26 September, 1943

Eddie Bieber, Jim L’Esperance and John Roberts visited the whole island…

And they really had a good time,

This is what John Clark Roberts wrote his family living at 41 Duke Street, Stratford, Ontario.

John  Clark Roberts was an ERA 4, an engine room artificer aboard HMCS Athabaskan.


But which island did they visit?

This is an information on Stuart Kettles’ nephew’s site.

We have the timetable of HMCS Athabaskan.

The first two ships were laid down as IROQUOIS and ATHABASKAN but IROQUOIS was delayed by bombing while on the stocks. ATHABASKAN was therefore renamed IROQUOIS and launched as the lead ship while the original IROQUOIS was launched as ATHABASKAN.

After her commissioning on 3rd February 1943 at Newcastle-on-Tyne, she was assigned to the British Home Fleet but ATHABASKAN was plagued with mishaps during her very short service life.

The ship left on 29th March 1943 to patrol the Iceland-Faeroes Passage for blockade runners. Weather induced stress caused hull damage This took five weeks to repair at South Shields, U.K.

In June 1943, ATHABASKAN took part in Operation Gearbox III, the relief of the garrison at Spitsbergen.

On June 18, she collided with the boom defence vessel BARGATE at Scapa Flow, resulting in a month of repairs at Devonport.

In July and August of 1943, she was based in Plymouth, carrying out anti-submarine patrols in the Bay of Biscay and…

August 27, 1943 she was hit by a glider bomb off the Spanish coast. She managed to reach Devonport where she remained under repair until November 10, 1943.

Returning to Scapa Flow in December 1943, she escorted convoy JW55A to Russia but in February 1944, rejoined Plymouth command and was assigned to the newly formed 10th Destroyer Flotilla.

On 26th April, 1944, she assisted in the destruction of the German torpedo boat T 29 in the Channel off Ushant.

Three days later on 29th April, 1944, was sunk by a torpedo from T24, an Elbing class destroyer, north of the Ile de Bas. Her Captain, John Stubbs and 128 men were lost, 83 taken prisoner and 44 rescued by HAIDA.

Which island did they visit? 

In September 1943, the ship was under repair in Devonport. So which island was it?

The only island close by is Drake’s Island.

Click here.

We will probably never know for sure.

Why is this information so important?

Elizabeth is piecing together her uncle’s life in the Navy, just like I am trying to piece together my wife’s uncle’s life in the Navy.

The little I know is what he said on a summer day in 2009.

He wanted to see his nieces and nephews.

We were sitting in the living room when we started talking about his brother Jean who was wounded on Juno beach.  He said he was a sailor on HMCS Athabakan. He did not say much like some many veterans.

He said he was writing a letter in the engine room when the ship was torpedoed. The next thing he remembered was that he was rescued.

John Roberts and Eddie Bieber did not have that chance. They were listed as MPD… Missing Presumed Dead.

Jim L’Esperance was taken prisoner. He came home.

Courtesy Jim L’Esperance

His story is in this blog which pays homage to these young men who served on the Athabaskan and gave their lives or their youth to defend our country.

Today, June 6, 2011, John Clark Roberts ERA 4 is coming home…

John Clark Robert
First row, first on the left…

St. Joseph’s, Toronto

John and his mother

John and the crew of the engine room

“On all the oceans where whitecaps flow,

There are no crosses, row on row;

But those who sleep beneath the sea,

sleep in peace…your country is free”


Next time, Edgar E. Bieber is also coming home…

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