Michael Whitby


In the early dawn hours of 29 April 1944, the destroyer HMCS Athabaskan plunged to the depths of the English Channel, her hull wracked by two powerful explosions. One hundred and twenty-eight young Canadians died with her. Fifty-two years later, in the article “I Will Never Forget the Sound of Those Engines Going Away: A Re-examination into the Sinking of HMCS Athabaskan that appeared in this journal, Peter Dixon advanced the theory—which was presented as fact—that the second explosion, the one that sealed the destroyer’s fate, was caused by a torpedo fired by a British motor torpedo boat (MTB).2 The most significant warship loss in Canadian naval history, the theory goes, was caused by friendly fire.3 That is not so. When primary evidence overlooked by Dixon is considered and the recollections of witnesses recorded decades after the event are scrutinized, it becomes abundantly clear that Athabaskan could not have been the victim of a British torpedo.