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Palmer and Williams Boatbuilding
| Palmer and Williams | Dehydration Plant | Jenkins Cannery |
The first war-related industry came to Summerside in the form of a contract awarded to boat-builder Edward Chappell. He was hired by the federal government to build nine 40-50 foot wooden vessels. Numerous small craft were needed by the Royal Canadian Navy for service work in harbours where ship convoys were formed.

The project got underway in July 1941. Sometime between July and November 1941, the local plumbing and heating firm, Palmer & Williams Co. Ltd., acquired the contract. The business owned by partners A. W. Palmer and R. S. Williams had moved into new premises on the south side of Water Street in July. It built a 90 x 30 foot warehouse along the waterfront at the rear of the premises. That fall the company began to build boats in a large building located on the railway wharf. By November, four had been launched. Upon completion they were sailed to Halifax where the Navy took possession.


The next April, Stanley MacKinnon, who was hired to transport five vessels, took Palmer & Williams to court for not paying enough wages to cover the time required for him to make the delivery to Halifax. By 1943 the Navy itself was sailing the boats to their destinations. In October of that year, fifteen Navy men were in Summerside to take charge of three vessels.


There were at least three unfortunate incidences reported in the local newspapers about the firm. In December 1942, two workers fell into the harbour at the railway wharf and had to be rescued. In August 1943, there was a strike by the 25 workers. A third incident happened at sea. The tugboat Lawrence T. Porter, purchased by the firm after it ran aground on the PEI coast in 1942, exploded and sank off Guysborough County, Nova Scotia in September 1944. Mr. Palmer was on board at the time and he and four others escaped in a lifeboat rowing four hours to shore.

Palmer and Williams were still building boats in 1945. In May of that year a diesel powered training vessel was built for the HMCS Queen Charlotte naval training centre in Charlottetown. It was the only one built in Summerside to be used in Prince Edward Island.

Over the course of the war, approximately twenty-seven 46-foot harbour craft were built in Summerside. Most were used in Halifax, some were sent to Sydney, and others went to Gaspe and St. John's, Newfoundland. Two 60-foot target-towing vessels were built - the HMCS Inglewood was posted to Sydney and the HMCS Kirkwood was posted to Bermuda.

The government sold all the vessels after the war. Many of them were used by private owners for decades. View a gallery of photos pertaining to this local war industry.