Widow recalls sinking
‘They never suspected they would be attacked’
This article appeared in the Gulf News in a special insert printed Oct. 13, 1992, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the sinking of the S. S. Caribou. Evelyn Butt passed away on April 21, 2011.
“I found out just before noon time that day,” Evelyn Butt recalled. “I knew something had happened because people were out on the street everywhere. They were going back and forth, but nobody came where I was.” It was Oct. 14, 1942.
Her husband, Hubert Coffin, was a sailor on the S. S. Caribou and his father, Elias Coffin, was boson.
Mrs. Butt said the S. S. Caribou wasn’t prepared for war.
“They didn’t carry any guns or anything,” she said, “because they never suspected they would be attacked.”
The Port aux Basques widow said she never heard her husband mention any sightings of German U-boats in the gulf. Although other ships traveling back and forth the seaway noted seeing, “something out there,” Mrs. Butt says the S. S. Caribou was always well lit because they had no fear of damage.
She suspects the enemy had knowledge of the Caribou’s cargo because she not only carried coal and ballast, the vessel brought servicemen home.
“There were a lot of orphaned children left from all the families,” she added. Her only child, Nathan, had just turned a year old on Oct. 3. “I packed him up and moved back home with my family.”
The Orange Lodge was used to house the bodies of those who were found. Unfortunately, neither Mrs. Butt’s husband nor her father-in-law were among them. Their bodies were never found.
Several years later the young widow married serviceman Garland Butt.
Evelyn Butt lost her husband and her father-in-law the night the S. S. Caribou was torpedoed.