Some Memories of Captain Bob Lewis

by John Lewis 2017

Captain Bob Lewis

Captain Bob Lewis (Photo from the John Lewis collection. )

Robert Gilmour Edwardes Lewis was born in Kamloops on March 18, 1925; one of four sons of Percy Edwin Lewis and Connie Lewis. Bob was named after Major–General Robert Gilmour Edwards Leckie who led the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. Percy Lewis had served under General Leckie at the Battle of the Somme. The family moved from Dollarton to Quathiaski Cove on Quadra Island in November, 1931 at the height of the Great Depression.

Ryall Store

The Ryall and Lewis General Store in Quathiaski Cove (Quadra Island BC) circa late 1930s. My grandfather’s house is right beside the old store and looks like my grandmother’s laundry is on the line. The store has a very large label to attract the attention of mariners entering the harbour. (Photo from the John Lewis collection. )

A wartime friend, Sidney Ryall, already had a store established on Quadra Island and Percy became a business partner in the Ryall and Lewis General Store in Quathiaski Cove where the Lewis boys grew up. Percy also operated the Blue Goose; the water taxi service between Quadra and Campbell River (it used to dock near where the Beehive restaurant is now located).

Bob left Vancouver for Courtenay (1941–1942) for grade 10. Following his year in Courtenay, Bob returned home and went fishing with well known local skipper, Sam Hunt, (on a BC Packers) seine boat.

His brother Jack was already in the Navy by this point (entered in 1939). Friend and fellow veteran Doug Burnett, told me that he recalled seeing my dad’s vessel HMCS Talapus coming into the Cove while the boys were painting a boat up on the ways. They all dropped their paint brushes and all made a pact then and there to join the navy as soon as possible.

Three of Percy Lewis’ sons joined the navy and one joined the airforce for war service. P.E. Lewis was a founding member of the Royal Canadian Legion on Quadra Island and served as president in 1939. Bob Lewis was president of the Campbell River Legion in 1950 and George in 1948–1949.

In 1940–1941 Bob worked in the cannery at Quathiaski Cove as a kid for 10 cents an hour during the period (1940–1941). A coveted job was shovelling coal off the barge (for 25 cents per hour) for the cannery. The cannery burned down in 1946 and was not rebuilt.

In 1942, aged 17, Bob enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy Fishermen’s Reserve along with brother George, who was then 16. Bob took a bus from Campbell River to Esquimalt and then to William Head for basic training from July-September. He then joined a crew that travelled to Vancouver, picked up a landing craft, and sailed it back to Courtenay where they were based. Lewis Park is where the barracks was located – across from the Courtenay House, the old beer parlor.

Landing Craft

Troops Landing on D‐Day in Landing Craft (Photo from the John Lewis collection. )

Bob was posted to Prince Rupert for more training in January–April 1943. George transferred into the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve in April 1943. Bob followed suite with Frank Inrig, his future brother–in–law, shortly thereafter.

Then in the spring of 1943, Bob, George and Frank Inrig, all took the CPR train from Vancouver to Halifax NS for commando training. They traveled across the Atlantic in a troop ship from Halifax to Liverpool (6 days in May 1943) and then on to Paisley Scotland on the strength of HMCS Niobe for training.

Bob and George joined the crews of LCA (Landing Craft Assault) for training at Loch Fyne. The Wikipedia states the LCAs were "typically constructed of hardwood planking and selectively clad with armour plate, this shallow–draft, barge–like boat with a crew of four could ferry an infantry platoon of 31, with space to spare for five additional specialist troops, to shore at 7 knots (13 km/h)." Both then went from Newcastle to Southampton and were assigned to LCI(L) 306. The Landing Craft Infantry (Large) was a small steel ship that could land 200 troops, traveling from rear bases on its own at a speed of up to 15 knots.

Injured, (crushed) by a hydraulic watertight door in September 1944, Bob arrived back at Halifax (sailing in the troop ship Ile de France) and hospitalized for 6 weeks. He was demobilized after his release from hospital and arrived back at Quathiaski Cove.

He joined the merchant marine in May, 1945, one week after being discharged from the navy. His travels took him to the southern hemisphere providing supplies to the Pacific theatre operations for one year. Ports of call included Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and the Cook Islands.

Black Raven

F.P.V. Black Raven (Photo from the John Lewis collection. )

Bob spent the entire season of 1947 as a cook with James Lagos. In January 1948, Bob was offered and accepted the position of Fishery Officer and Master of the Fisheries Protection Vessel Black Raven. Bob continued with this position until 1956 having the opportunity to see the coast and walk many rivers. His wife Jean was working at the BC Packers store in Quathiaski Cove.

Controlling Sea Lions

Bob in his role as Fisheries Officer. Approaches to fisheries management have changed dramatically from those days.(Photo from the John Lewis collection. )

Jean got a job at Lavers Store in 1956. The same year Bob and his good friend Skip McDonald each bought 50% of the Beehive Restaurant and left his Fisheries position. Bob and Skip met each other as neighbors on Birch Street. They became friends and decided to go into the restaurant business together. In 1959, Bob sold his share of the Beehive to Skip and went back to commercial fishing. The business didn’t return enough money for the two partners and Captain Bob opted to go back to commercial fishing. Skip later became the mayor of Campbell River.

Bee Hive Restaurant

The old Bee Hive Cafe taken by myself in 1980. This old building has long since been replaced by a newer Bee Hive. The roadway between the Bee Hive and the old Lavers Store in the photo led directly out to the original pier in Campbell River. This is where the old Union Steamships and water taxis would pick up and drop off passengers and freight. (Photo from the John Lewis collection. )

In the fall of 1971 Bob bought the Ste–Bo–J (Steve–Bob–Jean) and fished with her in 1972. Stephen took control of the Ste–Bo–J in 1976 for one season only. Then Bob took the helm in 1977 while Stephen went seining with Dave Henshall on the Miss Tina. Bob fished until 1985 when he was retired and the vessel was sold to Stephen He died on December 7, 2016.

To quote from this article please cite:

Lewis, John M. (2017) Some Memories of Captain Robert Lewis. 2017.

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