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Bread and Cheese Point

Bay Bulls Harbour – spacious, close to St. John’s and free of ice – was a convenient place to gather vessels into a protective convoy whenever conflict threatened the fishery. Men-of-war returning from patrol, or assigned to convoy duty, anchored in deep water just inside of Bread and Cheese Point, in compliance with the British Admiralty directive that a warship maintained “at the ready” had to drop anchor with “three points of the compass exposed to the wind,” i.e. it could pick up wind from three out of four directions and quickly tack out of a harbour to respond to attack. The merchant ships awaiting convoy anchored farther up the harbour, near Stanley’s River.

The settlement of Bread and Cheese acquired its curious name from nearby Bread and Cheese Point. As the apocryphal story goes, the Royal Navy issued each able seaman a pound (450 grams) of bread and a gallon (4.5 liters) of beer a day. Three days a week, oatmeal, butter and cheese were issued in lieu of meat. The point was breezy, free of nippers and lay close to where ships anchored, so it was an ideal spot for off-duty seamen to retire on cheese days with their noontime rations and rum. It was out of the purview of officers, a feature important to a sailor in possession of an extra tot of rum, bargained for on the sly, for seamen were lashed if caught drunk.

A ration of bread and cheese to an infantryman signified a regiment on the march. There are “Bread and Cheese” creeks and rivers in the Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maryland; all places where British regiments succumbed to revolutionary onslaught while eating lunch. The “Bread and Cheese” inland from Ferryland was used by hunters as a rest stop.

Bread and Cheese Point extends further into the harbour than other points, and in 1942 an anti-torpedo net was secured to the point to protect ships awaiting overhaul at the repair facility in the harbour. Visiting the point in the late 1940s, J. Harry Smith noted “the remains of the great steel cable booms and buoys that prevented entry of enemy ships and submarines… carefully tidied up and protected as though there might be a chance of being used again some day.” A remnant of the chain is still in place. U-boats probed the harbour entrance but, thanks to the net, there were no attacks. The Coadys of Cape Broyle, returning from delivering sand to St. John’s during the war, hove to at the mouth of the harbour and, looking over the side, saw a German submarine under their boat. Morning came and the U-boat was gone. John Rice, home on leave, remembers watching several destroyers swiftly leave Bay Bulls Harbour on a mission to intercept a U-boat spotted offshore.

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