The Battle of the Atlantic  

Evening Telegram
Front page of the St. John's Evening Telegram, Monday, May 14, 1945

Before World War II began, the iron ore mine on Bell Island, Conception Bay, Newfoundland had important ties with German manufacturing companies. Unfortunately, this meant some German submarine captains knew the waters around Newfoundland very well. These submarines were called U-Boats ( short for Unterseeboote, the German word for submarine). U_boats provided one of the greatest challenges of the war in the waters of the North Atlantic. The fight to defeat the German U-boats is called "The Battle of the North Atlantic," but unlike most battles, it was fought over a long period of time. By April of 1942, German U-boats had sunk 198 ships in the North Atlantic. Many of these were supply vessels and even passenger ships carrying goods and people across the ocean between Europe and North America.

    On October 14, 1942, a German U-boat torpedoed and sank the SS Caribou, the passenger ferry that carried people between North Sydney, Nova Scotia and Port aux Basques, Newfoundland. That night, 137 people died in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. In those days, commercial air travel was rare, and the ferry was the only way most people could travel between Newfoundland and the rest of  Canada. U-boats dropped off spies and attempted to pick up escaped German prisoners of war. One set up an automatic weather station in Martin Bay, Labrador, which transmitted data to the submarine for about three months. They also mined the waters outside larger harbours such as Halifax and St. John's and torpedoed both land targets and sea-going ships.

    Although the threat of U-boats lessened as the war progressed, German submarines continued to create problems for the Allies until the war with Europe ended in the spring of 1945. When Germany conceded defeat, the remaining submarines surfaced and surrendered to Allied vessels, just like the one shown in the newspaper at the top of this page.

To Find Out More

Visit Veterans Affairs Canada's Battle of the Atlantic page.

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