On the night of 13/14 October 1942, the Newfoundland Railway ferry, S.S. Caribou, was sunk off Port-aux-Basques by the German submarine, U-69. Among the passengers that night were 9 members of the Prince Edward Highland Highlanders. Six of them did not survive.
My grandfather, an officer in the PEI Highlanders, was one of the lucky ones. He survived, as did the two other Highlander officers travelling with him. Unfortunately, the six enlisted men in their command were among the 136 people who died that night.
Books, essays, and numerous magazine and newspaper articles have been written on the torpedoing of the Caribou, the rescue efforts that night, the reasons behind the tragedy, and the survivors. However, I have not found any one article that tells the stories of those who died. Their names would have made local headlines at the time, and they continue to be commemorated on local war memorials, the S.S. Caribou Memorial at Port-aux-Basques, and the monument to those lost at sea at Point Pleasant Park, Halifax. But, there is no single source of information to tell the tales of those who were lost.
My hope and intent is to learn as much as possible about the 6 men of the Prince Edward Island Highlanders who died that fateful night. I would like to learn not only their vital statistics, but also biographical details and anecdotes about their lives, the memories of those who knew them, and perhaps obtain copies of photographs as well. I would like to create a small memorial to them, on-line at this site and/or possibly prepared for publication in something like the Island Magazine.
I would like to ensure that the memories of these brave Island soldiers continues to live on. I would like to ensure that their names remain more than just a footnote to the sinking of the Caribou, more than just a footnote to the war in which it occurred.
Listed below are the names of the six who died as well as a few details about each one. I would greatly appreciate the assistance of anyone who can provide more information on them.
The son of Murdoch and Florence Amelia (O'Brien) Currie, he was born in Londonderry Station, Nova Scotia, on 25 January 1915. He married Ethel Marjorie Warrington of New Glasgow, NS, in Halifax on 31 October 1940. She was born in New Harbour, Guysborough County, NS, in 1913, the daughter of John H. Warrington and Jennie Caroline Horton.
He was born on 6 April 1903 in Charlottetown, PEI, the son of Elijah Diamond and Emma MacCormack. He was the husband of Lucette Diamond of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Pte. Diamond is a member of the Canadian Active Army serving outside Canada. He left on Monday of this week to rejoin his unit after attending the funeral of his brother, Spurgeon Diamond, on Sunday. Better known as "Dick" he is widely known and esteemed. His wife and six children live at 53 Reserve Street, Charlottetown.
The children are: Elmer, with the Canadian Army overseas, Philip Spurgeon, May, Doreen, and Roy, all at home. His father, Mr. Elijah Diamond, and a brother, Melville, also reside in this city.
Charlottetown Guardian, Saturday, October 17, 1942, Page 1
The son of Lester and May Francis of Albany, Prince Edward Island, he was born in Albany on 2 February 1921. He married Janie Louise Mercer, the eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Augustus Mercer of Grand Falls, Newfoundland, at St. Matthews Presbyterian Church, Grand Falls, on 23 May 1942 (Charlottetown Guardian, Wednesday, June 17, 1942, page 3). According to his service records he left behind at least one child, a daughter, Greta May Everett Francis, born 24 September 1942.
J. C. Byron McDonald, the son of Charles Edward McDonald and Rose May McArdle, was born in Charlottetown, PEI, on 17 October 1904. He married Ethel Lorette Gillen, the daughter of James Gillen and Katherine Butler, in Moncton, NB, on 28 August 1942. She was born in Moncton on 10 April 1898.
Sgt. Byron McDonald is the son of Mrs. McDonald and the late Charles E. McDonald, Summerside, and is a man who is well and favourably known in Maritime business circles.
Sgt. McDonald was recently married only six weeks ago. His wife is the former Ethel Gillen of Moncton. Sgt. McDonald was born at Charlottetown but moved to Summerside shortly after. He was educated at the Summerside High School and the Summerside Business College. Sgt. McDonald is a highly qualified accountant and has held a number of positions of trust and responsibility in the Maritimes. His ability is recognized as being exceptional, after graduating from business school he worked for a short time in the office of R.T. Holman Ltd. He then moved to Moncton and after a time became the manager of the Bore Motor and Fuel Co. Ltd. Later he retured to the Island as provincial manager of the McColl Frontenac Oil Co. Previous to joining the army he practised as an independent Accountant.
In the summer of 1940 he entered the army as a private and received rapid promotion. His present rank is sergeant but he was recommended for a promotion, which would likely have meant a commission. He had recently taken a course in administration and after spending a few days with his wife in Moncton was returning to his unit.
Sgt. McDonald has one brother and on [sic] sister, Mr. F. Earle McDonald and Miss Edna McDonald, Summerside. One other brother Elmo died in childhood. He is 38 years old.
Charlottetown Guardian, Saturday, October 17, 1942, Page 11
He was born on 16 June 1919 in Cardigan, PEI, the son of Henry Bertram and Mary Shepherd. He was single at the time of his death. [Note: Official records list the surname as SHEPHERD but his father used the spelling SHEPHARD in his correspondence with government officials.]
Cpl. Shephard is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Bert Shephard of Cardigan. He is about 22 years of age and has been on active service with the Canadian Army since the outbreak of the war.
He left home the first of this week on return to his unit after spending a short furlough at his home in Cardigan. His mother was informed that he was missing on Thursday evening. His father is working on the mainland at present.
Lawrence has a wide circle of friends and is highly esteemed by all who knew him
He has two sisters and eight brothers. They are: Ethel, Charlottetown, Henry with the Canadian Army, Bernard, Carol, John, Clair, Clifford, Eunice, Brendon and Emmett, all at home.
Charlottetown Guardian, Saturday, October 17, 1942, Page 1
He was born in Summerside, PEI, on 24 September 1915, the son of William James and May Annie Sullivan. He was single at the time of his death.
Sgt. Sullivan is the son of Mrs. Sullivan and the late W.J. Sullivan of Summerside. He had been in Ontario taking a course and had spent a few days at his home in Summerside and was returning to duty. A very capable soldier, who has been recommended for a commission.
Last year he had been chosen to go to England where he spent four months taking a Commando course. He is held in high regard by the men of his unit and around Summerside and is a popular member of the younger set.
He first joined the militia in 1929 and last year received the efficiency medal given for merit to those with 12 years of service.
Before the war, Sgt. Sullivan was an employee of the Summerside Electric Light Department.
He has seven sisters and brothers. One brother, Ray, was killed in the last war. Those living are: Mrs. Fred V. Haskell, New Jersey; Mrs. Eva Higgins, New Britton, Conn.; Mrs. W.H. Noonan, Summerside; Rev. John Sullivan, S.J. Toronto; Sgt. William Sullivan, U.S. Army; Pte. Gordon Sullivan, Canadian Army; Sgt. Enoch Sullivan, Canadian Army overseas.
Sgt. Sullivan is 27 years of age and was born and brought up in Summerside. He was educated in Summerside High School.
Charlottetown Guardian, Saturday, October 17, 1942, Pages 1 and 11
Most of these photographs were in my grandfather's possession. They are contemporary prints, so were likely given to him shortly after the sinking. He did not recall when, how or from whom he acquired them. My best guess is a crewman of the HMCS Grandmere, which escorted the Caribou that night and rescued the survivors, took the photographs and later distributed them to interested survivors. Because of this, I am not able to provide a proper photo credit. Some of the photos were later included in books by Cassie Brown and Douglas How. Brown does not provide a source or credit. How states "Courtesy Ad Stady" and "Courtesy John Rigby" for different potos but does not indicate if they were the photographers or, like my grandfather, merely had them in their possession and made them available for the book.
Some of the photo captions are mine and some are those used by either Brown or How.
I'm actually related to two survivors of the sinking: my maternal grandfather, J. Ira Hickey; and Leonard Shiers, the sole infant to survive the sinking. My grandfather survived the war. He passed away in 2006. Leonard Shiers, who I never met, was a distant relative on my father's side of the family. He went on to serve in the Royal Canadian Navy. He passed away in 2018.
I had the pleasure of accompanying my grandfather and other survivors of both the S.S. Caribou and the H.M.C.S. Grandmere on the maiden voyage of the Marine Atlantic passenger ferry M.V. Caribou in 1986 and was present for the memorial service that was held in Port-aux-Basques, NL.
I was pleased to be able to assist the Railway Coastal Museum, St. John's, NL, with their exhibition on the sinking of the S.S. Caribou titled Remember the Caribou. I contributed several photographs for their static display, which ran from October 14 to October 24, 2004.
Newfoundland was not part of Canada until 1949. Service there during the Second World War counted as "service outside Canada."