“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.”