Able Seaman Syd Cottrell

This is an e-mail I received a few weeks ago when I started this blog…


Thanks for your email.

My uncle, AB Syd Cottrell was on the Athabaskan when it was sunk on Saturday, April 29, 1944.  He was one of the unfortunate sailors who did not survive.  He was buried, along with others who washed ashore, in the Plouescat Communal Cemetery, Finistere, France.  My information, from Herm Sulkers, placed my uncle in a ammunition supply position for “Y” gun, one of the first to be hit by enemy, or as some believe, friendly fire.

I direct your attention to a book published in 1982 and again in 1987, “Unlucky Lady, The Life and Death of HMCS Athabaskan” by Len Burrow and Emile Beaudoin.  It’s an interesting read and has pictures of most of the crew as well as a picture of the ship’s company (pg 86 – 87).

As most, I have very little information and what I do have was provided by Herm before his death, by inquiries to the Commonwealth Graves Commission, Internet research and by correspondence with Sherry Pringle, Napanee, Ontario, whose relative Moe Watson also served on the ship.  I don’t believe she would mind if you were to contact her –  if you have not already done so.

Please contact me if I can be of further assistance.


Doug Cottrell

This is Syd Cottrell… Doug’s uncle.

Sydney A. Cottrell 5

Syd Cottrell

Doug sent me this picture.

This is what you see on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial site.

In memory of
Able Seaman

who died on April 29, 1944

Military Service:

Service Number: V/18362
Age: 23
Force: Navy
Unit: Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve
Division: H.M.C.S. Athabaskan

Additional Information:

Son of Sidney Charles and Ellis Terssia Cottrell, of Trenton, Ontario, Canada.

Since Doug gave me her e-mail address, I wrote to Sherry Pringle about my wife’s uncle and she wrote her back…


I also checked my book and there is no mention of your wife’s uncle as either being on the ship for the last mission, or previous missions. Check with the National Archives in Ottawa and obtain his service record. That will show his enlistment, training and service. I do know that if he spent three or four days in a lifeboat, it could not have been with the Athabaskan, maybe another ship, as the only lifeboat that took a long time to return to port in England was under a day, and the rest were picked up just hours later by the Germans.

The book “Unlucky Lady” was written by two authors, Beaudoin and Len Burrows. Len is dead and Beaudoin, I believe has Alzheimers. The book, being out of print, is sometimes obtainable from the Internet as a used version. Try that, as that is how I obtained this book.

There was a man from our hometown of Napanee, Ontario, who was written up in our newspaper, telling the world how he helped rescue his crewmates etc. etc., from the Athabaskan on her final voyage, and guess what, he was indeed a crew member,  but was not onboard that final mission. He was not listed in the book as being on her final mission, but was listed as being on previous missions. He was still alive when I came onboard looking for answers, but my contact Herm Sulkers, who was onboard, called him and discovered, he really wasn’t.

Having said all that, Caroline Scott in Halifax, whose husband was a lieutenant on the ship, says that the book is not accurate. Let me know you have received this please as my computer compatability is questionable with some servers.

So many people are helping me that’s the reason why I have an English version of my blog Souvenirs de guerre…