Friday, November 13, 2009

Remembrance - 1918

With Remembrance Day just past, a story involving the light keepers at Gannet Rock during WW1 was brought to my attention. Light keepers were often involved in life saving and the light keepers of Grand Manan lights were no exception.

In 1918, the German navy sent U-boats to the eastern seaboard which was largely unprotected. The vessel U-156 had orders to mine New York Harbour, patrol the Gulf of Maine and in particular Boston, Saint John and Halifax harbours, cut the transatlantic cable at Canso and capture a vessel to use as a raider. Her presence in the Bay of Fundy was unknown until a load of sailors from the schooner Dornfontein landed at Gannet Rock lighthouse in dories at 6:30 AM on August 3, 1918.

"On July 31, 1918, the new four-masted schooner Dornfontein cleared Saint John harbour bound for South Africa with a load of lumber. Three days later, 10 kilometres south of Grand Manan Island, N.B., U-156 suddenly rose from the sea and brought the Dornfontein to a halt with two shots across her bow.

While the schooner’s crew was hustled aboard the submarine, the Germans looted the vessel and then set it ablaze. As the ship burned to the waterline, her crew were fed a dinner of bully beef and rice. Then, five hours after the ordeal began, the schooner’s crew was put into dories and sent off amid waves and wishes of “Good luck!”, a sentiment not shared by the crew who had been “robbed of all we had on board worth taking.” But at least the sailors had escaped with their lives, and brought their story ashore at Gannet Rock, Grand Manan, the next day." Read the complete article:

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