50th anniversary commemoration in Channel-Port aux Basques: video
Video: CBC TV News, broadcast October 14, 1992
Reporter: Reg Sherren
Interviewed: John Dominie, Leonard Shires, James Cuthbert, Arthur Taverner
Transcript of CBC TV News video:
[Old photo of S.S. Caribou ferry. Then view of the sea from the deck of a ship. Then old newsreel of German U-boat captain at the periscope of his submarine. View of a merchant ship through the periscope with crosshairs. A torpedo speeding through the water, then an explosion on a merchant ship. Then a view of the sea.]
Reporter: The Caribou was the pride of the Cabot Strait, sailing that night with 237 passengers and crew on board. They thought it would be another quiet night crossing but all that changed. It took less than five minutes once the torpedo hit. In five minutes, the Caribou was gone.
Reporter: John Dominie was at the wheel.
[An older man in glasses sitting at home.]
John Dominie: It was only me and the second mate in the wheelhouse at the time. Well, all I said was, “we got it.” That’s the … um … we had to get. So, I went down on the starboard side of the bridge, went down and sure enough there was steam on that side. So, I left and went over on the other side, and that’s where the boat was to and I got into it. There were no … she was full of passengers then.
[A middle-aged man with a beard sitting outside his house. Then an old photo of an infant boy.]
Reporter: Leonard Shires, just 15 months old at the time, was the only infant on board to survive.
[A middle-aged man with a beard sitting outside his house.]
Leonard Shires: The North Atlantic in the wintertime; it’s not a very hospitable place. And I don’t know, I can’t imagine a baby bobbing around out in the ocean.
[A Remembrance ceremony beside a memorial monument. Sailors in Navy uniform hold several flags. Many others are present in Legion and military uniforms. Then a view of the names of the dead on a bronze plaque on the memorial.]
Reporter: Today in Port aux Basques they remembered the 136 other souls who did not survive. Many of them young families, women and children on their way to visit husbands and fathers who were fighting the war.
[Old film of a German U-boat at sea. Then old documents and photo of steamship. Close-up of a page from the logbook of a German U-boat.]
Reporter: How did it happen? How did the German U-boat find the passenger freighter in the dark of night, not 20 kilometers from safety. New information from the German government reveals the Nazi commander’s thoughts as he stalked the Caribou. Ready for one more kill before escaping into the North Atlantic. The Caribou was there for the taking and there was little the captain of the Navy escort ship could do about it.
[Close-up of older man in suit and tie sitting outside.]
James Cuthbert: When you see children in the water dead and when you see women desperately trying to get up the ship side. Well it was so difficult.
Reporter: He and his crew managed to save over a hundred people but the ones he didn’t still haunt him to this day.
Older man in glasses sitting down at dining room table with several old photos. Old photo of ship’s officer in uniform on the bridge of a ship.
Reporter: It haunts Arthur Taverner too. He was supposed to be on the Caribou but jumped ship two months before after a fight with his father. His father was Ben Taverner of Port aux Basques, the captain of the Caribou. He was lost with his ship. His two other sons were lost as well. Arthur was the only one left. It was almost too much for his mother to bear.
[Close-up of older man in glasses speaking inside a house.]
Arthur Taverner: And I came home, she was sat in the hall. She … she said you’re the only one I have left. She put her arm around me. We sat there all night, never moved. She never ever got over it, up to the day she died, no.
[A Legion member lays a wreath at a memorial during a Remembrance ceremony. A large crowd of citizens, dignitaries, Legion members and military personnel in uniform in the background.]
Reporter: Today they mark the [50th] anniversary of that fateful night and the memories of those who never made it to shore. What happened that October 14th was a story of war, of heroes and victims, of tragedy and despair, of fate and luck. Reg Sherren, CBC News, Port aux Basques.