THUNDER BAY – During the Second World War, Canada became a major sea power. The Canadian Navy grew from a small service before the war to the third largest navy in the world. Some of the unsung heroes of the conflict were the members of Canada’s Merchant Navy.
From the citys of Port Arthur and Fort William, at the head of Lake Superior merchant shipping was critical during the Second World War.
Today, Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, along with Warren Snowdon, Minister of Veterans’ Affairs for Australia and Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison, Commander, Royal Canadian Navy, for a commemorative ceremony at the National War Memorial marking the 8th annual Merchant Navy Veterans Day.
“Canada’s Merchant Navy played a critical role, both overseas and within Canada, during the First and Second World Wars,” said Minister Blaney. “These courageous men and women rose to the challenge of supplying food and much of the materials needed to support Allied forces in Europe. We pledge that the story of the Merchant Navy will be told time and again so their valour at sea is never forgotten.”
During the Second World War, the Canadian Merchant Navy suffered heavily, losing one seafarer in eight from the 12,000 who served on Canadian, British and Allied merchant ships. Some spent more than four years interned as prisoners of war.
“As we mark Merchant Navy Veterans Day, I encourage all Canadians to remember the heroic efforts of these brave individuals in defending our shared values of freedom and democracy,” said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence. “We will never forget the part the Merchant Navy played in shaping our nation.”
“The men and women of the Canadian Merchant Navy showed tremendous bravery on the ocean,” said Vice-Admiral Maddison. “They faced fierce attacks by enemy vessels and braved hazardous, life-threatening weather conditions. Their sacrifices will always be remembered.”
September 3 officially marks Merchant Navy Veterans Day in recognition of the contributions made by Canada’s Merchant Navy. Between 1939 and 1945, more than 1,700 Canadian and Newfoundland Merchant Navy personnel lost their lives in service. This figure also includes seamen from other countries who were lost while serving aboard merchant ships from Canada and Newfoundland.
For more information on the Merchant Navy, visit the Veterans Affairs Canada Web site at veterans.gc.ca.