On May 7, Canada will come together to commemorate the longest single campaign of the Second World War: Battle of the Atlantic.
Fought from 1939 to 1945, Canadians fought valiantly in this campaign but many brave soldiers sacrificed their lives in the process. Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) members suffered 2,210 fatalities and lost 33 vessels. The Merchant Navy lost over 70 tips and suffered 1,700 fatalities and the Royal Canadian Air Force lost more than 900 aircrew.
“The Battle of the Atlantic had to be won if the allies were to defeat the Axis powers and preserve freedom and democracy throughout the world. In 1943, Canadian and allied forces turned the tide of this historic battle and secured the sea routes for transportation of soldiers, fuel, and other goods essential to the war effort. The women and men who served in this historic battle will be remembered, and so will their families, for their valiant sacrifice and incredible bravery,” said Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan.
The Battle of the Atlantic pitted allied naval and air forces against German and Italian submarines, ships and aircraft, who primarily targeted merchant ships carrying vital supplies from North America to Europe.
The RCN played a crucial role in the Battle of the Atlantic, which started out as a small navy, with only six destroyers and a handful of smaller vessels, and transformed into the fourth largest navy in the world by the end of the Second World War.
The RCN destroyed or shared in the destruction of 33 U-Boats and 42 enemy surface craft.
“I am deeply honoured to commemorate the heroic actions of the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Merchant Navy, and the Royal Canadian Air Force, who ensured the Allies attained a crucial victory in the longest running battle of the Second World War. More than 4,600 Canadians gave their lives at sea during the Battle of the Atlantic, we offer our deepest gratitude as a nation for their service and their sacrifice,” said Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of the Department of National Defense.
The first Sunday in May is designated as a time to commemorate the brave sacrifices of Canadians made in this crucial battle. The national ceremony will be held at the National War Memorial and will include members of the RCN and the Royal Canadian Air Force, alongside members of the Merchant Navy. They will be accompanied by Central Region Sea and Air Cadets, Navy League Cadets, the Royal Canadian Legion Colour Party, local veteran organizations, other government departments, the diplomatic community, and the Ottawa Children’s Choir.
“Canada’s military history is full of courage and sacrifice, this Sunday we remember the brave men and women who sacrificed so much in service to Canada during the battle of the Atlantic. That sacrifice has provided the foundation for the RCN’s contributions to global peace and security through the decades. The Canadian Government has consistently called upon its Navy to be “Canada’s first responder” in times of crisis and conflict. As our commemoration of the Battle of the Atlantic takes place this year as part of Canada’s 150th celebrations, I invite Canadians to attend the ceremony in your region to pay tribute to those who were lost, to those who served, and to reflect on your navy’s rich past, and to celebrate its excellence at sea today,” said VAdm. Ron Lloyd, Commander RCN.
Photo 1: Courtesy of Veterans Affairs Canada – Map indicating Merchant Ship Losses in the Atlantic from Jan 1, 1942 to July 31, 1942
Photo 2: Courtesy of DND Canada – Battle Of Atlantic