Ottawa

101-year-old war veteran shares WW II stories from the chemistry lab

Paul Beaubien's chemical inventions helped the Allies beat the Germans during the Second World War, but for decades he couldn't talk about it — not even to his family.

WW II veteran Paul Beaubien helped create blackout curtains, smoke screens

Second World War veteran Paul Beaubien, 101, is a former chemist whose inventions helped beat the Germans. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Paul Beaubien's chemical inventions helped the Allies beat the Germans during the Second World War, but for decades he couldn't talk about it — not even to his family.

Now 101, the Ottawa veteran is finally sharing his war stories from the lab, including how he used chemicals to create blackout curtains.

"In London, they had to shut the lights out at night. The German airplanes, they could see the lights and — boom," he told Hallie Cotnam on Ottawa Morning.

"London asked us if there was a way that we could have a blind that would be light-proof so they couldn't be seen from outside."

Beaubien also helped create smoke screens to protect convoys in the St. Lawrence River from enemy submarines.

"During the war, you don't have months and months and months of research. You've got to find a solution today, in a very limited time," he said.

Paul Beaubien keep this sign in a case at the Perley and Rideau Veterans' Health Centre where he lives. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Beaubien was born in Shawinigan Falls, Que. He studied science in Montreal, then returned to work at Shawinigan Chemicals.

Beaubien initially joined the air force to fight in the Second World War, but his professional experience landed him a spot in the lab in Ottawa. He also made two trips to the United Kingdom during the war.

After the war, Beaubien worked on secret projects at the National Research Council in Ottawa. 

Beaubien said he is "honoured" to be laying a wreath at the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Perley and Rideau Veterans' Health Centre, where he lives.

"It means they recognize my contribution," he said.

with files from Hallie Cotnam

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