William Bruce Wilson R16511

February 23, 1923 - October 14, 1942

William Wilson William Wilson

Nineteen-year-old airframe mechanic from Toronto perished aboard the SS Caribou to his first posting.

William Bruce Wilson was the son of William Lawrence Wilson, mechanic, and Mabel Victoria (nee Taylor) Wilson, Toronto. William had two younger brothers, Murray and Ross, plus one younger sister, Audrey. They were Anglican.

William was a draftsman with HEPC of Ontario May 1941-January 1942 prior to enlisting with the RCAF in November 1941. He had also worked as a handyman and then a salesman for T. Eaton Co. He had attended Jesse Ketchum School from 1928-1940, including two years commercial. He took the WETP Course, Galt, Ontario, January 5 to April 22, 1942 to become an air frame mechanic. He hoped to remain with the RCAF as an airframe mechanic once the war was over.

He indicated that he liked to play hockey occasionally and soccer, moderately.

The RCAF accepted William in April 1942. He stood 5’7” and weighed 128 pounds. He had blue eyes, had fair hair and a fair complexion. He had fractured his left arm at some point in his childhood.

He was at No. 1 Manning Depot, Toronto from April 25 to July 17, 1942, where he was in hospital from April 27 to May 14, 1942. He was then sent to TTS St. Thomas until October 8, 1942 when he was posted to RCAF Station in Botwood, Newfoundland.

William had $3500 in life insurance.

William was en route to Newfoundland, aboard the SS Caribou.

The night of October 14, 1942 was very dark with no moon. Sixty kilometres off the coast of Newfoundland, a German U-Boat (U-106) torpedoed the SS Caribou on her starboard side. On board were 73 civilians including eleven children, 118 military personnel, and a crew of 46. The passengers were thrown from their bunks, several lifeboats and rafts were destroyed or could not be launched, as the ship sunk quickly, reports stating three minutes. Many passengers were forced to jump overboard. Over 135 people perished. Fifteen of the crew survived, many of them local men from the Channel/Port aux Basque area. A letter dated October 16th, 1942 was mailed to Mr. Wilson, informing him that the telegram he and Mrs. Wilsom recently received was to confirm that Lester was missing on Active Service, aboard a ship that was lost at sea due to enemy action. They were requested, in the interest of national security, that they withhold this information until an official announcement was made through the press.

Two of the survivors who had suffered from shock and exposure due to the sinking of the SS Caribou, Aircraftmen Frank Earl Burton, 19, and Frederick Anthon Langley, 23, both airframe mechanics posted to Botwood, Newfoundland, perished in the fire at the Knights of Columbus hostel in St. John’s, Newfoundland, December 12, 1942. Ninety-nine people were killed, with 80 of them military personnel. Critically wounded: 109.

In January 1948, a memorial was erected at Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland, in memory of those who died in the torpedoing of the S. S. Caribou.

William’s mother received a letter dated October 24, 1955 from W/C Gunn informing her that her son’s name would appear on the Ottawa Memorial as he has no known grave.

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