Military divers to remove unexploded artillery shells
In 1942, the war came to North America. Newfoundland at the time was still a British colony but was also an extremely important staging area for war material of all sorts before heading to England.
The scene was Bell Island in Conception Bay near St John’s. where on two separate occasions, German U-boats slipped into the bay and sank four iron ore cargo ships anchored there.
The ships would have carried iron ore from Newfoundland over to the steel mills on Cape Breton where they would be smelted into steel for the war effort.
The ships had been armed with naval guns to defend against U-boat attacks on the ocean. In the attacks, some 70 men in total were killed, and the shells for the guns, approximately 50 for each ship, were still stored on board.
The site has long been a huge international attraction for recreational divers. Now however, there is concern that the shells are still dangerous and officials want to ensure there are no accidents, possibly from divers getting too curious.
Military divers this week will begin the dangerous task of finding the shells and bringing them to the surface where they will be taken to a safe site for detonation.
The operation to recover the old naval shells is expected to run until July 24.
- CBC: Jul 10/19: WWII ammo to be removed
- Canadian Press (via PostMedia): H Mckenzie-Sutter: Jul 15.19: Armed Forces to sweep explosives from shipwrecks
- Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador: Bell Island sinkings
- Dr P W Collins: Battle for Bell Island- various photos (pdf)
- Original Settlers Project: Bell Island attacks: story-photos (scroll down)