#02325
Fate Of The Caribou (Barry Davis) video
See also: The Caribou (MacEdward Leach)
And also: The SS Caribou (F Herridge/M T Wall)
And also: The SS Caribou (Traditional)
#342 YouTube video by the author Barry Davis
©2008 ~ Used with permission ~

It was October Thirteenth, Nineteen Forty-Two,
And it was the last night of the Caribou....

She was owned by Newfoundland Railway,
Newfoundland's love and pride,
She was two hundred sixty-five feet long,
she was forty-one feet wide;
She carried four hundred passengers,
first and second class,
Little did she know that night,
this trip would be her last.

She left North Sydney ferry docks
that night at eight P.M.,
With big and tough Ben Tavenor
standing at the helm;
The mine sweeper Grandmere
was her escort for that night,
But even with an escort,
Ben felt something wasn't right.

The night was dark and moonless
as they moved into the strait,
With a very strong southwest wind
coming up around the cape;
"There's too much smoke from the funnel,"
Ben is heard to say,
"And it makes no sense to have
the escort behind us all the way."

The German sub, U-Sixty-Nine,
lay southwest of Port au Basque,
With two lookouts and their batteries charged,
the crew largely at rest;
The captain was ready for action,
but he expected none that night,
When the Caribou, belching heavy smoke,
suddenly came into sight.

Shortly after from the Grandmere bridge
a terrible sight was seen,
It's reported there was one big flash,
then clouds of smoke and steam;
A torpedo from the German sub
had made a direct hit,
Now the job to find and sink the sub
was left to the escort ship.

The sub would not be caught that night,
it would make its getaway,
But before the war was over,
the sub and crew would pay;
The Grandmere returned for survivors,
but the sea had taken its toll,
For the Atlantic Ocean that time of year
is very rough and cold.

It was October Thirteenth, Nineteen Forty-Two,
And it was the last night of the Caribou.
And it was the last night of the Caribou.

####.... Barry Davis ©2008 ....####
See more songs by Barry Davis.

By Cory Hurley, Corner Brook Western Star, February 17, 2008:
A man believed to be the last living crew member and one of the last known survivors of a German U-boat attack on the the SS Caribou off Newfoundland in 1942, has died. John Matthews, 84, passed away in hospital last Thursday after years of lung-related complications.
"For me, as a child growing up, it wasn't something he talked about a great deal," his daughter, Diane Thistle, said in an interview. "He found it too painful, it was usually a teary subject and he tried to avoid it as much as possible."
At 19, Matthews was a deckwatch hand aboard the passenger ferry that ran between Port aux Basques, NL, and North Sydney. In the early morning hours of October 14, 1942, it was attacked by the German submarine U-69. A torpedo ripped a hole in the vessel, sinking it and sending all aboard into the frigid waters of the Cabot Strait. There were 137 casualties in one of the most devastating sea disasters off the coast of Newfoundland. The HMCS Grandmere rescued 101 passengers, crew, and military personnel after hours in the freezing water.Many survivors reported huddling in what was left of the over-filled lifeboats or rafts, fearing for their safety, or spending hours in the ocean clinging to some hope of rescue. The sinking was said to have erased the feelings of security that Newfoundlanders felt despite the war raging around the world.
"It was a painful time. He was in the cold water for such a long time and so many of the people went down with the ship, and that was hard for him as well," said Thistle. "I think his biggest sadness was the big loss of life, and the sounds he heard that night and remembered all his life." Matthews related the story to family of how he woke his bunkmate and friend after the torpedo hit, but shortly afterwards realized they were separated. He never saw him again. However, he also told the story of pulling another survivor out of the water - W J Lundrigan, a well-known businessman and founder of the Lundrigan construction empire.
With less than half of those aboard the S S Caribou surviving the disaster, Thistle said she has always felt lucky to have even been born. "I heard him say that there were so many of them in the lifeboat that they had to take turns getting out into the water and holding onto the boat so they didn't sink it," Thistle said. After being rescued, the Port aux Basques native ended his career at sea but he stuck with the Newfoundland railway, spending 44 years as a conductor. Over the years Matthews attended some of the events held in commemoration of the sinking. Diane and her husband are certain he was the last of the 46 crew living, but there is some uncertainty about how many survivors are still alive.


See more songs about NFLD shipwrecks.


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