MV Lucille M sunk in Gulf of Maine by U-89/Lohmann July 25, 1942

The Lucille M. was a Canadian schooner of the “bluenose” type built in Mateghan, Digby County, Nova Scotia in 1918 and owned by Frederick W. Sutherland et. al. of Lockeport (or Yarmouth), NS (more likely by the Swim Brothers of Lockeport, NS). She was 75 feet long, 17.5 feet wide and had a draft of 9 feet. By the summer of 1942 she was fitted out as a harpooner, with a homeport of Lockeport, on the southeast corner of Nova Scotia. In early June 1932 the Lucille M. was home ported in Pubnico when the crew rescued the 18 officers and crew of a Boston fishing schooner named Azores under Captain Foam Spinney. The Lucille M. men took the survivors to Yarmouth after a massive fire spread through the Azores.

Lucille M. is variously described as being 30, 49 and 54 tons. Her final master was Captain Percy Richardson. On about Thursday July 23, 1942 she set out for the comparatively shallow fishing grounds of George’s Bank. Fatefully the captain diverted to Brown’s Bank along the way. Apparently the calmness of the seas encouraged the fishermen to believe they would see the fins of their swordfish prey. At noon on the 24th the skipper claimed to have heard some 50 rounds of gunfire nearby. They also claim to have seen four aircraft the same day. That night at dusk, they decided to heave-to and drift until dawn at the southern tip of the bank. Then, around midnight and off to one side, they heard the distinct sound of “heavy diesel motors” of a vessel remaining suspiciously stationary, unlike either a freighter or a fellow fisherman.

The vessels were out of sight of each other in a night time mist until around 3 AM on the 26th of July when U-Boat commander Dietrich Lohmann’s men sighted the Lucille M. slowly emerging from the thick air. The only light on the schooner was a small binnacle light enabling the men to see their compass. The Germans were standing by their guns and opened fire immediately, striking the sails as well as the top hamper on deck. This was followed by machine-gun fire as the fishermen scrambled to evacuate their craft. Four of the Canadians were wounded in the desperate scramble to launch a dory and tumble in, but all 11 men managed to escape in two small dories and row clear within five minutes.

Apparently some 20 German shells were used in the destruction of the schooner, though Richardson told a journalist the following day that “about 30 or 40 of her biggest” shells were used, apparently one every two minutes for 10 minutes. Also a total of 200 machine gun rounds were fired. These included 20 semi-automatic rounds from 100 yards away. He said the sub circled the sailboat pumping fire into it before she sank, and that the Lucille M.’s stern was shot clear off, its wheelhouse destroyed, and rounds could be heard striking the ice. The auxiliary-motored vessel had no radio. The Canadians testified that the submarine was so close they could hear the gun’s breeches being opened by German sailors, as well as hearing the empty shell cases hitting the sub’s metal decks. Then the sailors rowed an impressive 100 nautical miles to Shelburne, NS. The rowing took 36 hours.

On landing and being interrogated by the Royal Canadian Navy, some of the sailors claim to have heard a German exclaim that “the damned thing won’t sink!,” referring to the Lucille M. Though a number of Canadian fishing vessels had been sunk by German submarines and a trawler captured by them in the First World War, Lucille M. was their first victim of World War II, and according to the Associated Press, the 399th Allied ship sunk in the Western Atlantic. Captain Richardson warned that more would be “sooner or later.” One news report stated that the attack lasted half and hour and that Lohmann at one point explained that he was “sorry, but that he had to do it,” or “Bad luck boys, we cannot help it.” Some survivors said they were given time to provision the dories, however the four (or three) injured contradict that. The last words in the logbook were “abandoning, badly damaged, shelled by submarine.”

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