Meteghan built boat sunk by Germans during World War Two

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“All felt - or at least had heard rumours, if you will pardon the pun; that there was something “fishy” about the whole episode”

The late Evelyn Richardson (1902-76) of Bon Portage Island, Shelburne County, who won the Governor-General’s medal for creative-non-fiction writing; wrote a bit about war happenings off our shores. Her most famous work was “We Keep a Light,” published about 1945.

The last book Richardson wrote, “B... was for Butter and Enemy Crafts,” went on sale about one week after she died in October 1976. In it, she wrote about the great zeppelin Hindenburg (Germany) flying low over Bon Portage (where they kept the light station), from east to west in late summer of 1936. Many people felt this silver air ship might have been spying over our country, making maps and charts. Richardson wrote “newspapers of the period mentioned her as ‘swastika-emblazoned,” but from the light tower, where I watched enthralled, I detected none of these by then detested signs, only the lovely silver shape and the effortless movement.”

Whether the Germans were charting our waters or not will probably never be known. May 6, 1937, the Hindenburg caught fire and was completely destroyed over Lakehurst landing field in New Jersey. In any case, the Germans knew our waters well and, by 1942, the war was raging on in the air, land and the sea.

By the mid-war years, the Lucille M. (owned by Swim Brothers of Lockport) was equipped for swordfishing and sailed for Brown’s Bank. The skipper was Percy Richardson, and captain and crew were about to be reminded there was a war going on when a German submarine, known as a U-boat, surfaced. According to some, the commander gave them orders, in English, to save food, water and items of clothing, take to the dories and row for home. Then, the Lucille M. was riddled by machine gun fire and sank to the bottom.

Except for the motive the Germans had for sinking a helpless fishing boat, there was nothing mysterious about this story so far. Had the enemy mistaken the wires in the riggings as radio aerials?

What all the old time fishermen could not understand was the speed this ill-fated crew took to row from Brown’s Bank to dry land, about 60 or more miles away. It was done very fast, from the time of sinking to arrival, and all felt - or at least had heard rumours, if you will pardon the pun; that there was something “fishy” about the whole episode. Some felt perhaps someone had taken them close to their destination; if so, who? The navy had a slogan: “Loose lips sink ships,” and there were no loose lips in this crew.

Today, it is easy to speculate on the rumors and ask questions. Was the Lucille M. really on a fishing trip or, as some have asked, was she working under cover for the war effort? Why did the German U-boat feel it was necessary to sink a helpless and unarmed fishing boat? These are questions that have never been answered. Few written accounts on the sinking of the Lucille M. could be found. One newspaper reported the Lucille M. was the first fishing vessel to be sunk by enemy action during World War Two.

Captain Hubert Hall of Overton, Yarmouth County, supplied the best-written documentation on the Lucille M.: “The Lucille M. was registered (#138742) at Yarmouth, built at Meteghan, Digby County, in 1918; she was seventy-five feet long seventeen feet six inches wide and nine feet deep, with a gross tonnage of fifty-four tons. In 1930 (date registered) the vessel was owned by Fredrick W. Sutherland et al, Lockport N.S. This schooner was powered by sails and auxiliary power (small engine), the date of sinking was July 25, 1942 and the position was 42,2 N. 65 38 W. on the southern tip of Brown’s Bank. The crew of eleven was all saved. The last written remark was ‘abandon, badly damaged, and shelled by submarine’.”

It was reported the Allies had sunk four German warships July 25, 1942, in the Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps the enemies were getting even by sinking a fishing boat. Wartime rumors were not unusual at all, and it was quite easy for writers and others to build on this. To quote radio personality Paul Harvey, it would be fun to know “the rest of the story.”

Organizations: Hindenburg, Swim Brothers

Geographic location: Meteghan, Bon Portage Island, Brown Shelburne County Germany New Jersey Lockport Yarmouth County Digby County Atlantic Ocean

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Recent comments

  • Debbie Scott-MacKenzie
    March 12, 2010 - 00:03

    I am the grandaughter of Everett Scott, now deceased, who was one of the Lucille M. crew when she was shelled. I have grown up with the first hand survivor accounts of this incident. And out of respect for these men I feel I must comment on the article above. There was no subterfuge being carried on. This was a schooner out on a fishing trip that got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. These men were working for no one but their families. My grandfather's arm was almost totally severed by one of the shells.U-89 shelled the Lucille M. while the men were still on board! Later, as they were in the dories, the men on top of the u-boat apologized but said it had to be done. This was the first oat sank by U-89. She had been out on patrol for awhile and hadn't hit anything. Maybe she just wanted to e able to report a hit. Who knows? As for the time the men took to get to shore, whether by divine intervention or sheer luck, they all took turns continuously rowing until they sighted lights from shore. These courageous and injured men beat the odds and survived a terrible ordeal. Who has the right to question that or try to compare their rowing time? Who knows how fast you would row if you thought your life depended on it? These men were victims--of war. While I myself have questions as to why U-89 picked on a 54 ton schooner when they usually targeted larger ships, I have no questions about these men or their motives for being out on the water that day. On July 25, 1942, those men were out there to work--to survive-- and to feed their families. Some things just are what they are!!

    • Carol Chetwynd Lace
      May 05, 2010 - 18:42

      I am the daughter of Terrance Chetwynd who was also a survivor of the U-89 shelling.As Debbie said I also grew up hearing the details.They were just fisherman trying to feed their families .From research I have done these German Captains were promoted by the boats they sunk large or small.It is a shame to cast doubt on this crew of hard working fishermen who were very much victims .....