Fact: The Sydney Steel Plant proved invaluable to the saving of Great Britain during World War II

 

Fact: The war effort took all of the steel that the plant could produce

 

Fact: In 1942, German Submarines sank four ships that were carrying ore from Wabana to Sydney

 
 
 
 

 

The Sinking of Four Dosco Ships
By Sydney S. Slaven


The sinking of the ferry MV Caribou 60 years ago, which was commemorated on Thanksgiving Day in Port aux Basques, Nfld., and North Sydeny, brings to mind the sinking of four Dosco (Sydney Steel) ore-carrying ships.

Production at Dosco was essential to the war effort, especially the manufacture of plate steel for ship building. In 1942, the four main ships assigned to transport iron ore to Sydney from Bell Island, Nfld., were the company owned Rose Castle, two chartered ships, the Saganaga and the Lord Strathcona, and the free French ship, the PLM 27.

The French ship had been at sea when France fell to Germany and was assigned to the ore run by the Allies. Ore was mined at the Wabana works on Bell Island and shipped from Conception Bay to Sydney. In terms of safety, the discharge area at Sydney was much safer then the loading docks at Bell Island. Sydney was the assembly area for the convoys made up of coal-fired steamers because they could take on bunker at the coal piers.
At times there were as many as 200 merchant vessels in Sydney harbor. Because of the German U-boat threat, an anti-submarine net was installed, stretching from South Bar to the Northside. This provided a safe haven for the ships unloading ore. Unfortunately, this was not the case at Bell Island, Nfld.

It was evident to Canadian authorities early in the Second World War that the two Bell Island loading piers would be vulnerable to enemy attack. Two 4.7 inch guns and two searchlights were installed on a cliff above the loading area. Also, the area was to be patrolled regularly by corvettes and minesweepers. One or more ships would remain in the area while ships were loading.

Also, the ships were to travel in escorted convoys of four. These ships were armed with four inch guns fore and aft which were manned by the regular navy. It was felt that will of these measures would nullify the submarine threat. However, there were two major items ignored. One was that ships were to remain at anchorage while waiting for other ships of the convoy to load. The other problem was that there was no submarine net at Conception Bay.

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Last updated February 1, 2006