Captain Benjamin Taverner Biography

Born: November 5, 1880, Trinity
Son of James and Rachel (nee Hiscock) Taverner
Married: Amelia Miller (nee Babstock) on January 27, 1904, St. John’s
Died: October 14, 1942

Benjamin and his wife, Amelia, had eight children: Benjamin Gordon (died in infancy); William (Bill) Codner (1904 – 1967); Stanley (1908 – 1942); Colin Bruce (1912 – 1988); Lillian Isobelle (1916 – 1998); Harold Graham (1918 – 1942); Anne Irene (1922 -     ) and Arthur Squarry (1924 -    )

He received his Certificate of Competency No. 339 as ‘Only Mate’ on March 2nd, 1908 and his Certificate of Competency No. 364 as ‘Master’ on January 11th, 1911.

He served on the following ships:

Mayflower – as Mate from November 1903 – December 1904
Bruce – 1912
Lintrose – 1913
Meigle – 1915
Glencoe – 1918
Sagona – 1917 - 1919, 1923 and 1924
Kyle – 1925 – 1927
Prospero – 1928
Caribou – 1928 – October 14, 1942

The Reid Newfoundland Company and later, the Government of Newfoundland, had quite a number of vessels constructed in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, (the Reid Company vessels were nicknamed The Alphabet Fleet, many of which Taverner captained).

Captain Taverner or as he was commonly called “Captain Ben”, was one of the foremost Captains of his time having started his career before the turn of the century at a young age when he acquired a British Foreign Going Masters Certificate. Captain Ben also had an instinct (combination of skill and experience with a sixth sense) for navigating the treacherous coastal waters around the Province.

In 1927, Captain Taverner found the wreckage of the plane “Old Glory” that had sank off the coast of Cape Race which had come down during an attempt to cross the Atlantic from Old Orchard, Maine to Rome. 52 ships were involved in the hunt for the wreckage as there was a $25,000 reward for the skipper that could find any floating remains. Captain Ben found some of the wreckage in the S.S. Kyle and brought it back to St. John’s but never did get the reward.

Later in 1927 he was presented with a sliver jug by Sir Wilfred Grenfell as a token of his appreciation for assistance rendered to various Grenfell Missions along the coast.

In 1928 he was appointed as Master of the S. S. Caribou whose route was back and forth across the 96 miles of the Cabot Strait to North Sydney, Nova Scotia from Port aux Basques. War broke out and the vessel remained on a peacetime sailing schedule but Captain Ben was concerned that his vessel was a sitting duck for German submarines. His theory proved to be correct as at 3:45 am on October 14, 1942 approximately 20 miles off Channel Head the vessel was hit and sunk and 137 passengers and crew were lost. Captain Ben and his two sons, which were part of the crew, were lost that night: Stanley who was Chief Officer and who had just passed the exams for Master of Foreign Going Vessels and was set to replace his father as Master of the Caribou and Harold who was the Third Officer.


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