HMCS SKEENA –River class destroyer, grounded and lost during a gale in Reykjavik, Iceland on 25 October 1944. Of the destroyers ship’s company of 181, fifteen sailors were killed.
SKEENA had been on patrol south of Iceland in a full gale with HMCShips QU’APPELLE and ST. LAURENT when the escort group was ordered to return to Iceland to weather out the storm. Close to midnight on 25 October, SKEENA came to anchor near Videy Island in Reykjavik. The gale was still roaring, with heavy seas and winds of 100 miles an hour. Knowing that the sea bottom was volcanic ash and was very poor holding ground for an anchor, steam was to be maintained in two boilers and a full anchor watch set.
Following one of the many heavy flurries, SKEENA’s Officer-of-the-Watch realized the anchor bearings had changed, indicating the the ship was dragging her anchor. He immediately ordered Half Ahead on both engines for 12 kts, followed by 15 kts and then Full Speed Ahead. At that point SKEENA ground by the stern, then swung around onto the rocks, 90 yards from Videy Island.
SKEENA’s commanding officer made several attempts to free his ship. The ship’s company was ordered to the upper deck, all watertight doors secured and carley floats were lowered over the leeward side of the destroyer. The order to “Standby to Abandon Ship” was only partially heard over the howl of the gale force winds by several of the crew and twenty-one sailors jumped over the side. Only six would survive, fifteen were killed.
The remainder of the crew remained in SKEENA until safe rescue could be made in the morning.
HMCS SKEENA has dressed ship and is very pusser with her brightly coloured camouflage and signal flags flying in July 1944. SKEENA’s “B” turret and gun have been removed and a hedgehog anti-submarine mortar has been mounted in its place.
Roger Litwiller Collection, Allen E. Singleton, RCNVR photo, courtesy Bruce Keir, RCNVR. (RTL-BK069)