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Canada Pays Tribute to WWII Seamen

November 12, 1998

BELL ISLAND, Newfoundland (AP) _ Seconds after a German torpedo struck the hull of the Rose Castle on Nov. 2, 1942, Gordon Hardy flung his near-naked body into the numbing waters of Conception Bay.

A second torpedo hit the iron ore-carrier at almost that precise moment, swiftly sucking both the 18-year-old steward and what remained of the vessel deep under the sea.

Hardy was one of only 53 people who survived two enemy attacks on four merchant ships that fall.

Those who didn’t were remembered Wednesday at a tribute where divers placed anchor-shaped wreaths on two of the sunken ships and scattered 69 poppies _ one for each victim.

The attacks made Bell Island the only community in North America to take a direct hit from a torpedo.

Hardy, speaking from his home in Ingonish, Nova Scotia, said as much as two hours passed before he was plucked from the darkness where he had drifted in his lifejacket.

All around him, crewmates cried out for help.

``I just remember thinking of my mother and trying to put less worry on her,″ remembered Hardy, who had already lost one brother to the war and would later lose another. ``If I hadn’t been so determined and found the life raft, I wouldn’t have made it either.″

All four of the four-story-high wrecks are upright and intact, except for the large torpedo holes the divers now swim through, said diver Rick Stanley.

Inside, everything is eerily as it likely was moments before the torpedoes hit. Even the kitchens are still well-stocked with plates and teacups.

``It’s very spiritual for us,″ said Stanley, who helped coordinate the event. ``Diving on the wrecks you really feel for those people dying. You wonder, did they all get off, or did they die right here?″

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