The Loss Of The Caribou

The “Caribou” was a government boat
Which plied on Cabot Strait
Commissioned some twenty years ago
For passenger traffic and freight;
Attached to the Newfoundland Railway,
Part of our system grand,
The connecting link with Canada
This ship from Newfoundland.

For many years this staunch ship crossed
O’er smooth and stormy water,
Her schedule always up to date
Despite the wind and weather.
Stoutly was the good ship built
Against Arctic ice conditions,
Oft times plowed through heavy ice
To fulfill the toughest missions.

Around the coast of Newfoundland
Are many ships employed,
Stout little boats each one of them,
Storms they oft defied
Like the men who manned these ships
With nerves as tho’ of steel,
Who never shirk from danger,
Most reliable at the wheel.

The “Caribou” was only one
Of her many sister ships
That sustain the commerce of our country,
Into that system fits.
Without these ships around our coast
Her pulse would fail to beat,
The life blood of our country ebb-
Strangulation, death, defeat.

Thus our country made progress
For eighty years or more
Covering all our coast line
Also Labrador.
In spring and fall and summer
In winter all combine
Which kept in motion all our trade
Likewise our one life line.

Thus it was when war broke out
As never heretofore;
This ship was called to do a job
Which all men now deplore.
To ferry soldiers and munitions
Into our native land
Whilst submarine prowled ‘round our coast
That hunt in packs and bands.

On October the fourteenth
Nineteen hundred and forty-two
The “Caribou” from Sydney sailed
With passengers and crew
To make that crossing of the Strait
On that fatal night
With a full and precious cargo
And excitement at its height.

It had been known long ere this
Of submarine operation
Which had sunk so many ships
Not far from their destination.
But the “Caribou” oft had crossed
From Sydney to Port aux Basques
So gallantly the ship steamed out
To tackle this grim task.

The night was dark, no moon there shone.
As out of port she steamed,
An escort picked her up outside
To guard her with her beam
O’er that dangerous strip of water
This gap she must now cross,
Which was to prove so fatal,
Resulting in her loss.

All went well for six long hours
As a zigzag course she steered,
With naught to break the hush of night
Except the swish and blare
Of water slapping on her sides
As through the waves she plowed
A change of course was noted
As the siren blared aloud.

From port to starboard she steamed on,
All was quiet below;
A star would flicker now and then
As o’er the waves they go
With nothing to disquiet them
Still holding in their course,
The radio beam found no submarine
For them ‘twould mean the worst.

All is well, the Captain thought,
As near to port he drew
With the dawn about to break
And Newfoundland in view.
Accordingly the escort left
To return – her job was done,
Which left the “Caribou” all alone
To make the sole home run.

The last lap of that journey
Was to prove a great mistake,
For misfortune was there lurking
To travel in her wake.
The “sub” had been there waiting
Their favorite hunting ground,
With a well aimed torpedo
The “Caribou” went down.

One hundred and thirty-seven lives
Were numbered in the kill,
The captain and her gallant crew
Their duty did fulfill.
They died as heroes at their post,
Their lives each freely gave
To save a passenger or a child
From the cold dark ocean’s grave.

True to traditions of the sea,
The stewardess death did face
Stepping from a lifeboat
For a passenger to take her place.
No greater sense of duty
Than that displayed by her
To give her life to save another
E’en death could not deter.

Of this quiet unostentatious lady
Let all here bear in mind
That history will record her deed
As our greatest heroine;
Greater love can no man have
Than to give one’s life for a friend,
This sublime virtue she here displayed
Which begets a noble end.

This ended the career of the “Caribou”
Her crew and all on board
Who paid the price of total war
Conceived by the German Lord;
But finer ships will sail again
Across the Cabot Straits
When the Huns have been forgotten,
Condemned by the God of Fate.

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