Remembering Able Seaman William Trickett on April 29, 2019

jim-1 newspaper

A comment I received this week about a sailor who was on a newspaper clipping sent by Jim L’Esperance’s son in 2009.

The Mystery of AB William Dearl Trickett, Stoker (1st Class), HMCS Athabaskan G07

I thought you might be interested in a little project I’m working on especially in the light of the 75th anniversary of the sinking of G07 next year on Apr 29, 2019. Also, I’m trying to track down more information on my Great Uncle and the possible whereabouts of his missing Wartime Logbook.

Like any good Navy ditty, this tale starts in a bar. Little did I know, my visit to the local Legion in my home village of Kelwood, MB would end up on a quest to uncover some of mine own RCN family history that would have soon gone into the oblivion. While sipping on my Club beer (it’s still horrible stuff), I was perusing the military memorabilia on the walls when to my great surprise, I see the crest of my old Athabaskan 282 up on the wall with the date of the original G07’s sinking on it. A relative happened to be there who said it was from my old Great Uncle Willie. Unbeknownst to me, AB William Dearl Trickett, RCNVR, Stoker (1st Class), V38773 had served onboard HMCS Athabaskan G07! Due to the obvious Navy ties, I started my first inqueries with my parents. Mom said, oh yes, he was a Japanese POW and complained that his stomach was never the same after being interned. Well, they were about half a world off and the wrong Axis power, so I started hunting for actual documentation. He was onboard G07 when she went out for her final patrol April 28, 1944 and fortunately he didn’t perish with the other 128 men of his ship that night. Unfortunately, he ended up being part of the 83 men captured by the Germans and he spent the rest of the war in a POW camp. Of course, like most WWII vets, Willie never spoke of his experiences and might have easily taken them to the grave.

Of course, complicating matters as I continued to dig, his surviving son out in Victoria had financial issues and is estranged from the family. He must have liquidated his father’s possessions because I turned up an old Ebay ad for his Wartime Log (POW No. 1295 of Marlag und Milag Nord, Germany) and an original photo of G07. Command Post, a military memorabilia shop in Victoria, had sold the items on Dec 08, 2011 for $1165 and $24.49. Enquiries with the shop were a dead end. I am trying to track down organizations, outfits, or forums who would have some idea of who might have been interested in such items. My intention is to ask the present owner if they would be willing to part with the items especially the logbook. The log is an invaluable part of both my family and RCN history that IMHO shouldn’t be hidden away by some private collector.

I have slowly chipped away the layers of mystery surrounding the wartime record of my Uncle. It was a little difficult as the family had never received a Death Notice or Obituary on either he or my blood aunt who had resided in Saanich, BC. All I could find was a mention of the date of his passing in the Legion’s Last Post archives. I have the BC Genealogical Society helping me track down his final whereabouts plus I’ve sent a request to Ottawa for his Service Records. Dr. André Levesque, a war historian in Ottawa, is kindly helping me also.

My ultimate intention with all of this sleuthing is to put together a proper narrative and memorial for presentation to Willie’s home Legion back in Kelwood especially in light of the upcoming 75th anniversary of the sinking next year. Every Remembrance Day people say the words ‘We will remember’ but they ring hollow if stories like my Uncle’s are lost. I’m glad I was part of the Athabaskan 282 Remembrance ceremonies for G07 when we were near the site of the wreck in 2015. I find it amazing that two related prairie boys from the same little Manitoba hamlet ended up in the same chunk of ocean with the same namesake ships.

While I was the Public Affairs Representative for Athabaskan 282, I put together a montage of the G07 and 282 ships companies that I understand was presented to Mr. Takalo on his last attendance of ‘Athabaskan Sunday’. From my understanding Bernard Lauren, George Takalo, and Harry Hurwitz are the only surviving members of G07. Mr. Ray Meloche passed away May 29, 2017.

I will keep you apprised of my investigative progress and final presentation. I am sure the RCN will be doing something associated with the sinking (they better), so I’ll pass on my material from my end if you want it.

Respectfully,
Blair Gilmore, SLt(Ret’d), CD

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64 Athabaskan Survivors Home

Jim L’Esperance’s son sent me this newspaper article…

His father tells how he managed to hide and avoid transfer…


jim-1 newspaper


Winnipeg Sailor One of “Underground Navy” Who Hid Out to Avoid Transfer

NEW YORK, May 29—(CP)—

Sixty-four men of the Canadian navy, all but one of whom were captured when the Canadian destroyer Athabaskan was sunk in the England Channel in April, 1944, arrived here Monday en route back to Canada with varied tales of life in Germans prison camps.

The other man—AB. Sydney Bell, of Britannia Bay, Ont., was taken prisoner March 25, 1941, when a Royal Navy ship was sunk by a German surface raider 480 miles off Freetown, West Africa.

The men crossed the Atlantic in the liner Aquitania.

The party left for Montreal by train Monday night, where they will receive a medical examination and back pay before proceeding to their homes on leave.

Fourteen of the sailors hid out in their camp near Bremen in April when the Germans ordered everybody to move and become known as members of the “underground navy.”

One member of the “underground navy” was LS. Joseph (Jim) L’Esperance, 433 Talbot ave., Winnipeg. About 500 men hid out at the camp, including 60 Canadians.

When word of the forthcoming transfer got around, said Lesperance, four of them—himself, John Fairchild, of Quebec, and two Norwegians—decided to hide out.

“We picked the attic of the shower room; lay down under the eaves and pulled up some insulating material to conceal us. Then the guards came out searching for hidden men. They fired a few bullets through the roof and the Norwegians jumped up and gave themselves up.

“The guards jabbed into the insulation with bayonets but when one guard got near us he stepped onto a cardboard covering on the attic’s floor and fell through, landing on his face on the floor below. That ended the search.” He said he and Fairchild lived under the floor of a hut for nearly three weeks, until they were rescued April 28 by the Scots Guards. Merchant navy men, who had not been moved by the Germans, supplied them with food.

 

Ordnance Artificer Steve Dunnell, Victoria, described the march. It began April 10 and they reached Luebeck April 23, traveling on foot all the way and using devious routes which made it difficult to judge the distance. They covered as much as 20 miles one day, he said, and the normal distance was from 10 to 15 miles.

“The column was strafed once by our own planes, three Royal Navy men were killed, two badly injured. We used to describe the planes that flew over as ‘friendly or English.’ Frequently we scattered into ditches to escape…