will be installed near the Legion in the spring.

Stanley’s nephew, Don Peacock, great nephew Kyle Peacock, and niece, Valerie Mann, were on hand during Friday’s ceremony.

“It’s important that we remember the past,” Mann said. 

“It’s important to remember the sacrifice that was given,” added Don Peacock.

While neither knew Stanley, they say they are proud of him and his legacy.

“We hope he is remembered as a great man,” Mann said.

“He gave his life to the war effort,” Don added.

“This is one of the many examples of heroic efforts that happened on the home front,” said Kyle Peacock. “We can’t forget how Orillia came together to support the country.”

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