Battle of the Atlantic Remembered
THUNDER BAY – During World War Two, the convoys from North America to Great Britain were a vital life line to keep the war against the Nazis going.
After the Allied Forces were forced from Europe and evacuated from Dunkirk back to Britain, the British Navy and Airforce were all that stood between the might of Adolf Hitler and the German Navy and Luftwaffe.
During the war, the German U-Boats, small fast submarines sent many allied ships to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
3,500 merchant ships and 175 warships were sunk by the German Navy.
Allied Forces were able to sink 783 U-boats.
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest battle of the Second World War.
Keeping Great Britain in the war took the brave actions of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Merchant Marine.
It is not a well known fact, but the Member of Parliament for Port Arthur, the Honorable C. D. Howe, who was the Minister responsible for Canada’s war efforts and munitions was actually almost a victim of the Battle of the Atlantic.
Prime Minister MacKenzie King sent Howe to Britain by ship to find out what supplied and munitions were going to be needed to fight the war. Howe’s ship was sunk by a German U-Boat, and he was rescued by another vessel.
Howe embarked on the S.S. Western Prince in December 1940. This was an intensely dangerous trip; Germany was attempting to blockade Britain and there were many German submarines in the North Atlantic. One of those submarines sank the Western Prince on 14 December.
Howe survived the sinking and eight hours in a lifeboat.
On the occasion of the 71st anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic, Canadians gathered across the country today to commemorate the more than 4,600 members of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Merchant Navy who died at sea during the Second World War.
Canada’s Veterans Affairs Minister, Julian Fantino, attended a ceremony in Halifax, where he laid a wreath at Point Pleasant Park on behalf of the Government of Canada. The Minister also joined the reviewing party on the dais for the march past following the proceedings.
Member of Parliament Royal Galipeau, on behalf of the Minister of Veterans Affairs, also participated in a ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, laying a wreath in honour of the fallen.
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous battle of the Second World War and one in which Canada played a central role. The battle began on the opening day of the war in September 1939 and ended almost six years later with Germany’s surrender in May 1945.
Between 1939 and 1942, the Germans increased their number of U-boats (submarines) from 30 to 300, causing tremendous challenges for the Allies. Nearly 400 Allied ships were sunk between January and July 1942, while only seven U-boats were lost, putting the supply link between North America and Europe at great risk.
The remarkable growth of Canada’s navy coupled with vast improvements in technology would turn the tide of the battle in its favour. From 1941 to 1945, Canadian shipyards produced approximately 403 merchant ships, 281 fighting ships, 206 minesweepers, 254 tugs and 3,302 landing craft.
By the end of the war, Canada had the third largest navy in the world.
“The more than 4,600 Canadian men and women that never returned home after the Battle of the Atlantic were everyday citizens who became heroes by standing up for what our great nation believes in—peace, freedom and the rule of law. Today we honour their legacy by sharing their stories and remembering their sacrifices,” stted Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs
“The Battle of the Atlantic would prove to be an unrelenting clash during the Second World War. Our sailors and airmen demonstrated incredible heroism by putting their lives at risk in order to keep trade lines open between North America and Europe. Their sacrifice may have ultimately been one of the most important contributions to victory and, for that, we are eternally grateful,” commented Royal Galipeau, Member of Parliament for Ottawa-Orléans.