14th October 1942 – Canadian ferry Caribou sunk, 137 lost

caribou sinking (?)Caribou was a Newfoundland Railway passenger ferry that ran from 1928 to 1942 between Port aux Basques, in what was then the Dominion of Newfoundland, and North Sydney in Nova Scotia. On 14th October 1942 the ferry was attacked and sunk by the German submarine U-69. She had women and children on board, many of whom were among the 137 who died, as well as Canadian, British and American military personnel. The ferry was part of a regular convoy that usually ran three-times a week, at night. The minesweeper HMCS Grandmère was the naval escort vessel. German submarine U-69 was in the Gulf of St Lawrence, seeking victims. At 3:51a.m. Newfoundland Summer Time, Caribou was torpedoed approximately 37 km (20 nmi) south-west of Port aux Basques and sank within five minutes. Grandmère dropped six depth charges, but U-69 escaped. Grandmère went back for survivors, then sailed for Sydney which had better hospital facilities.

IF3495 Marine Atlantic_RECYCLING CarouselOn board Caribou were 46 crew members and 191 civilian and military passengers. Captain Benjamin Taverner perished, along with his sons Stanley and Harold, who served as first and third officers. In total,  137 people died: 57 military personnel, 49 civilians and 31 crew  died. Two female personnel were killed in the disaster: Bridget Fitzpatrick of the Newfoundland Merchant Navy, and Canadian Nursing Sister Agnes Wilkie: the only women in their respective services to be killed during the Second World War.

caribou_broadsideThe ferry had been built at the Adamson shipyard in Rotterdam for the Newfoundland Railway. She was launched on 9th June 1925 and made her maiden arrival at St John’s on 22nd October 1925. Caribou was able to reach a speed of 14.5 knot when fully loaded. She had steam-heat and electric lights in all cabins, considered to be a luxury at the time. With her ice-breaking design, Caribou also assisted during the seal hunt along the Newfoundland coast each spring.