The Caribou Memorial
On Monday, Oct. 13, 1947, a general meeting of the Channel Branch of the Great War Veterans Association ( GWVA) was held in connection with the plans for the fifth anniversary of the loss of the S. S. Caribou and the unveiling of a newly purchased Caribou memorial.
The Channel branch of the GWVA was first formed in 1928 under the presidency of Mr. Hawker and functioned for eight years. It was re-organized again in 1945 under the presidency of Capt. David Brinton and was now a very active branch. Its jurisdiction extends from Cape Ray to Cape La Hune with a potential membership close to 400 members.
On Monday a large gathering of veterans were present including the following officers. Capt. David Brenton, past president; Joseph W. Stickland, president; Reginald Rose, vice president; Fred. M. Cox, secretary; Sam Rose, treasurer; Victor Lewellyn Billard, G. Osmond, John Ralph and Garland Butt were all executive members, and Fred. G. Matthews, secretary Corner Brook Branch.
Following a general discussion, on the unveiling programme sponsored by the Channel Memorial committee, it was decided that veterans of the First and Second World War would form up in front of the courthouse in Channel and parade in a body to the memorial site at Port aux Basques to take up their position and serve as bodyguard for the occasion.
At 3 p.m., the next day, Tues., Oct. 14, exactly five years after the sinking of the S. S. Caribou by a German submarine, over 500 residents of the Twin Towns gathered at the foot of Lookout Hill in Port-auxBasques to witness the unveiling and dedication of the monument which had been erected there in memory of those who lost their lives on that fateful day.
At 2:30 p.m., the representatives of the various Twin Town organizations assembled in the square before the Channel Post Office and paraded to the memorial site in Port aux Basques. Included in the parade were detachments from the American Army at Harmon Field and the American Coast Guard at Mouse Island.
The official unveiling of the memorial was conducted by the Honourable Herman W. Quinton, Commissioner for Public Health and Welfare, representing His Excellency the Governor. Wreaths were laid from the Dominion Command of the G.W.V.A. which was represented by Reverend T. E. Loder from Corner Brook; St. James Church, Channel; Town Council of Channel and Port-auxBasques along with memorial wreaths from other dignitaries, organizations and relatives of the victims of the disaster.
The Reverend George Martin, gave the prayer of dedication and other prayers were made by the Rev. Samuel Baggs, the Rev. Father J. McElhinney, and Lieut. Monk of the Salvation Army. The Hymn—”Oh, God, Our Help in Ages Past.” was sung and led by the two church choirs.
Visitors to the memorial service were loud in their praises of the citizens of the Twin Towns and the Caribou Memorial committee for their splendid work in raising funds for the erection of the beautiful memorial, a high standing column containing name plates with the statue of a caribou on the top.
J. V. Ryan of the Newfoundland Railway and the Railway Employees Welfare Association were due special commendation, for it was largely through their support that this memorial was erected.
The loss of the Caribou, just 15 miles off Channel Head, with a death toll of 137 men, women and children was the greatest wartime tragedy affecting Newfoundlanders in their home territory. It was fitting that the anniversary date of this tragic event should be the day on which this memorial to the unfortunate victims should be unveiled. Located at the foot of Lookout Hill, overlooking the harbour of Port-aux- Basques, it can be seen by all who enter the port. The beautiful cenotaph with its ever burning amber light will perpetuate the memory of those gallant men and women who gave their lives.