Captain George A. MacFarlane Faces an Incident of Live Shot in the Second World War

by John M. MacFarlane 2014

Captain George A. MacFarlane

Captain George A. MacFarlane (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

My grandfather, Captain George A. MacFarlane was the skipper of the big tug Nitinat Chief, owned by the Nitinat Lake Logging Company. Both he and the tug were well known to Vancouver Islanders and were certainly familiar to mariners.

Captain MacFarlane served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. He was severely wounded and was invalided out of the Army in 1919. He had unsuccessfully applied to join the Marine Division of the RCAF and also to join the Navy – rejected by both services as "medically unfit" due to the lasting effects of his severe wounds received in the First World War. He did not offer his services to the Army – holding a low regard for that branch of the service carried over from his earlier experiences.

Nitinat Chief

Nitinat Chief (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

The Nitinat Chief

In an old clipping of a newspaper report probably dated from 1942 we find an amusing anecdote that captures some of the under–currents of wartime Victoria and the reaction of veterans of the previous War to the wartime restrictions on coastal shipping.

Tug Plying Off Here Hit With Live Shot

"Capt. George MacFarlane, master of the tug Nitinat Chief, arrived in port steaming hot Thursday, reporting he had been fired on with live bullets from shore while passing through Race Passage off the Race Rocks lighthouse."

"Race Passage is a restricted area, but Capt. MacFarlane, who operates regularly between Port Renfrew and Victoria towing spruce logs for airplane construction, claims the restrictions are waived for tugs with tows or in stress of weather."

"He is a veteran of the last war and still carries the scars of shoulder and leg wounds."

""I didn't mind facing rifles - I've experienced that before - at the front, but I object to being fired on at home while carrying out peaceful duties," declared Capt. MacFarlane this morning."

"He said he reported the incident to Work Point, adding: "They told me there must have been blanks (blank shot). But the bullets used on me were live." The skipper produced a discharged live army rifle .303 bullet from his vest pocket to prove it."

"Plowed Through Side"

"He walked aft and showed where the bullet had passed through six inches of timber and ricocheted to the deck."

""I have three men in my crew, all returned men, one who is shell shocked. He was in bad shape when they fired on us yesterday and we were all in danger from flying bullets.""

"The captain said five bullets were fired."

"Capt. MacFarlane said he was going through Race Passage about 4:15 when soldiers at Point Christopher opened fire on him without warning."

"Half Gale Blowing"

"He said he was aware of the restrictions in the area, but a southwest blow was freshening and a strong ebb tide running making it impossible to round the Race outside."

""They opened fire with rifles as I was passing the western side of the passage and then they ran over to the eastern side as we passed through. I tooted my whistle, I hove to and went close in to explain that it was impossible to go outside and then was told to "get going." I then proceeded to the inspection boat , where I have been in the habit of reporting about three times a week, and they treated me white, as they are in the habit of doing."

"Identity Clear"

"The diesel tug has V–127–A painted in 10–inch letters on each side of her pilothouse which gives her identity to the authorities, Captain MacFarlane explained. "If there had been a big swastika there instead," he said, "I'd have understood.""

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2014) Captain George A. MacFarlane Faces an Incident of Live Shot in the Second World War. 2014.

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