Officier canadien / Canadian officer HMCS Athabaskan

The Canadian officers were very efficient and full of aggressive spirit…” – Captain Basil Jones, Commander, 10th Destroyer Flotilla


The loss of HMCS Athabaskan

On April 29, 1944, Tribal-class destroyer HMCS Athabaskan was engaged in furious nighttime combat in the English Channel when it was hit by a German torpedo. Atha B, as she was affectuously nicknamed, was severely damaged. An immense column of fire and smoke formed over the ship, which sank in minutes, throwing hundreds of sailors into the frigid waters. Of these:

  • 42 sailors were savec by Canadian destroyer HMCS Haida

  • 85 more were taken prisoner by the Germans

  • 128 lost their lives, including her Captain.


The Commanding Officer of Atha B was Lieutenant-Commander John Stubbs. His youth notwithstanding, he was one of the most renowned naval officers of the time.

They say that, in his final moments, Stubbs was singing to his men an air to the glory of the Navy volunteers, Wavy Navy. His quiet heroism, his composure and his spirit of self-sacrifice embody all the values that are dear to the Royal Canadian Navy.


Survivants du / survivors of HMCS Athabaskan

Survivors of HMCS Athabaskan. Émile Beaudoin Funds, Naval Museum of Québec Collection


HMCS Athabaskan qui coule / sinking

Athabaskan sinking. Émile Beaudoin Funds, Naval Museum of Québec Collection



Robert Hampton “Hammy” Gray

Only one foreign soldier has his own commemorative monument on Japanese soil, a Canadian Naval Reservist, Robert Hampton Gray. Lieutenant Gray is also the only Naval Reservist to ever be awarded the Victoria Cross, the most prestigious military honour in the United Kingdom.

An exceptionally talented pilot, “Hammy” enlisted in 1940 in HMCS Tecumseh, the Calgary Naval Reserve Division. His training completed, he immediately volunteered for combat and served in several British aircraft carriers, like HMS Formidable, where he developed a reputation as a competent commander and an aggressive pilot, at only 28 years of age.

On August 9, 1945, he led a daredevil attack against the Japanese destroyer Amakusa, managing to sink her despite being under a deluge of fire from a coastal battery and five other warships. He lost his life in this action, but gained the esteem both of his brothers in arms and of his adversaries.

A bust of Robert Hampton Gray today has pride of place amongst the 14 war veterans that are honoured on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.



Oeuvre d'art / Artwork by Donald Connolly

Robert Hampton Gray’s Corsair 115 plane charging at Amakusa under a deluge of fire. Painting by Donald Connolly.


The Normandy Landings

In Québec City, on August 19, 1943, the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Sir Winston Churchill approved the largest amphibious invasion in history, the Normandy landings (codename Operation Overlord).

The bold enterprise proved to be a monumental logistical nightmare: 7 000 ships carrying over 150 000 troops, must cross the English Channel undetected.

The naval component of this offensive was called Operation Neptune, in which the Royal Canadian Navy played an extremely active role: in toto, 126 ships and some 10 000 Canadian sailors took part.

The minesweepers cleared the way and the corvettes escorted the troops, as Canadian destroyers bombarded the beaches. Every effort was made to break down the “Atlantic Wall,” the complex of coastal defences set up by the Germans. In spite of the risks, the landings were a resounding success. The Germans were upset and retreated on all fronts. Allied casualties on D-Day numbered over 10 000, including 1 074 Canadians, including 359 dead.

This was the beginning of the end for the war in Europe.


HMHC No. 54, ou/or Jeffy jan II

British Ministers Brendan Bracken and Anthony Eden, along with Governor General of Canada Lord Athlone, aboard the Jeffy Jan II, en route to the Québec Conferences upon their landing on the St. Lawrence River. Signal Corps and Archives of the Royal 22e Régiment.