In September 1939, the RCN decided to order new ships to replace the old destroyers previously transferred from the Royal Navy (RN). The RCN preferred the Tribals with their heavy gun armament because they wanted to take the war to the enemy instead of relying on purely defensive vessels. Originally all of the Tribals were to be built in Canada but this was not practical at the time since Canada did not have an extensive ship building industry. The British Admiralty agreed that the UK should build the first ones and they also acted as agents, arranging for the Canadian Government to buy the Tribals by a system of direct instalments while Britain paid cash for the corvettes being built in Canadian yards for the RN.


HMCS ATHABASKAN GO7 - First of Name (RCN Photo)

The first two ships were laid down as IROQUOIS and ATHABASKAN but IROQUOIS was delayed by bombing while on the stocks. ATHABASKAN was therefore renamed IROQUOIS and launched as the lead ship while the original IROQUOIS was launched as ATHABASKAN. After her commissioning on 3rd February 1943 at Newcastle-on-Tyne, she was assigned to the British Home Fleet but ATHABASKAN was plagued with mishaps during her very short service life.

The ship left on 29th March 1943 to patrol the Iceland-Faeroes Passage for blockade runners. Weather induced stress caused hull damage This took five weeks to repair at South Shields, U.K. In June 1943, ATHABASKAN took part in Operation Gearbox III, the relief of the garrison at Spitsbergen. On June 18, she collided with the boom defence vessel BARGATE at Scapa Flow, resulting in a month of repairs at Devonport. In July and August of 1943, she was based in Plymouth, carrying out anti-submarine patrols in the Bay of Biscay and on August 27 was hit by a glider bomb off the Spanish coast. She managed to reach Devonport where she remained under repair until November 10.

Returning to Scapa Flow in December, she escorted convoy JW55A to Russia but in February 1944, rejoined Plymouth command and was assigned to the newly formed 10th Destroyer Flotilla. On 26th April, she assisted in the destruction of the German torpedo boat T 29 in the Channel off Ushant and three days later on 29th April, was sunk by a torpedo from T24, an Elbing class destroyer, north of the Ile de Bas. Her Captain, John Stubbs and 128 men were lost, 83 taken prisoner and 44 rescued by HAIDA.

"On all the oceans where whitecaps flow,
There are no crosses, row on row;
But those who sleep beneath the sea,
sleep in peace...your country is free".

Signalman William George Stewart, who was lost on 29 April 1944,  designed the ship's badge while serving in Athabaskan.

Bruce Kettles has devoted a Web page to his uncle Stuart Kettles who served aboard ATHABASKAN and was taken POW by the Germans. Read the  diary kept by Stuart Kettles during his internment.



Builders: Vickers-Armstrong, High Walker Yard, Newcastle-on-Tyne; England.
Engined by: Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Co., Wallsend; England.
Ordered: 5th April 1940.
Laid Down: Autumn 1940 (as Iroquois).
Launched: 15th November 1941 (as Athabaskan by Lady Tweedsmuir).
Commissioned: 3rd February 1943.
Pennant numbers: G07 December 1942 - April 1944.
Badge: Ships badge was not completed due to her early loss.

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