The 167-ton Canadian sailing schooner Helen Forsey was built as the J. Smith at Smith & Rhuland Shipbuilding Limited in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. She was thus part of the same naming convention as the Vivian P. Smith and her sister ship Francis W. Smith – all were built on spec by Smith & Rhuland and successfully sold. In the case of the Helen Forsey, she was bought and renamed by William Forsey Limited, also of Lunenburg.
Registered to Lunenburg, like the Wawaloam the schooner traded between the West Indies and eastern Canada’s Maritime Provinces, on the traditional runs carrying rum, molasses, salt from the islands and dried fish, lumber and other products south to the islands. This was a continuation of one leg of what had been known as the Triangle Trade.
On its final voyage the Helen Forsey departed Martinique in the French West Indies loaded with 180 tons of molasses and rum. It then sailed for Bridgetown, Barbados prior to setting off for Saint John, Newfoundland. It left Barbados on the 28th of August 1942 under the command of Captain John Ralph with a crew of five other merchant mariners. By mid day on the 6th of September the schooner was roughly 500 miles east-southeast of Bermuda, at position 28.35N by 57.35W when it was shelled at 6:00 am without warning by the gunners on U-514 under Hans-Jürgen Auffermann.
Because the both missed from a distance of two and a half miles fired off the port bow, the first two shell shots were like a warning, and Captain Ralph and his small crew of British subjects rapidly launched the lifeboat in an effort to clear the ship. Auffermann didn’t let up, however and the submarine continued with more accurate fire right up until it was firing at point blank range at the wooden waterline. Right after the boat was launched two crew members – 17 year old Leslie Rogers and Arthur Bond were killed by an errant shell. The remaining four officers and crew – Tom Bold, Bill Keating, Jacob Penwell and Captain Ralph – made off in the boat.
Helen Forsey caught fire and was sunk by 7:16 am. The men on the U-514 approached the lifeboat and asked if the men had enough food and, oddly, a razor. Auffermann promised to transmit their position to Bermuda. Eleven days later Captain Ralph and his men arrived off Bermuda and tried to signal airplanes and naval craft there without success. On the afternoon of 18th September they were discovered by a local fisherman named Gilbert Lamb and towed into the narrow cut which leads to Saint George’s Harbour, near Saint Davids Light, Bermuda.