Top sailor award honours Capt(N) Hinton

Capt(N) Peter Hinton, the inspiration for the Memorial Award for Leadership and Excellence in Service. Photo supplied.

Capt(N) Peter Hinton, the inspiration for the Memorial Award for Leadership and Excellence in Service. Photo supplied.

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer 

The Capt(N) Peter Hinton Memorial Award for Leadership and Excellence in Service recognizes the Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) Sailor of The Year.

Typically bestowed upon junior non-commissioned members, it recognizes sailors who demonstrate ethical leadership, integrity and commitment to duty. With senior leadership, Geraldine Hinton of Victoria, widow of Capt(N) Hinton, presents the award annually to commemorate Peter’s legacy and as a gift to the award winner.

It is a dedication to Capt(N) Hinton, whose devotion to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) spanned 30 years of service. It was established after a request by Geraldine.

“I was seeking a way to not only honour Peter but all the brave young men and women who sacrificed so much when they volunteered to serve in the Second World War,” she said. “In consultation with the Navy I suggested the award recognize the ideals of courage, service, leadership, esprit de corps, and sacrifice so apparent then and now.”

Capt(N) Hinton’s legacy embodies this spirit.

Born in Shanghai, China, on April 18, 1921, but raised in Victoria, Peter attended Monterey Elementary, Vernon Preparatory, St. Michael’s University School and Brentwood College, where he excelled in rugby, cricket and sailing. Peter joined the Navy in 1941. After serving aboard minesweeper HMCS Kelowna, he commanded Landing Craft (L) 262. He was one of the youngest to command a landing craft when he commanded Allied troops in France during D-Day when he transported North Nova Scotia Highlanders onto the beach at Bernières-sur-Mer.

He and his crew narrowly avoided death and severe injury when another allied landing craft came alongside and bumped Peter’s vessel into a landmine despite his warnings to use extreme caution and avoid the hazard. Author Mark Zuehlke published an account of Capt(N) Hinton’s story in the book Juno Beach, Canada’s D-Day Victory. 

Peter returned to Canada in 1945 and left the Navy, albeit briefly, before rejoining in 1951. He went on to command RCN vessels HMCS Columbia, HMCS Fortune, and HMCS Athabaskan and was the first captain of HMCS Protecteur for its commissioning in 1969.

His other appointments included Commandant of leadership school HMCS Cornwallis.

“It was there he framed the philosophy that every sailor had the potential and opportunity to demonstrate leadership and that every member of the ship’s company is equally important to the smooth operation of the ship and the achievement of the mission,” said Geraldine.

Capt(N) Hinton’s other career highlights included:

  • Director of Manpower Planning in Ottawa;
  • Chief of Staff, Canadian Flotilla Atlantic;
  • Base Commander at HMCS Stadacona and CFB Esquimalt; he was the first to be appointed Base Commander back-to-back on each coast; and
  • He retired from the RCN in 1976. 
After his naval career, Peter took on a leadership role in the community, becoming Executive Director of the Victoria Branch of the Canadian Red Cross and volunteering his time as a Victoria Hospice Society board member.

He died peacefully on Dec. 19, 2008, with Geraldine and his family by his side. 

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