All of North America felt the effects of the war effort through rationing. But Port aux Basques experienced the war like no other North American town.
Few war stories bring home the reality of the scope of the Second World War like the tale of the Caribou. The war was truly global in scope, but most North American men went overseas to fight and sometimes die for the cause. There are only a handful of instances where civilians paid the ultimate price from enemy fire on or near North American shores.
With the 75th anniversary now less than five years away, all levels of government should be making plans to pay tribute to the men and women who lost their lives on that day. The story needs to be retold at a national level so all Canadians can - as the old poster says - remember the Caribou and her gallant crew.
There are many ways to pay tribute and share the story. Even though Newfoundland was not part of Canada in 1942, the Royal Canadian Mint and Canada Post might consider a coin or a stamp. It seems every other quarter that passes through one’s pocket has some graphic commemorating this sport or that cause. Normally, the quarter has an image of a caribou’s head. Perhaps it is time for another sort of caribou to appear on the quarter, if only for a year.
The federal government might find the dollars and equipment to pinpoint the exact location of the ship and perhaps even send a camera to the bottom. Memorial University’s Marine Institute is a world leader in developing and using Remote Operated Vehicles, or ROVs, for underwater exploration. Perhaps the university could volunteer its expertise and equipment in such a search.
Such expeditions make the tragedy more real for the general public, but must be done tastefully. The S.S. Caribou is now a gravesite, and must be treated as such. However, recovering some artifacts and pictures would provide physical reminders for those of us who can’t actually remember the event, and would capture the public’s imagination while showcasing our province’s technical know-how.
Finally, a large-scale memorial with dignitaries from Britain as well as Canada - and perhaps even Germany - should be in order for the 75th anniversary. Our local legion and town have always done an excellent job over the years in marking the event. Now it’s time for the province and the country to step up and assist as well, at least for the milestone anniversary that approaches.
All these practices and events would serve to keep the story alive for generations to come. It would be money well spent, but the time to start lobbying for support is now.