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The story of the attacks Nazi Germany made against Allied shipping in Newfoundland's Conception Bay

Hi again, trying to write another "real" blog. I am writing about something that really pisses me off! Today i'm writing about an event most people don't even know about. Being a proud Newfoundlander, i try to keep abreast of things of history that have a "Newf" twist.One of these things are the wrecks of Allied ships that were sunk off of Bell Island in Newfoundland's Conception Bay(the only place in North America directly attacked by Nazi Germany).Let me give a brief history of the event.
On September 5, 1942, German U-boat U-513 silently slipped into Conception Bay, sighted the freighters loaded with ore from Bell Island and fired its torpedoes. The first ship to go down was the SS Saganaga. Minutes later, more torpedoes struck the SS Lord Strathcona. "All you see is a big explosion, you know. Looked like she was hit mid-ship. you know, that would be right dead centre I would say ...," said Patrick Mansfield, who was, back then, working on a nearby freighter.
As the Saganaga and the Lord Strathcona quickly settled to the bottom, they carried with them crewmen who couldn't get out.The shore guns,armed their guns. They positioned themselves to fire but there was no sight of the U-boat. U513 had successfully pulled off the first attack on North America and made its escape.

Attacked again

Two months later on November 2, 1942, another German U-boat, U-518, slipped into the bay and torpedoed the SS Rose Castle. "The ships were fully loaded with iron ore. The Rose Castle actually went down in like 30 to 90 seconds. Boom, straight down." Moments later another torpedo slammed into a Free-French freighter, PLM27, which went down in seconds. Once again the shore batteries tried to find the attacker, but the German U-boat slipped away into the mists of the North Atlantic.Gordon Hardy was an 18-year-old sailor on board the SS Rose Castle. "I got up on the railing and I just jumped or dove, whichever, and the torpedo come through the other side" recalled Hardy."I could hear people all around me in the dark screeching and hollering to God and the Virgin Mary."

A total of 70 men lost their lives in the Bell Island attacks. A few bodies were recovered but most of those killed went down with their ships that, to this day, rest at the bottom of Conception Bay. The wrecks are in pristine condition, likely because they have been sheltered by the bay and preserved by the cold North Atlantic waters.

At low tide you can see, beneath the water, one of the ships resting upright. Dive beneath the sea and this graveyard unfolds in a vista of rusting hulks, huge blast-holes visible in their sides. Silent guns stand on the decks. You swim over them and you're seeing personal artifacts ..., you're seeing torpedo holes, you know you're seeing bridges where people stood, you know you're seeing the portholes that are opened,You really got a feel for what actually happened that day.

Over the years erosion of the artifacts on the sunken ships has become a serious problem-- erosion caused not by nature, but by other divers. Portholes have been pried off as souvenirs. Any dishes or cutlery that were onboard when the ships went down, are long gone. Even boxes of ammunition have been pillaged.

No one is protecting our history, but also that the sacrifice of the men who died aboard these vessels isn't being given the respect they deserve.

THESE ARE WAR GRAVES! It's like taking something out of a time capsule. It's unacceptable. It's unacceptable for the people who lost their lives.

I believe they should be an underwater national historic site. Not just to preserve the history of the Battle of Bell Island, but to preserve the final resting place of brave men who gave their lives in the fight for freedom.

The lack of respect for a gravesite of people who gave their lives so we can have freedom,infuriates me.People who take these artifacts are nothing but grave robbers! and should be charged with said crimes.

thanks for listening to my rant.

Views: 34

Comment by NatureJunkie on May 31, 2010 at 3:39am
I agree with your "rant," Harl. For Canadians, this must be a little like their Pearl Harbor Day.
Comment by photo2010 on May 31, 2010 at 3:58am
Thank you for keeping the memories of these events alive.
Comment by SydTheSkeptic on May 31, 2010 at 10:07am
Wow, I had no idea! The fact that you can see one of the ships in low tide... just, wow.

Does Newfoundland commemorate the event in any way at all?
Are students taught about this part of your history?
Comment by harl on May 31, 2010 at 1:01pm
@NatureJunkie, it should be, but its a part of history thats been largely ignored,which is a shame, theres markers where the boats are and a monument, but theres no special remembrance of the event and no one keeps people from pillaging the wrecks for whatever they can take.

@photo2010 thank you, and thank you for reading.

@syd there is a monument, and buoys to mark where the ships are(mostly to aid shipping) but because during WW2 Newfoundland was a dominion of England and not a Canadian province, Canada doesn't recognize the events (just as they dont recognize the wiping out of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment on july 1st{Newfoundlands memorial day} because its Canada day that day also)they also claim that the ships werent Canadian but British and a free french ship that they arent responsible for maintaining or protecting the site, sadly its not taught in schools (at least when i was in school),the only way you heard about it was word of mouth.i wish it was taught in schools
The ships that cam be seen at low tide were being loaded with iron ore and were moared to the wharf and are very close to shore and all vessels are no more than a quarter mile from land.


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