We Fight as One

Updated 12 October 2022

 

The last Athabaskan, G07 sailor crossed the Bar October 3, 2022. Stoker Ernest Takalo, 98 years old, died in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He was the last of G07’s crew of 26

Wishing him “Fair Winds and Following Seas” as he is reunited with his shipmates

Regard

Sherry Pringl

Author of “All the Ship’s Men” 2nd Edition

.es.1.ition.

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Sorry for posting so many articles on this blog this last week.

People have shared so much and are still sharing.

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I really intended to close the book on the story of HMCS Athabaskan.

Hmcs_athabaskan_g07

But can you really close the book on the Athabaskan which sank on April 29, 1944, off the coast of France?

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Relatives of sailors of HMCS Athabaskan still fight as one, and this blog honours them.

We fight as oneWe Fight as One

The badge design was created by officers of the first Athabaskan, and has been kept to honour the entire crew after their ship was lost to enemy action. The badge commemorates their sacrifice and expresses the ideal of courage and devotion to duty.

source

Everytime I needed help with this blog, there was always a relative who would help me in my quest for the truth about what my wife’s uncle said in a family reunion in 2009. He wanted to see his nieces and his nephew maybe for the last time in his life.

Together, sailors’ relatives and I fought as one to preserve the memories of the sailors of HMCS Athabaskan, a Tribal-class destroyer I knew nothing about in 2009.

athab 2Prisoners coming back to Canada

I knew nothing about the Athabaskan, so after listening astonished to what my wife’s uncle told us in a family reunion, I had to know if he was telling the truth or not.

I had decided then to write about it and to share what people would shared, first on Souvenirs de guerre and its English version Lest We Forget.

From there Lest We Forget then evolved on its own.

They were several spin-off blogs.

One was on RCAF 403 Squadron which I knew nothing about in 2011 when while visiting Hamilton, I met the grandson of Walter Neil Dove, a Spitfire pilot with that squadron.

Walter Dove

Then another spin-off blog on RCAF 128 (F) Squadron stationed in Dartmouth,  Nova Scotia, and later on in Torbay, Newfoundland when Greg told me his grandfather was stationed there before being posted with 403 Squadron.

blog 128

Another spin-off was on 23 Squadron, a Mosquito Squadron with the RAF where a French-Canadian from Bromptonville, Quebec, flew 33 night missions over Germany from December 1944 until the end of the war.

Eugene Gagnon 194523 Squadron group photo July 1945

Another one was about HMCS Regina when someone wrote me about a relative who survived the sinking.

HMCS_Regina_K234_CT-252

All these blogs (there are also others) first originated with this one about HMCS Athabaskan.

We fight as one… and we still do.

I am writing this because of this excerpt from Sherry’s e-mail I posted yesterday.

This part struck me the most.

He (Ernest Takalo) said the French men stuck to themselves and only spoke French to one another, so they never got to fully know one another.

It’s funny how a French-Canadian started writing a blog about a ship he knew nothing about, first posting what he had learned on a blog written in French, then deciding to share everything with English-speaking people so they could share with him paying homage to those who fought as one.

We fight as oneMaybe there is a lesson to learn from all this…

Final post

Updated 12 October 2022

The last Athabaskan, G07 sailor crossed the Bar October 3, 2022. Stoker Ernest Takalo, 98 years old, died in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He was the last of G07’s crew of 261.
Wishing him “Fair Winds and Following Seas” as he is reunited with his shipmates.
Regards
Sherry Pringle
Author of “All the Ship’s Men” 2nd Edition.


This will be my final post about the story of my wife’s uncle being aboard HMCS Athabaskan.

Pierre Bachant

Sherry Pringle who wrote this book is still trying to help me.

All-The-Ships-MenSherry called Ernest Takalo who was a stoker aboard the ship on April 29, 1944.

Pierre,

I called Ernie just now. He said there were 32 stokers onboard. They did not all know one another – only the sailors on their shifts. The name Pierre or Pete Bachant is not familiar to him. He said the French men stuck to themselves and only spoke French to one another, so they never got to fully know one another.

He has no recollection of “Slim”.

Something struck me from one of your emails. Pierre lied about his age, as did many others including my Uncle Moe. However, they did have a competition of sorts – whoever was the youngest on ship got to wear the Captain’s hat and jacket and be captain for Christmas day. John Fairchild won out over Moe and Ernie. But….. they were all born in 1924. At the time the ship sunk  the youngest onboard were 19 years old. Your uncle would only have been 16! I realize there were mistakes in the recording of all this, but it does seem improbable to me that there would have been a three year gap in age from your uncle to those who were considered the youngest on ship.

Sorry I could not tell you differently. Perhaps I told you once before but there was an Athabaskan from our town who claimed to be onboard that night. He even gave details of the sinking to the local paper where his account was reported. In 2001, Herm Sulkers came to visit from Victoria. He called this man on the phone as he knew him. Turns out that the Napanee man was on leave when the sinking occurred and told an untruth. Herm said there were several who reported to be there when they were not.

Having said all that, no one wants to think their loved one was not totally honest. Veterans Affairs might hold the true definitive answer. I think the age thing says it all.

Love your blog. Keep up the good work.

Sherry