The Shipwreck Preservation Society of Newfoundland & Labrador just launched an online exhibit entitled When World War II Came to Bell Island, Newfoundland. The exhibit tells the story of two German U-boat attacks in 1942 that sank four Allied cargo ships and killed 65 sailors just off Bell Island, Newfoundland. The exhibit is available in both English and French and was created in partnership with the Bell Island Heritage Society and the Virtual Museum of Canada.
We tend to think the battles of World War II only happened far away from Canada. Yet in 1942, submarines from Nazi Germany brought the war to a small island in the Dominion of Newfoundland (Newfoundland was not part of Canada until 1949). In two separate attacks, German U-boats sank four Allied merchant ships and killed 65 sailors from around the world. Newfoundlanders were shocked by the savage attacks right on their doorstep. Despite the shock, Bell Islanders immediately responded by rescuing and caring for the survivors of the sinkings.
The U-boat attacks had a lasting impact on Bell Islanders, especially in Lance Cove, closest to where the ships were torpedoed. Graves of the dead seamen, a memorial to their sacrifice and two rusting coastal guns are physical reminders today. The four shipwrecks on the seafloor now draw scuba divers from all parts of the world to Newfoundland, to explore their mysteries and beauty. Eyewitnesses to the attacks have passed their stories down to their children and grandchildren.