Few Canadians are aware of the time when WWII came to the shores of Newfoundland. During the Second World War, mines on Bell Island, Newfoundland supplied iron ore to Cape Breton’s steel mills, accounting for one third of Canada’s steel production. Germany knew that if they interrupted this flow of ore, even temporarily, Canada’s war output could be seriously affected.
On the night of September 4th, 1942, a German U-Boat followed the ore carrier Evelyn B into its anchorage. The next morning and under the guns of the Bell Island Battery, the U-Boat sank two ships: SS Saganaga and SS Lord Strathcona. Twenty-nine men were killed in the attack, all aboard Saganaga. While nothing appeared in the press about this incident, news quickly spread. The Battle of the Atlantic had suddenly come close to home.
On November 2nd, 1942 another U-Boat entered the bay, and found several ore carriers at anchor. A half hour later, one torpedo was fired at the 3000-ton Anna T. It missed and exploded ashore at the loading dock, awakening the whole of Bell Island. Two torpedoes were fired at SS Rose Castle. Rose Castle sank, taking twenty-eight of her crew with her. The vessel PLM 27 was next, and she sank almost immediately after being hit, with the loss of twelve men. In the ensuing confusion, and despite the presence of a corvette and two patrol boats, the U-Boat escaped on the surface in the darkness.
This event contributed to the province’s identity by directly connecting residents to a global conflict, and by increasing awareness of the strategic importance of Newfoundland and Labrador’s industries both here and abroad.
Cas Dobbin and I dived on the Saganaga today. Cas is working on his Technical Diver qualification with me and I had a chance to test out new Kubi gloves with my Santi Ladies First drysuit. The water was 1.5°C, so it was a good test of equipment. We managed 2.5 hours of submersion today in two dives and I was comfortable and warm.
If you want to dive the Bell Island shipwrecks, come visit Rick Stanley and Ocean Quest Adventure Resort.