The Sinking of Four Dosco
By Sydney S. Slaven
On Sept. 5, 1942, the Saganaga, Lord Strathcona, and the PLM 27
were loaded and at anchorage while the Rose Castle was loading at
the pier. Two other ships bound for other destinations, were also
loaded and present the Evelyn B. and the Drakepool. At 11:07 a.m.,
the German U-Boat 513 launched a submerged attack. The patrol boats
had not posed a problem and two torpedoes struck the Saganaga causing
her to break in two and go down in 20 seconds. At 11:30 a.m. the
Lord Strathcona was torpedoed and went down in 90 seconds. The Rose
Castle and the Drakepool got their guns into action and were firing
at anything that resembled a periscope. The Evelyn B. got underway
and tried to ram the sub. As the dept of the bay was only 20 meters,
she passed over the top of the U-Boat and her screws damaged the
conning tower of the sub.
The U-513 was forced to break off action and retreat from the bay.
Captain Guy, of the Evelyn B. was awarded the Order of the British
Empire for his prompt action which saved the ship at the loading
pier and the PLM 27. In all, 30 seamen perished. An inquiry was
held and ultimately a new system of patrolling Conception Bay was
implemented. In the future the navy would provide constant patrol
of the anchorage, which would be increased when ships were loading.
Also, two fair miles, speedy plywood boats, would carry out wide
sweeps of the area. Never again would merchant ships be at anchorage
The Rose Castle seemed to be living a charmed existence. After surviving
the Sept. 5 siege, she once again came under attack in the Cabot
Strait. On Oct. 20, 1942, the U-69, which had sunk the ferry Caribou,
fired a torpedo at the Rose Castle. But the torpedo failed to explode
and she was able to escape unscathed. However, the suicide type
defense practices were still being carried out at Bell Island.
On the night of Nov. 2, 1942, the Rose Castle and the PLM 27 were
at anchor waiting to load, when the U-518 made an attack. Once again
the patrol boats were not a hindrance and the sub made a surface
attack. Its first target was the Rose Castle which was hit by two
torpedoes, causing it to sink immediately.
The U-518 then dispatched the PLM 27 to the bottom with two torpedo
hits. The sub then turned and fired two shots from its stern. One
inflicted major damage to the dock while the other ran up onto the
beach and didn’t explode. The U-518 then left Conception Bay
and proceeded to carry out its primary mission, which was to drop
off a spy on the Gaspe coast. This time 40 merchantmen did not survive.
By now it was quite clear that the defense system at Bell Island
was woefully inadequate, and it was decided to erect a submarine
net around the anchorage and loading areas.
After this net was put in place there was no further loss of ships
at Bell Island for the rest of the war. However, by November 2,
1942 the Dosco ore carrying fleet was at the bottom of Conception
Bay. The Newfoundland government has erected a beautiful monument
at Ann’s Cove, Bell Island, in remembrance of the 70 merchant
seamen lost during the German submarine attacks of 1942.