DDE 217

iroqr2.jpgIROQUOIS had a rough beginning as a shortage of labour and material delayed her completion. She was the first of the Tribals to commission and was assigned to the 3rd Flotilla, Home Fleet. Off the Orkneys, in late 1942, her workups revealed weaknesses in the hull plating. Additional strengthening would be required. IROQUOIS returned from her first patrol off the Faroes with broken plating, twisted frames and a bent keel. The ship was dispatched to her builder Vickers-Armstrong, in order to have this damage repaired and by 30th January 1943, she was considered to be operational. Immediately IROQUOIS sailed to Canada. In the Halifax Shipyards, she was thoroughly examined to see what could be done to improve the construction of the Tribals that were being built in Canada. 


IROQUOIS, depicted here in her wartime camouflage. (DND photo)

Next, the ship was assigned to Northern waters in the Western Approaches and the constant onslaught of the weather strained the crew. On 24 April 1943, IROQUOIS was once again damaged by foul weather. By mid year, she was eastward bound in order to join the Home Fleet and operate from Plymouth England. Many weeks were spent on workups, patrols and escorts around the Orkneys. One of the ship's notable achievements occurred in July of 1943. Three troopships being escorted by IROQUOIS to Freetown were attacked by German aircraft 300 miles off Vigo Spain. Two ships were sunk but IROQUOIS rescued 628 survivors from the Duchess of York. In February 1944, she arrived in Halifax for a refit , then joined the 10th Destroyer Flotilla in Plymouth England in preparation for the Normandy invasion. After D-Day, she carried out patrols in the English Channel, the Bay of Biscay and provided escort service for capital ships and troopships in United Kingdom waters. From 16th October 1944, IROQUOIS spent some time with the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow but returned to Plymouth on 6th November. Throughout the winter of 1944/45, she remained on escort duty with capital ships and troopships in British coastal waters. On 16th March 1945, IROQUOIS left Plymouth to rejoin the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow and for the rest of the month joined HAIDA in screening carrier strikes on Norwegian targets and also escorted convoys bound for Russia.

When the war ended, IROQUOIS celebrated V-E day at Scapa Flow with HAIDA and HURON and then shared in the liberation of Scandinavia. All three ships sailed to Oslo, Copenhagen and Kiel. In Copenhagen, IROQUOIS escorted the German cruisers Price Eugen and Nurnberg to Keil for their formal surrender. Following that, IROQUOIS returned to Halifax in order to prepare for the Pacific, but with war's end imminent, her tropicalization refit was suspended and she went into reserve on 22nd February 1946. Toward the end of 1947, a refit was started and completed by June of 1949. IROQUOIS commissioned as a cadet ship but on 30th September she was returned back to reserve status. The ship's conversion to an escort destroyer was started in June of 1950 and completed by October of 1951. The work consisted of the installation of two, tripled-barrel squid mortars, 4 inch forward guns and a 3in/50 aft gun. These alterations raised her displacement to 2200 tons and she received her new pennant DDE 217.

After workups were completed at Norfolk Virginia, IROQUOIS returned to Halifax for a pre-Korea refit on 15th March 1952. When storing and ammunitioning was completed, IROQUOIS left Halifax on 21st April and arrived in Sasebo Japan (via the Panama Canal) on 12th June that year. This was the first of two tours of duty for the ship. While in Korea, her main duties were to provide screening for aircraft carriers, attacking coastal defence batteries and destroying trains. IROQUOIS was the only Canadian destroyer to sustain casualties in Korea. During an exchange of fire with a shore-based North Korean artillery battery near Songjin, she sustained damage to the 'B' mounting on 2nd October 1952. The resultant explosion killed three of her crew, severely injured two and left eight others lightly wounded from splinters. In total, eight Canadian destroyers took part in the Korean theatre.

By 26th November 1952, her tour of duty was completed and she arrived back in Halifax on 8th January 1953. In June of that year, IROQUOIS returned to Sasebo together with HURON. This time the primary mission was coastal patrol on Korea's west coast. When the Korean war ended on 27th July 1953, IROQUOIS stayed behind to assist with evacuations. On New Year's Day 1954, she began her homeward voyage via the Mediterranean and arrived in Halifax on 10th February after having circumnavigated the globe. It was around this time period when IROQUOIS became the first ship in the RCN to host and amateur radio station under the call sign VE0NA.(For more information on this topic see the Related Sites section). After a short refit and a visit to Newfoundland, IROQUOIS was dispatched to Korea again on July 1st for patrol duties and returned home together with Huron on 19th March 1955.

In the latter part of her career, she participated in various naval exercises but sustained a substantial amount of damage in August of 1955 when the ship encountered a violent storm around Bermuda. Iroquois was tidied up enough to take part in Western Atlantic Exercises. When that mission was completed, a major refit was stared in October. During the workups, defects in new electronic gear showed up. While returning to the dockyard, IROQUOIS ran into an 80 knot storm which split the front of the ASDIC dome in four places.

By March 1956, all repairs had been completed and by May, Iroquois had joined HAIDA and ALGONQUIN for a cruise of the St. Lawrence river. In her last years, she visited ports in America and Europe, escorted the Royal Yacht Britannia and participated in various NATO exercises. During a full power trial on 24th October 1958 following a year long refit, IROQUOIS demonstrated her ability to sail at 28 knots in rough weather but by the end of the year, her shafts and propellers were giving so much trouble that they had to be replaced. Further service followed, but on 24th October 1962, IROQUOIS was paid off at Halifax and went into Operational Reserve. After being towed to Sydney Nova Scotia she was scheduled for disposal and in 1966 was scrapped at Bilbao in Spain.

The ships crest, depicted above was provided courtesy of John Clark, Point Claire Quebec. It's a reproduction of the one designed by the crew in 1943. The first attempt at putting the artwork on felt produced a painted effort on thin felt which was not too attractive. John gave a copy to the IROQUOIS Association and it should be in their official scapbook in Halifax. A second attempt resulted in an attractive crest in felt layers. There are a number still in existence and both John Clark and Tom Ingham have one in their possession. The only changes are to the head of the Indian, the details of which were lost in copying it from the original artwork to the felt painting. The colours are now closer to the original crest which faded considerably in the last 50 years. John figured it was time to refurbish and maybe preserve a little of our history. Tom Ingham is the only crew member who has seen this revived crest, so it will be interesting to note any remarks from other shipmates of G89. The word ONGWANONSIONNI on the crest means "we of the long house" in reference to a type of Indian shelter made from a frame of lashed branches and covered with bark.

The Iroquois Indians, for which the ship is named, were not a single tribe of Indians but consisted of a union of Iroquoian-speaking North American Indian peoples, originally composed of the SENECA, CAYUGA, ONONDAGA, ONEIDA, and MOHAWK Indians. Collectively, they were called the Iroquois League. The TUSCARORA became the sixth member of the league in the early 18th century. These tribes occupied a territory comprising what is now New York's Mohawk Valley and Finger Lakes region, bordered on the north by Lake Ontario and the Adirondacks and on the south by the Catskills and what today approximates the New York-Pennsylvania state line.


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: 19th September 1940 (as Athabaskan)
Launched: 23rd September 1941 (as Iroquois by Mrs Vincent Massey)
Commissioned: 30th November 1942
Pennant numbers: G89 October 1942 - August 1951; DDE 217 September 1951 - 1966
Radio call sign: CZJD (1942-49); CZGD (1951-62)
Voice call sign: Jack Stone (1951-62)

HMCS IROQUOIS now has a dedicated web page. Please select this link for further information.

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