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Germans Sighted on the Gaspé Coast

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My father was a lighthouse keeper from 1925 to 1940. We all had chores as children and it was my responsibility to keep the globe on the lighthouse lantern clean so that the boats could see the light coming in to the harbour and not go aground. Every morning I would go down to the lighthouse with my dad.

There is one morning in particular that I will never forget. My father and I were at the lighthouse and noticed an unusual looking fishing boat at the wharf. My father was a man of very few words, but that morning he commented on something not quite right about that boat. A gentleman came off the boat and approached my father. I continued to clean the glass lamp and watched as my father spoke with the stranger. He told my father that the fishing boat was from Germany and they were here fishing scallops. That evening, my grandfather dropped by to visit and my father told him what we had seen in the harbour and how he thought the entire situation very strange. The crew had no nets and no crates, yet they said that they were scallop fishermen. My father suggested that this boat was up to no good in our harbour.

The next day we went down to the lighthouse, and the gentleman approached my father again and asked him if we had any buttermilk. My father told him that we churned our own and that he would bring him some the following day. For the next few days we took them buttermilk, but one day when we got to the lighthouse the stranger’s boat was nowhere to be seen! Father later told grandfather that he had suspected that they were sounding the depth of the harbour for submarines. We did see the boat out in the bay for the next little while, but eventually the boat disappeared from there as well.

Several years later, I applied for and got a job at Annett’s Hotel in New Carlisle. This is where I eventually met young Earl Annett, the owner’s son. He recounted this story of how a German spy by the name of Werner Alfred Waldemar von Janowski came ashore in a rubber dinghy in November of 1942 and was caught in New Carlisle.

He showed me where the German spy had spent the night and had eaten his breakfast. He told me that Mrs. Annett was the one who had initially mentioned a very unusual smell about the man. She said it reminded her of the smell when her husband had worked on the lake boats. It was a very strong smell of diesel that was not easily mistaken. Apparently, the spy had taken off his smelly clothes and stuffed them under the tub in his hotel room; but a smell like that lingers for a very long time and that is why Mrs. Annett was able to detect it when she passed the room. That smell was what made her suspicious.

What’s more, when the man went to pay for his room he said that he had just arrived from Gaspé on a bus and that he would be on his way to Montreal on the train the next day. Well, Earl knew that there had been no bus from Gaspé and he found this to be rather sketchy. The man then lit a cigarette and dropped his matches; Earl immediately noted that they were not recognizable matches. They had foreign writing on them which Earl did not recognize. He also noticed that the man was wearing a suit that was definitely not Canadian cut. He said that it was obviously tailored somewhere else.

The minute that the man left for the train station, Earl contacted the police to inform them of his apprehensions. He told them about this shady character that had just spent the night at his hotel. The police laughed and said that there was no spy in New Carlisle. Earl had such a strong suspicion, though, that he went directly to the police at the Maison Blanche and rallied them to go to Bonaventure and get on the train to check out his suspicions. He told the police that if they would not do this, then he would personally make a citizen’s arrest. This was how strongly he believed that something was going on.

Sure enough, when the police got on the train and asked Earl to identify the man, the German man surrendered without any kind of fight or retaliation, and asked the police to take him to the beach so that he could show them his uniform.

He wanted to be arrested as a prisoner of war rather than as a German spy. The police took him to the beach where he dug up his uniform and put it on. He then proceeded to salute towards the bay and told the police that if the German submarines in the bay knew what was happening to him, they would blow up the Gaspé. This German spy later worked as a double agent in Canada and Britain.

It’s something that when I was a little girl helping my father out at the lighthouse I got to see a German spy boat and then when I was a young working woman, I worked at a hotel where the German spy had been caught!

*Eva was born in New Richmond in 1924. Her first job, at age 14, was working at Campbell’s Inn. She also worked in a bake shop wrapping bread that was sent by train to soldiers in Gaspé. In addition to working at Annett’s Hotel, she worked for the Department of Tourism, Fish and Game for eighteen seasons. She now resides at the New Richmond Manor where she spends her spare time painting, and knitting bonnets, booties and mittens for premature babies.