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Chapter 2:

    At 10:00 P.M, the crews from Grand Bay and Isle aux Morts who had conducted an independent search for survivors reported to Lewis George. The Grand Bay searchers reported that they had recovered two bodies twelve to fifteen miles west of Channel Head and they requested that a doctor and Sergeant Forward of the Newfoundland Ranger Force come to Grand Bay. Lewis George, Sergeant Forward, and Able Seaman Wilson went to Grand Bay to identify the bodies.

    One body was identified as that of Llewellyn Carter an Assistant Steward on the S. S. Caribou. The other body was that of a woman who could not be identified. 

    Lewis George was then advised by telephone that one of the vessels from Isle aux Morts, which was now at Port aux Basques, had recovered two bodies. He immediately returned to Port aux Basques with the other members of his party and found that both bodies were female. One body was identified as that of Miss Fitzpatrick, the stewardess on the S.S. Caribou, while the other body could not be identified.

    The bodies were recovered within a half mile radius of each other, fifteen miles due west of Grand Bay. This information left the searchers in a state of despair: they had been searching in the wrong area, approximately twenty to twenty-miles from where the ship had been torpedoed. The information supplied to the searchers had been incorrect. It may have been an attempt to keep civilians clear of a war zone where small vessels would have impeded the Navy in its operation against U-69 and/or other submarines. Or, it may have been an error in communications, or possibly the bodies may have been moved by ocean currents and/or the wind.

    All vessels had returned to port and it was decided to continue the search the following day. Oil and gas were distributed to the operators of the various vessels and all equipment was checked for the morning sailing. The next day, Thursday, October 15, the vessels went to sea again in search of bodies. 

    On shore, the four bodies that had been recovered the previous day were prepared for burial. The preparation was performed with haste since Port aux Basques lacked embalming facilities at that time. The bodies were moved to the Orange Hall where they were prepared for burial by local women and placed in coffins built by local carpenters. At this time, Able Seaman Wilson recognized the body of Nursing Sister Wilkie. This information was wired to Major General Page, Commanding Officer Canadian Troops in St. John's, Newfoundland, by Sergeant Woodley. 

    Around 5:30 P.M, the people who were continuing the search for bodies or survivors returned to port with a total of thirty bodies: two members of the Canadian Army, one United States serviceman, two members of the Royal Canadian Navy, and one civilian who was Inspector of Navel Stores and classified as military. The remaining bodies were members of the ship's crew or civilians. 

    By Friday, October 16, no instructions had been received from St. John's and since rigor mortis was setting in the bodies, it was decided that they should be washed. Lewis George asked the military to look after the bodies of military personnel because the people of Port aux Basques were looking after their next of kin and the civilian dead. The Army Police then became involved in the preparation of the deceased military personnel and civilians. Those involved were Army Police personnel McQueen, Poirier, Schaffer, Williams, and Mackie. 

    At this point there was a shortage of coffins and Mr. Hanson of Cape and Company agreed to have nine rough coffins made to accommodate the remaining bodies. Army Police Lance Corporal Poirier and Able Seaman Wilson then commenced the task of preparing the bodies for burial. The bodies were sewn in sheets and placed in coffins. Sergeant Woodley was in charge of personnel effects and identification. As the work was progressing, Major Cassidy, Captain Adder, a medical doctor, and the American Base Embalmer arrived from Fort Pepperel in St. John’s to embalm a U. S. Major and an employee of Fort Pepperel. Lance Corporal Poirier assisted in the embalming.

    On Saturday, October 17, the last of the service personnel who perished in the sinking of the S. S. Caribou were placed in their coffins and the tops screwed down. Their names were stenciled on the top lid and a small flag was attached to the head of the coffin. They were then moved to the Express Shed from were they would be shipped by rail to their final resting place. 

    The time now was 5:30 P.M., and no information had been received from St. John's. Sergeant Woodley thought that someone would arrive on a special train that day at 6:30 P.M. 

    Meanwhile, Flight Lieutenant H. H. Graham of the Royal Canadian Airforce and Pay Lieutenant E. Wright of the Royal Canadian Navy arrived at Port aux Basques on a fishing schooner. They had been traveling along the south coast on a Aircraft Detection Corps inspection tour. Flight Lieutenant Graham, on seeing the situation in Port aux Basques, wired St. John’s to inquire if he could render assistance in arranging for the disposal of the bodies of airforce personnel who had died in the sinking. He received a telegraph message from St. John’s informing him that they had no knowledge of the bodies and to wire full details.

    Flight Lieutenant Graham then wired the Royal Canadian Airforce, and Pay Lieutenant Wright wired the Royal Canadian Navy, and full instructions were received within two hours on the method of disposing of the bodies of military personnel. After the reply was received, Able Seaman Wilson and Sergeant Woodley visited Dr. Parsons to obtain Death Certificates for the deceased military personnel. Personal effects were turned over to the escorts. Pay Lieutenant Wright accompanied the bodies of navy personnel, and the Army Train Patrol escorted the bodies of army and airforce personnel.

    As the Express train left the station at Port aux Basques, the servicemen had been on duty for twenty-four hours and they were looking forward to a well deserved rest, but as they walked toward their lodging the ship's whistle of the S.S. Burgeo was heard. Sergeant Woodley and Able Seaman Wilson then returned to the wharf to resume their duties with the movement of troops. After processing the troops, they returned to their lodgings, changed their cloths, and attended the funeral of the crew members of the S.S. Caribou who had been residents of Port aux Basques.


Chapter 3

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