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Whatever happened to...?

Hubert & Bernard... the 'middle' Chambers brothers

Hubert was the fifth surviving child born to Edmund and Sarah. Another son, John Oates, lived for only a few months and died in 1886. Hubert was born in 1888 in Netherfield, a suburb of Nottingham, where Edmund was running a grocers shop. Bernard's birth followed in 1890, by which time the family had moved to Caythorpe. They only remained in Lincolnshire for a short time before Edmund moved his growing family, first to Eastwood, where his parents had a thriving grocery and pawnbroker business on Greenhills Road, then known locally as the Breach, before taking on the tenancy of Haggs Farm in 1898.

Perhaps, with such a short space of time between their births, it was inevitable that these two brothers would sustain this closeness throughout their lives. In the family photograph taken in 1899 they appear to be dressed identically!

Both boys helped out on the farm and from the age of 14, after leaving school they occasionally also worked in the coal mines. In the Spring of 1901, D H Lawrence accompanied his mother on a visit to the farm. The two families knew one another from their time in Eastwood when they attended the Congregational Church. The children had also met at school and would play in the nearby fields. This was the first of many such visits that Lawrence would make over the coming years, becoming an integral part of the Chambers family.

In the early 1900s, the Canadian Government was encouraging immigration, particularly by agricultural workers, and advertisements to this effect were placed in English newspapers. Many people in the Nottingham area were attracted to this opportunity to start a new life. Hubert and Bernard met some Canadian farmers in a Nottingham pub and from them learned about the 'homestead' plan. This scheme enabled people to pay a fee to establish a claim on a section of land which, if you subsequently farmed and lived on it for at least three months a year for three years, then became yours for free.

They were attracted to the idea but needed funds to pay for travel costs and living expenses to tide them over before they were able to find employment. To this end, in 1913, they went to work in the recently opened coal mines around Doncaster. They sailed from Liverpool to Halifax, Nova Scotia in March 1914 before continuing by train to Saskatchewan.

They moved from town to town working in a variety of temporary manual jobs, mainly farming, which would give them the experience needed for managing their homesteads. Eventually they paid a deposit of ten dollars on a section of land near Turtleford and later on in 1914, set about building their first shack. They lived there during the winter months until the spring of 1915 when Hubert went away to work and Bernard found odd jobs nearby and began to build a more substantial shack.

Bernard Chambers

Hubert Chambers recruitment details WW1

Both brothers enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in January 1917 and saw active service in France. On their return in 1919, they were entitled to a loan from the Soldiers Settlement Board and with a loan of 500 dollars from Hubert, Bernard was then able to purchase a 60 acre farm near Mervin where he had cows and horses. He then decided to get married and asked his mother if she could find him a wife.

Elizabeth Marsh was a family friend from Nottingham and she left her parents’ home in February 1921, travelled to Canada and married Bernard, who she scarcely knew, on March 10th 1921. They built up the farm and had three sons before eventually downsizing when their youngest son took over the farm. Bernard had been exposed to gas whilst in France in WW1 which caused him health problems over the years and he died in 1965. Elizabeth died in 1987 aged 95.

Hubert never married. He lived near or with relatives until his death in 1972 and, like Bernard and Elizabeth, is buried in Mervin Cemetery.

The brothers are immortalized as Maurice and Geoffrey in DH Lawrence's story 'Love Among the Haystacks.'

Carol Mills

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Sep 29, 2020

A really good piece...

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