1974 – 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Canadian destroyer HMCS Athabaskan GO7

Montage Manfred Kühn

FIRST COMMEMORATION 1974

Alfred KÜHN          Hans OFFIZIER            Joseph KÜPPER

First commemoration of the 30th anniversary in Brest of the loss on 29th April 1944 of the Canadian destroyer ATHABASKAN sunk by the German navy’s T24 TORPEDOBOAT. Above are the three participants in this commemoration.

They are the three instigators of the future reunions and commemorations of torpedoboat T 24.


 

Collection Alfred Kühn

 

Canadians at the 30th Anniversary of the loss in battle of “Afhabaskan”.

 

BREST. – Thirty years ago, on April 29th 1944, during a battle between German torpedo boats

of the type “Yanov” and Canadian destroyers, the “Athabaskan” sank 5 miles off the coast of Ile-Vierge. 128 Canadian sailors including their commander, John Hamilton Stubbs, perished. 85 were taken prisoner. “The Athabaskan,” the third of the name, made a stopover in Brest.

A stopover of remembrance during which the graves of the buried Canadian sailors were visited in various communes of North Finistère and since then carefully maintained. Before arriving in Brest, the ship had stopped over the wreck, which was spotted by sonar on the screen of which its contours appeared.

A ceremony was held on the stern of the third “Athabaskan”.


1974 saw the first meeting to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Canadian destroyer HMCS Athabaskan GO7, sunk by the German torpedo boat T24.

 

Collection Alfred Kühn

The crew of the T24 rescued 48 Canadian survivors on the night of April 29, 1944. The Canadian delegation was represented by 69 people. The German delegation was represented by 3 people.

Collection Alfred Kühn

EXCHANGE OF WHISTLES

A large crowd in the Plouescat cemetery during the Franco-Canadian commemorative ceremonies.

Under the watchful eye of Mr. Emile Beaudoin, the former “bosco” of the “Athabaskan”, exchanges his whistle with Mr. Alfred Kuhn, a former German sailor of the T-24 who had rescued Canadian survivors in 1944.


Collection Alfred Kühn

INTERVIEW FROM KÜHN Alfred

Alfred Kühn: “On the night of 29 April 1944 during our crossing from Saint-Malo to Brest between midnight and 4am there were several American, English and Canadian ships in the area. At the beginning of the battle we did not know which ships were approaching to attack us.

Artillery and torpedoes were deployed; the torpedoes fired from the T27 went by close to us, and we saw the movement of the torpedoes with the phosphorus line in the water.

The T27, which was standing next to us, was hit and burned on the starboard side… It passed us again. Our ship turned to the sea… At about 4:15 on the other side we saw an explosion, but we did not know which ship at that time had been hit; it could have been one of us or one of them.

Around 5:30 in the morning. When it was daylight, we saw men in the sea. So Captain Lieutenant Wilhelm Meentzen gave the order for the rescue. So we prepared the boat…for the rescue, which was difficult, because we were alone and the other boat, the T27, had run aground on the coast.

As we approached the sailors, we saw that they were black. At first we thought they were Negroes, but we realised they were white covered with bunker oil. First we cleaned their faces, hands and took off their clothes. We also made them spit out the bunker oil. We rescued between 40 and 47, I am sure. There was another one who was ill and a young one who died on the boat.

During the rescue operation two English planes attacked us. I think they saw we were doing the rescue, but they attacked us anyway. We had to interrupt the rescue and continue on our way.

On the way back to Brest we struck a mine. In Brest the Canadian survivors left our boat and went ashore. As it is tradition in the navy, the dead received the traditional whistle when they left the ship.

After this fight we set sail again. After the attack on Cherbourg we went to Bordeaux, where we were sunk on 24 August 1944.


Here is the letter of appreciation sent by Émile Beaudoin to Alfred Kühn.

Collection Alfred Kühn

Dear Friends,

After the pilgrimage and the laying of flowering wreaths in honour of the dead of Athabaskan and torpedoboats T 24 and T 27.

With this letter, I would like to thank you once again for the recognition of your crew and above all the distinction for the exchange of the whistle.

This will remain in the memory of all the sailors during our meeting in Brest because in the celebrations of commemoration we have always felt close because we could also be one of you.

Only destiny has given us another chance in front of a terrible death in the sea.

It is with this intention that we have come to Brest, to honour these dead.

Yours sincerely

Hans, Joseph and Alfred

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