Rememberance Week: Remembering HMCS Athabaskan

Remembering

A comment was left on this post…

Reverend Althon Kerrigan Pring
November 11, 2017 at 12:25 pm Edit

Writing this on Armistice Day 2017. I was aged 9 in UK 1943 when DON METCALFE, a State Saskatchewan ice-hockey player, Electrical Artificer 3c on HMCS ATHABASKAN, was billeted at our home in South Bucks, whilst training at the Admiralty Compass Observatory. He was with us over Christmas 1943. He made me a scale model some 3-feet long of the ship. We were devastated at the ship’s sinking and large loss of life, he being the only WW2 casualty amongst all our family and close friends. Ever remembered, recently aged 83 now I paid my first visit to Canada. In the short visit to Halifax, I was unable personally to plant a memorial cross there, but a kind volunteer in the Maritime Museum took it and eventually placed it at the Naval Memorial sending me photographs including one showing Don’s name inscribed on the Memorial. As is my custom, another cross will be placed at our village War Memorial tomorrow. Every blessing to all.

Then another one today…

12.11.2017

Additional note from Kerrigan Pring (ex-RN National Service 1953-55): looking at the top photo above of members of “Athabaskan’s” ship’s company on the foredeck, Donald Metcalfe is front row extreme right with his left hand in his jacket-pocket. If my memory serves me right, the buttons on his sleeve indicate the rating of Chief Petty Officer. My dad was a Chief Writer on board HMS Dido, involved in Russian Convoys, Malta Relief, and Sicily landings. She was the main ship to take the German Navy surrender in Copenhagen. Praise the Lord for a fine crisp day here in U.K. for the Remembrance Sunday ceremonies!

Lest We Forget

November 11, 2011, 11:11

This blog all started in 2009 to pay homage to the sailors of HMCS Athabaskan, the Unlucky Lady.

Before my wife’s uncle said he was part of the crew on that faithful night of April 29, 1944, I did not know HMCS Athabaskan ever existed. I have always been interested in the history of WW II, but mostly about airplanes.

This is how I came about to write about the Athabaskan and that I decided to write this blog.

I did not find my wife’s uncle’s name in the book Unlucky Lady.

There is a list of the sailors who sailed that day.

 I also could not identify him in these two pictures that Herm Sulkers’ son sent me last year in an e-mail.

 

These are the sailors whose relatives wrote me since 2009 and sent me pictures to share with my readers.

Jim L’Esperance

View original post 1,553 more words

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Thanks for Getting Back to Me Redux

Thanks for Getting Back to Me was written in July 2012.

Five years ago.


I always take the time to write back when you post a comment on this blog. I have learned since 2009 that it always pays to answer back.

This blog is not about money. I don’t need money to be online. This blog is more about paying homage to all who served their country in WWII. They have paid their fair share. Like Leading Seaman Ernest Anderson from Edmonton, Alberta.

Before Karen wrote, I never knew Leading Seaman Anderson had ever existed except on a list in a book about an unlucky Canadian destroyer.

Karen wrote last week and she was asking for some help.

My dad should be on the lists of men that survived the sinking, but he is not. I have his original records but they are almost unlegible now. Does anyone know if records are still available?

Back in July 2009, I did not know that HMCS Athabaskan had ever existed until my wife’s uncle opened up when the subject of WWII was brought up in a family reunion. He was 81 years-old.

The story is here to be read.

Getting back to Karen, I did not know she had the Book!

Unlucky Lady

and some pertinent information about a sailor who was in point of fact the one responsible for this blog. Karen’s father was Ernest (Ernie) Anderson. He can be seen in a picture found in the book which is the same picture sent by Herm’s Sulker’s son last year.

Karen told me that her father was on the picture with all the men in rows around the gun. What is most interesting is that Ernest Anderson is also on a list in the book as a sailor on the ship, but NOT on the list of those on the ship the night of the sinking.

Karen told me she felt her father was on the ship that night. He did talk briefly about it to her and a bit more to her mom. Her father didn’t like to talk about it, but he had a friend that talked about it, which confirmed that he was on it. Her father said that since he was a strong swimmer, he was able to get to the rescue ship and his hands were terribly burned from the burning fuel on the water. He was part of one of the gun crews. She thinks he may have been the leader of a certain gun crew, but she is not sure.

All of the men in his gun crew were killed immediately and he was thrown into the water. These were details he told her mom.

Karen wishes more young people would appreciate how important that war was, and the direct impact it had on how wonderful our lives are today.

To be continued…


September 25, 2017

I know I have written a lot about HMCS Athabaskan. One reason I wrote so much was, and still is, to reach out for relatives of sailors who either were killed, rescued or made prisoners. Every comment left is important to pay homage to the crew of HMCS Athabaskan.

Mon père Jacques Gervais peut-être nommé comme James Gervais était je crois CPO lors de l’attaque. Il a dit très peu de choses lorsque il vivait au sujet de l’événement. Il doit sûrement sa vie au fait qu’il a été très sérieusement blessé et que à cause de ses blessure il a été placé dans un canot de sauvetage. Il paraitrait que plusieurs des marins non blessés ont dû s’accrocher au radeau parce qu’il n’y avait pas de place dans le canot. Certains de ceux-ci auraient été attaqué par des requins alors que d’autres seraient décédés à cause de l’eau froide. Mon père a été un de ceux qui n’a pas été fait prisonnier mais secouru par HMCS HAIDA.

Some people might say I am a little obsessed by the story of a young French-Canadian who lied about his age to join the navy, and never told what he went through on April 29, 1944 and got rescued by HMCS Haida.

This is post 1120.

Lest we forget 

Breaking News!

I got this comment last week from Norm Gervais, but I did not have time to post something on the blog.


Mon père Jacques Gervais peut-être nommé comme James Gervais était je crois CPO lors de l’attaque. Il a dit très peu de choses lorsque il vivait au sujet de l’événement. Il doit sûrement sa vie au fait qu’il a été très sérieusement blessé et que à cause de ses blessure il a été placé dans un canot de sauvetage. Il paraitrait que plusieurs des marins non blessés ont dû s’accrocher au radeau parce qu’il n’y avait pas de place dans le canot. Certains de ceux-ci auraient été attaqué par des requins alors que d’autres seraient décédés à cause de l’eau froide. Mon père a été un de ceux qui n’a pas été fait prisonnier mais secouru par HMCS HAIDA.

Translation

My father Jacques Gervais, maybe going by the name James Gervais was I believe CPO (Chief Petty Officer) during the attack. He said very little about the event when he was living. He surely owed his life by the fact that he was very seriously injured, and because of this was put aboard a lifeboat. It would seem that several uninjured sailors had stayed in the water, and had to hold on to the lifeboat because there was not enough place. Some of them would have been attacked by sharks  while others died of hypothermia. My father was one of those not taken prisoner but rescued by HMCS HAIDA.


The name James Gervais or Jacques Gervais is not on the list found in the book Unlucky Lady.

This is the second time someone has written me about the list being incomplete.

The first time was in 2012 and I wrote about it.

Click here.

Norm wrote me a second time and he told me he thinks his father was working in the engine room… just like my wife’s uncle.

I got thinking…

Could Norm’s father be on these pictures taken early April 1944?

To be continued?

Remembering a comment

A comment left earlier in April…

My Great Uncle Alfred (George) Berkeley is listed in the names of the lost. George was killed while at his station at the Y gun he was 19. The first torpedo hit. George was new to the ship, so there are no pictures of him on board. I have uploaded a picture of George on the Virtual Canadian War Memorial. The HMCS Athabaskan was sunk while engaging German Ebling class torpedo boats that had attacked and killed over 1000 CDN/US and British service men, while on maneuvers called operation TIGER practicing for D-DAY off the coast of England. I had also met many survivors here in BC in the late 80 and early 90’s. they all had very different memories and trauma. I also have a personal letter from Len Burrow the author of the Unlucky Lady. What a great generation.

LEST WE FORGET

Link to the Canadian Virtual War Memorial

http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/2557483?Alfred%20George%20Berkeley

I wrote this earlier in April. I had asked his relative to look for great-uncle George on these two photos shared by Herman Sulkers’ son.

I know it’s not easy to find one of the greatest generation.

HMCS Athabaskan G07 is still remembered

HMCS Athabaskan G07 is still remembered

A comment…

My Great Uncle Alfred (George) Berkeley is listed in the names of the lost. George was killed while at his station at the Y gun he was 19. The first torpedo hit. George was new to the ship, so there are no pictures of him on board. I have uploaded a picture of George on the Virtual Canadian War Memorial. The HMCS Athabaskan was sunk while engaging German Ebling class torpedo boats that had attacked and killed over 1000 CDN/US and British service men, while on maneuvers called operation TIGER practicing for D-DAY off the coast of England. I had also met many survivors here in BC in the late 80 and early 90’s. they all had very different memories and trauma. I also have a personal letter from Len Burrow the author of the Unlucky Lady. What a great generation.

LEST WE FORGET

Link to the Canadian Virtual War Memorial

http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/2557483?Alfred%20George%20Berkeley

“Thin” Revisited – Robert Lawrence Yeadon?

“Thin”, that’s the nickname my wife’s uncle had used in 2009 when his daughter showed him the picture of the crew.

Old photo - WW 11-2_mod

With this information I then decided to write this post.

***

My wife’s cousin wrote me again about her father and the Athabaskan…

I had told her that I did not want to bother her with the story of Athabaskan.

I can be quite obsessive sometimes.

Hi Pierre,

You don’t cause me any problems, it’s a real pleasure to dive into history. On the contrary, I’m deeply grateful because I now know a lot more about my father’s involment in the war..

Yesterday, while talking to dad, I noticed that he was a little bit confused, consciously or unconsciously; this disurbs him. I decided that I was to respect that. On the other hand, I bought with me the picture you gave me of the crew of the Athabaskan taken in April 1944. He recognized someone. He is the sailor in the middle between the two cannons in the third row; he is chubby. He did not recall his name, but he recalls his nickname: “Thin”… something like that. He met him once after the year.

He was happy to see the picture and I promised him to print a copy.

I started looking for pictures of my dad… When I am done, I will contact you again.

Have a nice day.

This is “Thin…”

thin

“Thin”

I wonder if my wife’s uncle had a nickname on the Athabaskan…

When I look at that picture, I think of all those brave men who gave their lives for their country and all those who survided the war but have to live now with their memories of the sinking.

***

I thought this morning I had finally found who “Thin” was on this Website.

thin-and-pierre

But if my wife’s uncle did meet “Thin” after the war then he can’t possibly be Robert Lawrence Yeadon…

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Able Seaman Robert Lawrence Yeadon

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