Nfld. & Labrador

Navy ship named after Margaret Brooke, 'naval hero' in SS Caribou sinking

The Royal Canadian Navy announced Monday a new Arctic patrol ship will be named after Dr. Margaret Brooke, who tried to save her friend when the SS Caribou sank off the coast of Newfoundland during the Second World War.

Brooke tried to save fellow nurse's life after ferry torpedoed by German submarine in WWII

Margaret Brooke was a nursing sister in the Royal Canadian Navy in 1942, and was on board the SS Caribou when it was hit by a German torpedo and sank off the coast of Newfoundland. (Submitted)

The Royal Canadian Navy announced Monday a new offshore patrol ship will be named after Dr. Margaret Brooke, who tried to save her friend when the SS Caribou ferry sank off the coast of Newfoundland during the Second World War.

The Caribou was torpedoed by a German submarine in the Cabot Strait on Oct. 14, 1942 and sank in five minutes.

Brooke, originally from Saskatchewan but living in B.C., was a military nursing sister working in a new naval hospital at the time.
Margaret Brooke was celebrating her 100th birthday last week in Victoria, B.C., when she learned a new naval vessel would be named after her for her efforts trying to saving a friend when the SS Caribou was hit by a German torpedo in 1942. (Submitted)

She was en route to Port aux Basques, N.L., from North Sydney on the night the Caribou sank.

Brooke's family were visiting her on Friday for her 100th birthday and that's when she found about the news.

"I had no idea that anything like this was about to occur. It took me completely by surprise, and I'm greatly honoured," said Brooke.

"I think it's the first time they ever named a warship after an individual, let alone a woman."

She collapsed and I held her as long as I could … I failed. I couldn't hold her any longer.- Margaret Brooke

Brooke and fellow nurse Sister Agnes Wilkie were asleep in their cabin on the way to Port aux Basques when the torpedo hit the ferry.

According to Brooke, they woke up when they were "thrown clear across the room," and made their way up to the deck to discover their life boat was destroyed or gone altogether.

When the ship sank, Brooke said they went down into the water with it.

"We were just busy staying afloat until an overturned lifeboat came along and the people on that helped us climb up on [the side] … and we just hung there for the rest of the night."

Brooke said the two women held on as long as they could, but Wilkie couldn't hold on any longer — and Brooke held fast to Wilkie in an attempt to save the nurse's life.

"She collapsed and I held her as long as I could … I failed. I couldn't hold her any longer," said Brooke.

Wilkie died when the Caribou sank that night.

The naming of the new Arctic offshore vessels aims to "honour prominent Canadians who served with the highest distinction" in the navy, according to a statement from the department of National Defence.

Four other vessels will be named in the future.

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