Michael Sweeney 1921-1942 Redux

Daniel Sweney’s grandson just wrote me about his grandfather.

Daniel Sweeney is incorrectly identified as David. Daniel Sweeney was my grandfather.

This post, written in December 2009, was about his granduncle Michael Sweeney.

I have corrected the information.

The start of the old post

How do I manage to write some many things about Canadian sailors, soldiers and airmen?


This is an example…

Réjean Ledoux sent me this by e-mail after he came to visit me. His uncle Louis was killed in the attack on the Athabaskan.

La Presse article on the sinking of the Athabaskan
published early May 1944

I had found another copy of The Unlucky Lady and I wanted to give it to Réjean and Louis, two nephews of Louis Ledoux.

While reading the article, I was intrigued by this…

This is a short article about two brothers lost at sea, Daniel and Michael Sweeney both Montrealers.

I found Michael Sweeney on the veterans’ site.

In memory of
who died on September 7, 1942
Military Service:

Service Number: V/23565
Age: 21
Force: Navy
Unit: Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve
Division: H.M.C.S. Raccoon

Additional Information:

Son of Thomas and Margaret Sweeney, of Montreal, Province of Quebec.

He was a telegraphist aboard HMCS Raccoon.
They were no picture of Michael.

Now we have one. Daniel is on the right.

His brother Daniel was aboard the Athabaskan on April 29, 1944 and he was taken prisoner by the Germans with 84 others.

Since you now know a lot about the Athabaskan, I will tell you more about the HMCS Raccoon.

HMCS Raccoon
This is what I found about the ship on this site… (dead link)

September 6, 1942

In the St. Lawrence estuary off Bic Island, the eight merchant ships of the convoy QS-33 form two columns and join their escorts for the journey to Sydney, Nova Scotia. Led by the Flower-class corvette HMCS Arrowhead on the convoy’s port beam, the escorts are HMCS Truro, a Bangor-class minesweeper on her first mission, on the starboard beam; two Fairmile motor launches at centre front and dead astern; and the armed yacht HMCS Raccoon half a mile astern on the port quarter. At 4:30 p.m., when the convoy plods past Father Point at nine knots, it is already under close surveillance by the Type IXC submarine U-165.

All 13 ships have their lookouts scouring the sea, but visibility is only about half a mile, and after nightfall it is very dark.The convoy’s only other means to detect submerged U-boats is the corvette’s Asdic set, which makes much the same ping for a school of cod or a particularly cold layer of water as it does for a submarine. Consequently, U-165 goes unnoticed as she approaches the convoy’s port column, and at 10:10 p.m. a torpedo smacks into the SS Aeas, the lead ship, which sinks very quickly. HMCS Arrowhead, Raccoon zigzagging along behind, apparently hunting the U-boat. launches a star-shell to light up the area for boats picking up survivors, and her lookouts clearly see

HMCS Raccoon is not one of His Majesty’s mightier warships.

Once the private yacht Halonia, property of millionaire jeweller R.A. Van Clief of New York, she came into the Royal Canadian Navy on June 22, 1940 with a crew of 33 ratings and four officers, and little more than a machine-gun and a coat of pusser’s paint to prepare her for battle.

Of course, in 1940 no-one imagined U-boats sinking ships literally in sight of the St. Lawrence shore, so the Navy’s original idea of using converted pleasure boats like Raccoon as examination vessels and coastal patrol craft was quite sensible. But since the US declared war on Germany, and especially since the ice-free shipping season opened, the U-boat flotillas have been devastatingly effective in North American waters.

This campaign has particularly shocked Canada, where the last naval battle was fought in 1813, so the RCN has put all its available vessels to work escorting convoys between Quebec and ports in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. With the bulk of Canada’s Navy deployed in the north-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean, most of the escorts on the Gulf convoys are minesweepers, Fairmiles and armed yachts.

HMCS Raccoon has a depth-charge launcher for attacking submarines, but no radio-telephone; she uses flags and Morse code by Aldis lamp or wireless to communicate with the other ships in the convoy— which means that, at night with a U-boat lurking, she doesn’t communicate at all.

The other escorts are busy picking up survivors from the Aeas and not particularly concerned about Raccoon. At 1:12 a.m., when HMCS Arrowhead is sweeping the convoy to port, lookouts aboard several ships see two columns of white water flung into the air, and hear two mighty explosions.

The Arrowhead lookouts note that Raccoon is not in her appointed place, and decide hopefully that the noise is the yacht depth-charging the U-boat. In the morning, Arrowhead reports that Raccoon is still missing, and a signal goes out from HMCS Fort Ramsay, the base at Gaspé, demanding that she report her position.

Nothing is heard.

The battle for QS-33 is not finished, however, for U-boats do not hunt alone. At 5 p.m. on September 7, the convoy is off Cap des Rosiers in the approaches to Gaspé when Korvettenkapitän Paul Hartwig in U-517, which has been keeping station with U-165, sinks three more of its merchant ships with three torpedoes launched within one minute. Naval Service Headquarters announces the loss of HMCS Raccoon on September 13, after a fruitless search of the convoy’s track by four corvettes from Gaspé. With the loss of half its merchant ships and one escort, QS-33 ranks as Canada’s least successful convoy operation, and one of the lowest points of the naval war.


Musée naval de Québec: http://www.mnq-nmq.org/enter.html

Uboat.net: http://uboat.net/boats/u165.htm

Fraser McKee,The Armed Yachts of Canada (Erin, Ontario: Boston Mills Press, 1983).

Michael L. Hadley,U-Boats Against Canada: German Submarines in Canadian Waters (Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1985).

Click here for the list of casualties.

These are sailors who were also killed that day on the HMCS Raccoon…

In memory of
Able Seaman
who died on September 7, 1942

Military Service:

Service Number: V/3484
Age: 23
Force: Navy
Unit: Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve
Division: H.M.C.S. Raccoon

Additional Information:

Son of Edmond Belanger, and of Corinne C. Belanger of St. Michel de Bellechasse, Province of Quebec.

In memory of
Ordinary Signalman
who died on September 7, 1942
Military Service:

Service Number: V/3370
Age: 24
Force: Navy
Unit: Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve
Division: H.M.C.S. Raccoon

Additional Information:

Son of Wilbrod and Albertine Laflamme, of St. Romuald, Province of Quebec.

Now you know where I find inspiration to write my articles…

The end of the old post

Rememberance Day is just around the corner. Feel free to contact me anytime and share memories from the past.



9 thoughts on “Michael Sweeney 1921-1942 Redux

  1. Thanks, Pierre, for that story of HMCS Raccoon and that ill-fated convoy in the St. Lawrence estuary. I had forgottem how close U-boats came to our shores. We had blackouts in New York City during the war, not because of a real fear of air-raids, but because the lights of the city caused a glow in the sky against which the lurking U-boats could see the outlines of merchant convoys leaving NY harbor.

  2. Thank you for your story on the HMCS Raccoon my fathers ship his name was Frank James Gallant

    1. I am glad that I copied and pasted what I had found because the original story doesn’t exist anymore.

  3. My name is William Sweeney son of Leo Sweeney(v-95137), nephew to both and have the original photo of Daniel (v-23913) and Michael (v23565).
    The Raccoons crew will always be remembered through sites like this.

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