The timeline of events
The sinking of the SS Caribou took place on Oct. 14, 1942 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence at 47° 19’ North, 49° 29’West. Here is how the tragedy unfolded. OCTOBER 13 9:30 p.m. – The SS Caribou, under the command of Captain Benjamin Taverner, departs Sydney with 237 souls on board – 73 civilians (including 11 children), 118 military personnel, 46 crew. 9:30 p.m. – The HMCS Grandmère, under the command of Lieutenant James Cuthbert, also leaves Port aux Basques, serving as a military escort for the SS Caribou.The Bangor-class minesweeper runs astern of the passenger ferry, operating no radar. OCTOBER 14 3:21 a.m. – German submarine U-69, a Type VIIC Nazi U-boat, spots the SS Caribou’s steam trails and misidentifies her as a 6,500-ton freighter and the Grandmère as a two-stack destroyer. 3:40 a.m. – U-69, under the command of Kapitän-Leutnant Ulrich Gräf, fires a 3:40-3:43 a.m. – Torpedo impacted SS Caribou amidships on the starboard side. Her coal-fired boilers immediately explode, causing the ferry to list severely to the port side. 3:45 a.m. – The SS Caribou sinks.The Grandmère attempts to ram U-69, which crash dives. Grandmère fires depth charges in a diamond pattern formation. 3:45-6:30 a.m. – HMCS Grandmère fires off 5 more series of depth charges in pursuit of U-69.The Nazi submarine hid in the waters beneath survivors of the SS Caribou before firing a decoy and slipping away undamaged. 6:30 a.m. – Grandmère halts pursuit and begins pulling survivors from the water. 8:20 a.m. – HMCS Elk and HMCS Reindeer, along with another Bangor-class minesweeper, arrive to help pull survivors from the water. 4:40 p.m. –101 survivors (including one child) arrive in Sydney, Nova Scotia. 59 military personnel and 49 civilians (including 10 children) are dead. FEBRUARY 13, 1943 A magisterial inquiry concludes in Channel-Port aux Basques.The inquiry documented eyewitness accounts and the sequence of events, but no legislative changes by either Newfoundland or Canada were recommended or adopted. FEBRUARY 17, 1943 A little less than 4 months after the sinking of the SS Caribou, U-69 is part of an attack on convoy ONS 165 in the middle of the North Atlantic.The Allied convoy is comprised of slower ships westbound from Liverpool to Halifax Harbour. Destroyer HMCS Fame identifies U-69 on radar and deploys a series of depth charges, forcing the Nazi submarine to the surface. U-69 is then rammed by HMCS Fame and sinks with all 46 hands lost.