Statement of William Currie.
My name is William Currie. I am 31 years of age, single, and reside at Channel. I was assistant steward on board the S.S. Caribou at the time of the sinking. I had been assistant steward since December 1941.
The “Caribou” left Sydney at 9:35 p.m. (Nfld Time) on the night of Tuesday, Oct. 13. We had more than an average number of passengers, comprised of civilians and the armed services personnel. It was a very fine night when the “Caribou” left Sydney with the water smooth.
Ordinarily, all stewards retire after the ship sailed, with the exception of two, one who remained on duty until 1 a.m. and the other until 6 a.m. The same procedure was followed on the night of Oct. 13. I remained on watch until 1 a.m. The all night man was Wm Percy, Sr. I was in company with Percy until 1 a.m. at which time I went back to my sleeping quarters which were located on the starboard side, lower deck, aft on the quarter. I shared sleeping quarters with five other stewards, and the Chief Steward. When I was about to retire the ship was steering badly and when I entered the sleeping quarters the Chief Steward, Harry Hann, enquired of me if the ship was zig-zagging. The remark I made to him was I didn’t know. I went to sleep about ten minutes after I went to bed. I knew nothing more until I was awakened suddenly by what sounded like a heavy explosion. I jumped out of bed with the feeling that the “Caribou” was torpedoed. I put on a life-belt. It was dark in the room but I could hear the other stewards out of bed also. I remarked to one of them – Jerome Gale – that I guessed “We got it” and he replied that he guessed so too. I then rushed up on deck -steerage boat deck- and as I was going up I slipped the pin on one of the life rafts. I t was dark but not totally dark. I could see no light anywhere, either on board ship or elsewhere. As I reached the deck I could hear screeching of women and children and water beating over the bow of the ship. The forward part of the ship was settling fast and the bridge and smoke stack appeared to be enveloped in the smoke and steam. When I reached the deck I met Harold Janes, Chief Cook, and Harry Hann, Chief Steward. I said to them. “Let’s try to get out a boat.” We went to No. 5 (Starboard side) and it was filled with men of army, navy and airforce personnel. The boat was still in the davits. We asked them to get out of the boat until we could get it overboard but they refused. The entire body of them was confused and excited, and we were unable to get them to reason at all. I then went back to the raft – the one on which I had slipped the pin as I was coming on deck – and cut the rafts rope and the raft slipped overboard. I then went back to the lifeboat, once more to try getting her out but we were still unable to get the service men to leave her. In the meantime, Elias Coffin, Bosan, had joined Harry Hann and Harold Janes. We were the only four of the crew in this particular location. I looked up forward at this time and the top of the smoke stack was touching water. I then jumped to the lower deck and walked directly aft and jumped over the stern of the ship. I swam away from the ship and seeing a submerged boat I swam towards it and got on board. Four other men swam to this boat and got on board at the same time as I. It turned out that the stern was gone out of this lifeboat. When I came to the surface after diving over the Caribou’s stern, I could no longer see the ship. There was one pair of oars in the lifeboat and we paddled to a raft which we could see in the distance. Upon reaching the raft we found four men on it. We left the lifeboat and boarded the raft. We then picked up six more men. From this time up until daylight two babies were passed from a raft we met in the dark hours. The two babies were passed to me by some person off the other raft.
At about 7 or 7:30 a.m. a Canadian Minesweeper appeared on the scene and took us off the raft.
From the time I got on the raft for about fifteen minutes afterwards I could hear screeching coming over the water. The raft on which I was, shortly after I joined it, met up with two other rafts loaded with people, and the three rafts drifted together until the Sweeper picked us up.
As far as I know I saw nothing of any submarine. While we were drifting around on the raft, I saw a light about 200 yards to the west. This light on my judgment was 10 or 12 inches in diameter and appeared only for a second and then vanished. When daylight appeared I saw but one life boat and one raft other than the three rafts I accompanied. The raft was full of people but the boat was so far away I could not say whether or not there were people in her.
At the time the Caribou was sinking there was a wind lop making and this increased to quite a breeze from the westward around dawn.
I can’t say if the Caribou was escorted by Mine Sweeper that night. I did not see the Mine Sweeper until I was picked up.
(Sgd) Wm Currie.
N. Forward, Sergt,
Source: "Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador."
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