Holy Spirit Province Saint-Esprit
Franciscans of CanadaFranciscains du Canada

Ordo Fratrum Minorum

An outpost on the Queen Charlotte Islands

An outpost on the Queen Charlotte Islands

 

In this week of Remembrance Day, we take time to honour those who have served and protected our country, and those who have fought and continue to fight for peace.

 

Fr. Lucian Kemble in the Royal Canadian Air Force, 1941-1945

Among the accounts of the First World War and Second World War, we can find the quiet strands of stories and memories of Franciscan friars who have served in various roles, from army chaplains to medical orderlies.

Before he entered seminary to begin studying for the priesthood, Fr. Lucian Kemble joined the Royal Canadian Air Force to serve as a wireless operator. He was 19 years old when he enlisted and he served from 1941-1945. He was a member of the #1 Coast Watch Unit, which manned 8 outposts along the west side of the Queen Charlotte Islands, now known as Haida Gwaii. For 14 months, from summer 1942 to October 1943, Fr. Lucian was stationed on the Queen Charlotte Islands in a remote outpost at Gowgaia Bay.

Map drawn by Fr. Lucian Kemble showing the location of the radio cabin at Gowgaia bay

In a letter to a friend written in the 1970s, Fr. Lucian reminisces on his time there:

We were 4 men to a camp. I was the radio operator at Gowgaia Bay, the southernmost camp. Our job was to report by radio to Prince Rupert on all ship and plane movements. We were subsequently replaced by 3 radar installations. We had to build our own log cabins and lookouts. Our life was rugged, lonely but for me, a prairie boy, always most fascinating, especially since I was so keenly interested in the wild splendor of the Islands.

Left: Exterior of the radio cabin, 1942-1943
Right: Fr. Lucian Kemble seated at the radio station inside the cabin, 1942-1943

Fr. Lucian Kemble (back row, far right) with other military servicemen, 1942-1943

 

In 1945, after the war, Fr. Lucian began studies at St. Anthony’s College in Edmonton and continued his theological studies in Montreal. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1953.