Howard Frazer Chamberlin Family Adventures c.1930s

– Narrated by Sharlene Macintosh with help from her cousin Zellie Chamberlin Sale (granddaughters of Howard Frazer Chamberlin, lighthouse keeper c. 1930 – 1941)

Nootka Light -photo - Bill Maximick of Maximick Originals

My grandfather was Howard Frazer Chamberlin who was lightkeeper at a few lighthouses around Vancouver Island  – Nootka , Pine Island , Quatsino , Trial Island  come to mind – my Mom knows them all. His brother, Charles Benjamin Chamberlin was also assistant at Nootka.

My Mom, Mina Peet (née Chamberlin) was born in Oct 1933 while her Dad was a lightkeeper. He originally did various jobs such as farming, prospecting, trapping, and logging with horses. He had a sawmill at Coombs, BC and he was injured while logging with horses on Vancouver Island. He was put into hospital where he met my grandmother Dora Anna Wordsell who was a nurse. 

They married December 12, 1928 in Nanaimo, BC. They had three daughters: Connie (who died in 1985), Pearl, and Mina. The first child, a son, died up near Prince Rupert, BC right after birth, so my grandmother was sent the next time to New Westminster, BC  to give birth (at a real hospital) where her parents lived, and the second two times to Victoria, BC.  Continue reading

Was Nootka Lighthouse Also Attacked in WW2?

page 1 of H. F. Chamberlin letter letter courtesy of Zellie Chamberlin Sale

 

Howard Frazer Chamberlin was on Nootka lighthouse in 1942 according to the interview by the Naval Reserve (see letters at left). But there is a problem here.

When I received a copy of this letter I thought it was referring to the attack on Estevan Point which supposedly helped introduce conscription in Canada during the Second World War. But if you check the dates, this seems to have occured almost a month later to the day that the Estevan Point shelling happened. According to all records, the shelling of Estevan Point took place nightfall of June 20, 1942. 

page 2 of H. F. Chamberlin letter letter courtesy of Zellie Chamberlin Sale

This letter seems to show that there was another attack at Nootka lighthouse about a month later on the evening of July 18, 1942. In fact the lightkeeper states that he phoned Estevan Point Wireless station to see if they were being plastered again! (my emphasis – JC) But Estevan returned the call and said that they had heard nothing so it must have been nearer Nootka. From working with explosives in mining and prospecting, Howard Chamberlin knew the difference between industrial explosives and high-explosives. 

The only thing that appears to be at odds here is that he feels the vibration from the explosions as from underwater. I wonder if he was hearing depth charges going off? This is just one month later than the Estevan incident. I will bet that the Navy and the Naval Reserve were on high alert during this time and expecting the worse. Perhaps a floating log triggered the release of a few depth charges. 

A transcript of the original letter(s) follows:

                        From H.M.C.S. “Pryer”
To COAV
Esquimalt BC
                        Nootka Lighthouse
                        2200 / 19 / 7 / 42
Subject
            Interview With Mr. H. F. ChamberlinLightkeeper 

I was sitting in the kitchen of the Light
house, overlooking the sea, and having
a cup of Tea at 1902 hours July 18/42, when
I both felt and heard an explosion from
a southerly direction. (out to sea) and
this was followed by six other shocks
at intervals of about one (1) minute
between shocks.
I was naturally surprised and could
see the vibrations from the shocks in
the cup of Tea.
As an old Miner and Prospector I can
easily tell the difference between “blasting”
and “submarine” shocks, and the shock
I both heard and felt were definitely from
seaward, and from the “feel” of the vibration
I would say from underwater.
The first shock occured at 1902 and the
last shock at 1911, as I noted the time of last shock.
I phoned the wireless station at Estevan Point
and asked them if they had been “plastered” again, and
they informed me that they had felt or heard nothing.
It was at 1915 when I phoned Estevan Pt. Wireless.

Page 2
(same as Page 1 but with signature at bottom) 

Witness
      Chief Skipper J. D. McPhee, R.C.N.R.
            Commanding Officer
                  H.M.C.S. “Pryer”

*********************************

– Howard F. Chamberlin (Lightkeeper on Nootka 1936 – 1941) 

Langara Island 1943 – 1945

– Norma (Kinnear) Money and Willa (Kinnear) Studiner (daughters of William Norman Kinnear, Senior Keeper on Langara 1943 – 1945)

Original interview from the Pine Tree Line1 website which is now hosted on this site.

The duplex – light tower barely visible on right side

Comments by Ren L’Ecuyer 2 – The Kinnear family lived at the lighthouse complex on Langara Island in the 1943-1945 time period. I was fortunate to communicate with Norma Kinnear in February 2004. I had requested her assistance in trying to recreate what once existed at Langara Island. The following detail is a series of questions and answers – all of which provide additional information on what occurred at Langara Island during this period of time. 

Q#1 – Can you please provide the names of your parents, your sister and yourself? I assume there were just two children when you went to Langara Island. 

A#1 – Father: William Norman Kinnear. Mother: Doris May Kinnear. Sisters: Willa Margaret Kinnear and Norma Kathleen Kinnear. 

Q#2 – How old were you and your sister when you arrived at Langara Island? 

A#2 – My sister (Willa) was seven and I was eight. 

Q#3 – Was Langara Island the first location for your father as a light keeper? 

A#3 – Yes.  Continue reading

Cape Scott Before the Lighthouse 1942 – 1943

In July 1942, seventeen (17) years before the present lighthouse at Cape Scott was lit, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) established a radio detection finding (RDF) transmitter and receiver at the point. Work was started in July 1942 and the station was online in December 1942. It continued in operation until September 1945. (please see reference notes below). 

Ernest J. Ferguson

Late in 2005 the lighthouse keeper at Cape Scott, Harvey Humchitt, received an inquiry from Ernest J. Ferguson who was reminiscing about his earlier life and wanted to visit Cape Scott, his old haunt from 1942. He was a well-retired RCAF Pilot Officer who started on Cape Scott in July 1942 as a Leading Aircraftman (LAC). 

In his email he wished to visit the area once more but Coast Guard would not permit it because of his age (he was 85 years old this year [2006]). Since then he has written Harvey and myself and given us a few black and white photos and stories of his time setting up No. 10 Radio Detachment on Cape Scott.  Continue reading