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Shock and anger in Newfoundland and Canada

Sydney Post-Record newspaper Caribou Tragedy headline

Canadian newspaper headlines of the sinking of S.S. “Caribou”

A week after the sinking, Newfoundland Railway agent Charles Moore recalled the submarine ramming lifeboats and machine-gunning survivors on that fateful night. Newspapers across North America carried Moore’s account, stoking hatred of the Nazi regime. One editorial described an enemy that “rose to the surface to gloat over its dead”. In actual fact, the logbooks of both U-69 and H.M.C.S. Grandmere confirm that the U-boat never surfaced after the attack.

newspaper clipping

Shock and anger of Canadian government to “Caribou” sinking

S.S. Caribou’s only surviving officer, Tom Fleming remembered Captain Taverner complaining about having to make night crossings. Victim’s families blamed the Navy for not listening to Ben Taverner. Defenders of the military argued that the Newfoundland Railway set the schedule. In Corner Brook’s Western Star, Pilot Officer John Barrett’s grieving father asked why the railway management had been “needlessly endangering human lives—the lives of helpless women and innocent children” by not changing “the hours of the Cabot Strait service”.

map showing hometowns of S.S. Caribou victims across North America

Map showing hometowns of 137 victims of S.S. “Caribou” sinking

Most North Americans raged against Germany. Seven days after Able Seaman Cecil Boohan was rescued from a raft, a celebrity interviewed him in Ottawa’s Capital Theatre at a Victory Bonds fundraiser broadcast on national radio. “Before leaving the stage the seaman said he was anxious to get back to sea and ‘to help get that German sub’.”

Newspaper ad showing torpedoed ship

Remember the CARIBOU – Buy Victory Bonds!

But, Boohan refused to be photographed, “I didn’t do anything but jump into the water when the boat was sunk.” Even without his photo, the survivors’ stories helped launch a campaign to raise three-quarters of a billion dollars for the war effort.